Annual Vs Perennial
Annual vs Perennial - Does It Matter?
The subject of annual vs perennial isn't an argument as to which is the better of the two. It's not a battle for supremacy in the garden, as both have their place. Depending upon what your goals are in terms of appearance and ease of maintenance, there's room for both. It's just that for some places in the garden, one type may be a better fit than the other.
Actually, there's a little more involved than just a case of annual vs perennial as there are a couple of other categories to consider. To make things easier, we'll start by defining four categories of plants, each having a different life cycle.
Annuals - Annuals are defined as plants that go through a complete life cycle, from a seed to flowers, in the course of one growing season. After blooming is finished, the plants die back, usually at the first touch of frost, if not before. The entire plant dies, not just the part above the ground, and new plants must be started from seed the following year.
Perennials - A perennial on the other hand, does not die back completely, but comes back year after year. Some perennials even keep their foliage, or grow foliage during the off-season or winter months. Most perennials live for several years, and many live for a great number of years. Since the roots never die out, they can often be divided to provide new plants as an alternative to seeds.
Biennials - Biennials are plants that live for two years. Unlike annuals, they do not produce blooms the year they are planted, and unlike annuals, they do not die back completely after the first year’s growth. Blossoms appear during the second, and final, year of the plant's life.
Half-Hardy Annuals - A fourth category is really an annual, but one that under certain growing conditions may come back a second year, or act like a perennial and return for several years. Half-hardy annuals are more resistant to early frosts, which usually kill off true annuals. The half-hardy annual may not survive a hard freeze however, and its life cycle cannot usually be predicted.
Annual vs Perennial, The Case For Annuals - Annuals tend to be the more colorful of the two categories, and are easy to change out, discard, or add to the garden any time during the growing season. When planted from seed, they are the plants of choice if you want blooms the same year and don't wish to wait a year. Landscapers like annuals for planting in beds with a definite pattern of colors in mind. If an annual doesn't fit, it can be discarded or moved, and another annual put in its place. The other reason for choosing annuals is that they often bloom for many weeks, and may continue to bloom as long as spent blooms are removed. Many varieties of annuals make excellent cut flowers.
Annual vs Perennial, The Case For Perennials - If annuals are in general more colorful, if the right perennial is found for the right spot in the garden, it will perform year after year. Once a desired pattern is achieved with perennials, the plants will produce the desired color scheme consistently from one year to the next. In addition, perennials are generally much more hardy than annuals, and will survive both a late or an early frost, often with no particular ill effect. Perennials are often chosen for their foliage, which may in some cases be evergreen, as much as for their flowers. One disadvantage is that many perennials only bloom once during the season, and the blooming period is sometimes not very long. Some perennials will bloom a second time, but few bloom continuously as annuals often will.
Does Height Matter? - Sometimes, the choice of a plant is dictated by its height a much as by the characteristics of the flowers. Perennials have somewhat of an edge here, in that there are more choices available over the range from very low plants to very tall plants. Most annuals fit into the medium category as far as height is concerned. It really boils down to how much effort you want to put into choosing your garden plants, be they annuals or perennials, or most likely, some of each.