Outforia Quicktake: Key Takeaways
- Annual plants complete their life cycle in one year and include flowers, herbs, and vegetables; they produce vibrant colors but may require more maintenance and can be expensive in the long run.
- Perennial plants regrow every year and can spread, and include flowers, herbs, vegetables, and trees; they are low-maintenance, robust, and protect the soil, but may require more garden space.
- Easy-to-grow plants include comfrey, rhubarb, sunflowers, purple coneflowers, bearded irises, daylilies, hostas, Jerusalem artichokes, horseradish, asparagus, chives, oregano, mint, and thyme.
- Outdoor enthusiasts can grow plants such as yarrow, calendula, aloe vera, lavender, bee balm, and comfrey for their potential benefits, but they should consult a healthcare provider before use.
For someone just setting out into the world of plants, gardening can be confusing. One of the questions new gardeners have is “What’s the difference between perennial vs annual?”
In this piece, I’ll show you the difference between the two types of plants, and how you can benefit from both.
What Is An Annual?
An annual plant is one that experiences an entire life cycle in one year.
Germination, sprouting, growth, seeding, and death, all in the same growing season, which is determined by their geographical location. Seed to seed, essentially.
Different types of flowers, herbs, and vegetables are considered annuals. Here’s a list of interesting annuals to get you started:
Some of the many varieties of annual herbs are basil, cilantro, chervil, and stevia.
Advantages of Annuals
- Annual flowers put all their energy into blooming as long and vibrantly as they can. They are often considered the divas of the gardening world! They produce wonderfully vibrant bursts of color mixed into a garden with stalwart perennials.
- There are a wide variety of annual plants for gardens of all types, no matter how shady or bright, and many are equally at home in pots too, allowing the green-thumbed among us to relocate the pots as we like.
- Annual flowers are easier to grow and generally less expensive than perennials, on a per-plant basis.
- A basket or pot of annual flowers such as impatiens or marigolds can add curb appeal to your home (or camping trailer!).
- You can overplant a garden with annual seeds already planted with perennials or bulbs. This creates a multilayered garden that will provide interest and a burst of color before the other seeds or bulbs grow.
- There are many types of annual plants whose flowers are edibles, such as borage, begonias, and pansies!
- Annual flowers can provide earlier feeding opportunities for butterflies and other pollinators, as well as beneficial insects.
- Annual flowers and vegetables can make early companion planting partners in a vegetable garden.
- Annual vegetables allow the gardener to assess their success with a particular type and location.
If a better spot can be determined for it, they can simply plant elsewhere next growing season. If a specific cultivar was less abundant or hardy than expected, a different type can be planted next time.
Additionally, many species of vegetables benefit from growing in different locations each growing season so that predatory insects don’t have a chance to get a firm foothold and possibly reduce the plant to a nub.
Disadvantages of Annuals
- Because many annual flowers are all about a splashy show, their roots don’t run very deeply.
This means they can be maintenance-heavy and needy, thirsty garden-dwellers! (See? Divas!) They’ll also require regular feedings of fertilizer.
- For these flowers to look their best, they frequently need grooming in the form of deadheading, which is the practice of removing faded and spent blooms.
This not only keeps the plant looking fresh, but it also helps the plant direct its energy toward the formation of new blooms, instead of expending it on trying to keep blooms going that will never rejuvenate.
- Because you have to buy them every year, annuals can get quite expensive in the long run.
- You may not find your favorite type of annual flowers or vegetables from year to year in commercially available seed, as seed companies are notorious for removing cultivars from the market without notice.
- Most annual plants won’t get very tall or wide, since they only survive one growing season, with the exception being mammoth variety sunflowers. This makes them less-than-ideal privacy plants.
- Annuals aren’t known for being hardy. In fact, many of them are downright sensitive to cool temperatures, strong winds, and repeated disturbances. They make delightful and decorative pops of color in garden designs, but not much more.
You may also like: Types of Plants From the Dinosaur Age to the Present
What Is A Perennial?
In a nutshell, a perennial plant is one that regrows every year. But there’s a bit more to it than that.
Some perennials not only grow in the same spot every year but will also spread. This applies to flowers, herbs, and vegetables, as well as trees, of course.
Some examples of perennials include:
You may also like: Are Strawberries Berries? The Answer Is Un-Berry-Vable!
Advantages of Perennials
- One of the greatest advantages is that you don’t have to buy new stock every year. So, you don’t have to hunt for the same seeds or rootstock for your favorite type.
- Most are low-maintenance, although they too benefit from deadheading.
- Perennials are robust and are frost tolerant and wind-hardier than annuals.
- Perennials protect the soil against erosion and enable carbon sequestration, as well as enable nutrient availability.
- Perennials are easy to propagate, whether by cuttings, seeds, or grafting.
- Some types of perennials have been grown for thousands of years, thereby ensuring a greater variety and increased disease resistance.
- Perennials are more drought-tolerant and do not need to be watered as often since their roots grow deeper into the soil.
- With a little creativity, a perennial flower bed can be planted so flowering times are staggered, providing longer displays of color.
- Deeper root systems allow the soil to be better aerated and allow beneficial creatures such as worms to become established partners in a healthy garden.
Aeration refers to the process of creating small holes in the soil to allow air, water, and nutrients to penetrate deeper into the soil.
- Perennials can set seeds multiple times over their lifespan.
- Perennials can attract beneficial insects and organisms that will help build a more fertile garden.
- Perennial vegetables will produce an increased crop every year.
Disadvantages of Perennials
- A perennial flower bed cannot be dug up and rearranged every year without serious harm to the plants. So there is a commitment once perennial flowers are planted.
- Perennial plants can get quite large, such as the rhododendron, forsythia, foxgloves, hydrangea, snowball bush, and the giant Himalayan lily.
- Perennial vegetables tend to spend their first year getting established in the garden and building strong root systems. This means they are not harvestable until their second or third year. Examples of this are asparagus, rhubarb, and horseradish.
- Because they are not moved around, predatory insects can gain a foothold and do a great deal of damage before they are noticed by the gardener.
- Some types of perennials can take up more garden room than you might be comfortable with, especially if you have a small yard. Egyptian Walking Onions, or Chinese artichokes for example.
You may also like: The 35 Different Types of Evergreen Trees: Images + Facts
Which Are Easiest To Grow?
In many ways, the answer to this question is subjective. You could ask five different gardeners and get five different answers! The easiest plants to grow, annual or perennials, are ones that you don’t need to constantly water, trim back, or mulch every year.
One of the easiest I’ve found is comfrey, which not only grows quickly but is also a wonderful soil builder.
Rhubarb is also simple, hassle-free, and can be grown in a half-barrel if your soil is poor.
In the flower world, once sunflowers are established, they’re pretty much a water-and-forget-it kind of plant. Some that I grew last year even proved slug-resistant!
Purple coneflowers are also easy to grow, as well as bearded irises, daylilies, and hostas.
Easy vegetables to grow include Jerusalem artichokes (also called sunchokes), horseradish, and asparagus.
From the herb family, chives will continue to return each year as long as they aren’t crowded out. Other perennial herbs are oregano, mint, and thyme.
What Plants Should Outdoor Enthusiasts Grow?
Nature offers many plants that are beneficial for various purposes, and some of these may be useful for outdoor enthusiasts.
Some plants have properties that can help alleviate symptoms such as insect bites or stings, inflammation, or provide a boost of energy. These include both wild and domesticated plants that can be found near the trail or grown at home.
Outdoor enthusiasts may experience various types of injuries such as cuts, burns, sprains, fractures, insect bites, and head injuries.
Seeking medical attention from a qualified healthcare provider is crucial for any injury, and a well-stocked first aid kit is also essential.
An herbal first aid kit may include some herbs that could be useful in managing minor symptoms such as itching, swelling, or bleeding.
Yarrow has been used topically for cuts and bruises – but lacks scientific evidence to support its potential benefits. Calendula is easy to grow and used similarly to yarrow.
Aloe Vera is known for being used for healing burns and scrapes. Lavender has also been used to relieve anxiety, pain, and gastrointestinal issues, but further research is needed.
Bee Balm has antifungal and antibacterial properties and requires ideal growing conditions. Comfrey has been used for shallow cuts and scrapes.
However, it’s important to note that these remedies are not a substitute for professional medical care, and they may not be suitable or effective for everyone.
Furthermore, it’s essential to ensure that any herbal remedies are used safely and responsibly, and that they do not interfere with any other medications or treatments that the individual may be taking.
Always consult with a qualified healthcare provider before using any herbal remedies.
You may also like: Aloe Gone Wrong: Does Aloe Vera Gel Expire?
Can You Make an Annual Plant Into a Perennial Plant?
Believe it or not, yes! In a few isolated examples, annual plants have evolved into woody perennials.
Some annual species of tomatoes produce flowers that develop into fruit only once in a growing season, while others will continuously bloom and fruit until the plant dies.
If you re-pot the tomato plant and bring it indoors, and provide enough light and water, the plant will live and produce fruit past the season it would have lived outdoors.
Did You Know?
Fennel was hung over doors to prevent witches from gaining entry with dark magic.
Another herb that was purported to ward off evil in the Middle Ages was rosemary.
All roses were once thought to be white, at least until the Roman Goddess of love (Venus) pricked herself on a rose thorn and bled on one of the flowers, turning it red. It is because of this legend that roses are thought of as ‘the flower of love’.
You may also like: Complete Guide To Different Types of Leaves with Pictures and Leaf Names
What is the most common perennial flower?
The purple coneflower, also called Echinacea, is recognizable on sight and becoming more common in gardens every year. Irises are also popular, as are black-eyed Susans and daisies.
What are the easiest perennial plants for new gardeners?
The easiest perennial flowers are the flowering bulbs. Tulips, irises, lilies, crocuses, snowdrops, and daffodils. There are lots of varieties to choose from, covering a wide range of soil and light needs.
Are there any perennial flowers that are edible?
Fennel leaves and flowers are edible, as are chives and lovage. Horseradish leaves are sometimes added to pickles to give them even more zing.
What is a biennial?
Biennials are plants that do not mature until their second year. Biennial plants commonly grown as annuals for their various edible parts include celery, carrots, and parsley.
Are roses annual or perennial?
Roses are perennial shrubs. Some types will bloom many times throughout the year, some will only bloom once a year before gradually going dormant.
I hope this helps you decide if annuals or perennials are right for you. My advice? Experiment with both types if you can!