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The Differences Between Annuals, Biennials, and Perennial Plants

You’re in a gardening/planting mood. So, you head to the local garden store for seeds to grow some colorful flowers in your yard. Some of the seeds you look at are categorized as annuals while others are biennials or perennials. So, how do you choose? The first step is to determine the differences between these three categories of flowers. This week, I’m giving you the lowdown on annuals, biennials, and perennials so you can make the best choices for your garden.


An annual is a flower with a life cycle that is completed in just one season. These flowers need to be planted from seed every spring. Some annuals are hardy and can withstand cold and light frost. A few examples of hardy annuals include pansies, calendula, sweet alyssum, and snapdragons.

Half-hardy annuals are not quite as strong. Geraniums, dianthus, gazania, and petunias are all half-hardy annuals. These plants can endure cool soil, but not frost.

Tender annuals such as begonias, zinnias, and impatiens need warm soil and warm temperatures to flourish.

If you like to change the look of your garden or landscape every spring, planting annuals can help you achieve that goal.


When you plant the seeds of a biennial you’re planting a flower that takes two years to grow. After planting the seeds in the springtime, the flower starts to establish a root system and leaves appear. When winter arrives, the leaves of the biennial fall off and the plant goes into a dormant state. The following spring the biennial blooms, then dies in the fall. Some examples of biennials include hollyhocks, forget-me-nots, Canterbury Bells, and Sweet William.

A few biennials have been known to bloom the first year. Foxglove and stock are two examples.

Some people like to plant biennials that serve as perennials in their garden. For instance, say you want to plant forget-me-nots in a flower bed near your kitchen window. As the forget-me-nots develop blooms in the second stage of their life cycle, you may want to plant more forget-me-not seeds. That way, you’ll always have new clusters of these flowers to replace those that are fading.


If you’re looking to plant flowers that bloom year after year, then go with perennials. Black-eyed Susans, phlox, Cardinal flowers, sedum, daffodils, and daylilies are all perennials. Planting perennials makes it easy to establish a color scheme in your landscape or garden. Plus, if you have a few favorite perennial flowers, you get to enjoy them year after year. Maybe you’d like to have a beautiful collection of yellow and orange flowers around the border of your carport. Daffodils in yellow, orange, and other colors are perennials, so you know they’ll come up every year wherever you plant them.

So, now that you know the difference between annuals, biennials, and perennials you have what you need to plan the appearance of your garden. I suggest trying all three types of flowers in your landscape. There are flowers in all of these groups that can bring fresh color and interest to your garden. Thanks for reading.-Alan

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