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Perennials vs Annuals What Should You Plant?

Not sure whether to plant perennials vs. annuals in your garden? Here are some gardening tips that will help you grow the garden of your dreams.

Whenever I’m asked about what to plant in the garden, my response is always, “What kind of garden do you want to grow and how much work do you want to do?”

It’s really important to understand what your gardening goals and aspirations are so you know what to plant and when to plant them.

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Perennials vs. Annuals: What’s the Difference?

There’s a big difference between perennials and annuals.

And it’s important to understand each before planting a garden.

After deadheading flowers

Perennials Meaning

Perennials are plants that live more than two years.

They are typically cold-hardy plants that die back and regrow the following season.

Some perennials, I’ve had in my garden since moving to my current home several years ago.

So they can live a really long time!

Here’s a handful of what’s still in my garden today.

  • black-eyed susans
  • coneflowers
  • sedum autumn joy
  • bearded iris
Larkspur in my Jersey Garden

I grow a lot more than just these perennials.

But I have divisions of these same plants in my gardens today that I started growing in my first flower garden.

Isn’t that amazing?

It’s one of the reasons I love perennials.

They keep coming back!

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Annuals Meaning

Annuals are plants that are not cold-tolerant and perform an entire life cycle from seed to flower.

All roots, stems, and leaves of the plant die annually.

Some drop seeds and will regrow the following year.

But in general, annuals are typically planted in spring and/or fall, depending on the season.

Dahlias

Some annuals thrive in cooler temps like garden mums.

And others thrive in warmer temps like marigolds.

So depending on the season and purpose of the planting, choose annuals accordingly.

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Perennials vs. Annuals Flowers

Now that we understand the difference between perennials and annuals, let’s talk about how to garden with them.

For my garden style, I use a mixture of the two to grow a colorful garden that’s always in bloom.

But I didn’t always grow my garden that way.

Particularly when I first started out.

happy gardening

When my passion for gardening began while living in our condo, we had minimal growing space.

So I focused on growing annuals and houseplants because that’s all I had room to grow.

When we moved to our current home, I started a small perennial garden on the side of my house and lined my front foundation plantings with sun-loving annuals.

In the beginning, I focused on easy-care plants I knew I could grow with success while attracting pollinators like butterflies and hummingbirds to the garden.

Butterfly Garden

As my gardens expanded, I realized there were lulls of color in my garden.

Because perennials have certain bloom cycles, they grow and change during the season.

Some bloom for months while others bloom for a few days to a week, depending on the perennial.

Because the color dies down when the perennials transition, I realized more color was needed to fill in those lulls of color through the growing season.

To achieve that season-long color, I plant annuals among my perennials to grow a cohesive, colorful garden that blooms all season long.

Annuals help keep the garden blooming while those perennials grow, bloom, and fade.

So to me, both are equally important if you want an everblooming, colorful garden.

perennials vs annuals

How to Grow Perennials vs Annuals

As we recognize the stark differences in perennials vs annuals, it’s also important to understand how each needs to be maintained.

For starters, know your hardiness zone because that will determine how hardy plants are in your zone.

If plants are not hardy to your zone, they are annuals.

I’m in Hardiness Zone 6a, so what’s an annual for me, may not be an annual for you.

perennials vs annuals

Feeding Plants

For starters, I do not feed my perennials with any type of fertilizer.

Instead, I focus on good soil quality through amendments like compost and mulch that break down yearly.

Depending on your soil quality, you may need to do something different.

So it is recommended that you test your soil to know what it needs to grow happy and healthy plants.

To get a soil test contact your local cooperative extension.

You can also buy one – CLICK HERE.

perennials vs annuals

In contrast, I DO feed my annuals with THIS slow-release fertilizer.

Because annuals have such a short life span, fertilizing them helps produce big, beautiful blooms all season long.

And if you grow annuals in containers it is even more important to make sure they are fertilized because every time you water, nutrients get washed out of the soil.

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Planting Perennials vs. Annuals

Since each have different life spans, it follows that it’s not necessary to plant perennials as often as annuals.

They return yearly, bloom and die back until the following year.

But annuals need to be planted seasonally.

perennials vs annuals

Thus, when designing a garden, consider how much planting you want to do every season or every year as well as how much money you want to spend.

Because unless you grow plants from seed, annuals can be quite costly.

perennials vs annuals

Gardening Tip

When choosing annuals in spring, think about how those same annuals will look in fall.

Select annuals that can do double duty and look amazing during both seasons.

This will help you save money in the long run because you won’t need to replace spring for fall annuals if the color is there.

perennials vs annuals

Caring for Perennials vs. Annuals

Another garden planning consideration is the care and maintenance of perennials and annuals because they are different.

Several annuals benefit from deadheading flowers.

Some perennials benefit from deadheading, while others do not.

So it’s important to understand what the plant variety needs before deadheading flowers on perennials.

deadheading flowers

In general, because perennials grow, bloom, and die back, they may need to be pruned or cut back after they start to die back to tidy up the garden.

Some vining annuals may need to be pruned to keep their growth in check.

Also, consider the timing of working in the garden to maintain perennials and annuals.

roses in my jersey garden

Because how much work do you want to do in heat and humidity of summer?

For me, I try to do as little as possible when the temps are hot and humid here in New Jersey.

So I consider this whenever I’m planting anything in my garden.

perennials vs annuals

If a plant requires a lot of work, I either plant less of it or not at all.

‘Cause Jersey summers are too hot to do a lot in the gardens.

So for me, I look for plants that don’t require as much from me during that time.

perennials vs annuals

How Will Your Garden Grow?

Now that we’ve chatted about perennials vs annuals, what kind of garden should you grow?

Is it a 50-50 mix?

20-80 mix?

70-30?

There’s really no right or wrong way to do it.

my jersey garden hydrangeas at sunset

Plant what you love.

Plant what you want to grow.

Try new things.

Experiment.

Because that’s what the joy of gardening is all about.

Happy Gardening!

landscaping for curb appeal

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