florapedia / flower-facts / difference between perennial and annual flowers

April 15, 2011

What Is The Difference Between Perennial And Annual Flowers?


Perennial flowers are those that continue to grow year after year after remaining dormant throughout the winter. Annuals typically are planted in the spring and summer months, bloom for the season, and then die. Gardeners often supplant perennial gardens with lively, colorful annuals. Annuals are also commonly used as borders and in containers and flower boxes to brighten up the landscape.

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Annuals typically are less expensive than perennial flowers. They do however provide a lush display of color from late spring when they’re planted through the entire summer season. Perennials on the other hand require less care when they’ve been planted in appropriate spots. Once open, perennial blooms last an average of four to six weeks. After about four years, perennials can be divided to make more flowers.


Annual flowers require more work and attention. Each year, the soil must be reworked. Planting can be time-consuming. You have to purchase new annuals each year to fill your garden’s bare spots and add the vivid colors. Perennials are usually more expensive, according to the Tulsa Master Gardeners, and often don’t bloom for the first couple seasons after they’ve been planted. The short blooming season of perennials often leaves gardens lacking in color, especially if flowers are cut for indoor displays or gifts.


Many perennials such as hostas and hydrangeas can be planted in the fall and may produce flowers in their first season. Perennials and annuals alike should be planted after the final frost, after mid-April in most areas. Gardeners in cooler climates often wait until after Mother’s Day to protect flowers from last-minute frosts. Summer is the ideal time to plant annuals such as zinnias, petunias and periwinkle that prefer warmer soil.


Traditionally, potted flowering plants given as gifts are perennials that can be replanted in the fall or early spring and grow in their pots until you are ready to transfer them to the garden. Annuals can serve as gifts, but only for those recipients who plan to plant the flowers immediately or just enjoy them in their pots through the summer. Popular potted flowers at ProFlowers include hydrangeas, tulips, hyacinths and lilies.