Perennials vs Annuals – The Pros and Cons


Perennials vs Annuals – The Pros and Cons

Getting to know the difference between Perennials vs Annuals – The Pros and Cons, its’ really not a battle between the two, it’s just a matter of understanding what each has to offer and how to incorporate them into your garden. It’s like a partnership, by using the assets of each and then combining them to pick up where the other has left off, they can create such a magical landscape with color, beauty and texture all season long.


What’s the Difference between a Perennial and an Annual ?

Without getting into a lot of technical mumbo jumbo,  in my opinion there are really only 3 significant differences between them, and this is why most gardeners use both:

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1.The most significant difference is really simple, an annual is just that…it only survives for one season…never to return.  Whereas, a perennial can give you years of long lasting beauty.






dianthus and impatien 2.   Perennials bloom from 2 weeks to 2 months, of course with some blooming a tad longer, and others blooming at varying times.  They tend not to be quite as bold in their color.

  Annuals for the most part can remain in bloom pretty much from spring through fall, and the colors are more vivid , however there are some exceptions.


3. Perennials can give you children and even grandchildrenstella doro daylily (make believe)!!! Yup, these little puppies can be divided and replanted elsewhere in the garden….eventually you may run out of space or end up trading plants with other gardeners…and that’s a good thing…don’t you just love freebies!!!

Annuals…well let’s just say, they are short lived friends, bright and bold, and they’ll stick around for one season and then they’re useless. No offspring, friends or any reminder they were ever here, except for that hole in the ground where they use to be.



So the above are basically the prime reasons for choosing these types of plants.  Of course there are other reasons, but do we really need to get technical now…I think not…let’s keep gardening fun.  And using both perennials and annuals will give your garden a chance to shine all season long.


Pros – Perennials

Perennials come in larger sizes than annuals. Perennials are usually sold in pints, quarts, gallons and even larger depending on the variety.   At first glance the price of a perennial may seem high, but the key factor is they last….you may never have to buy another one, since most can be divided, replanted and shared with other gardeners in exchange for one of their perennials.  It’s like a gift that keeps on giving.

Since perennials remain in the garden, their root system improves the soil by creating channels for water to pass and aerate the soil, and allow the roots to access nutrients in the soil, which in turn benefits all the plants in the area.

For most perennials, include a good amount of organic compost in the soil.  This allows the plant to become well established by generating a good root structure, and one they are established, they tend to not need as much compost or mulching.  However, mulching is still a good idea, to keep the moisture and to aid in water conservation.


Cons – Perennials

Aside from the initial cost, most perennials, have a shorter bloom period, and not all perennials bloom at the same time.  So, when planning your garden you should take this into consideration.  And you need to be aware of what their foliage looks like after they’ve bloomed, since you may need to hide the faded foliage with another perennial or annual to continue the color and keep the garden looking well kept and  attractive.  Buying perennials that bloom at different times, will help keep your garden interesting and  hide the faded blooms of others.

The slow growth of perennials compared to annuals often frustrates gardeners, who in turn buy more perennials to fill in the gaps, only to find in a few years they’ve become quite crowded and now you have to find another place for them.  Unfortunately this can be a problem, especially for those of us with a limited area for gardening.  As an alternative try filling those gaps with annuals,  and use the perennials as the bones or foundation of your garden.



Pros – Annuals

There’s no getting around it, annuals come in some beautiful vivid and bold colors and with such a great variety to choose, it’s hard to pass them up.  Another plus for these beauties, is most annuals bloom will last all season, spring right into fall.  They are beautiful planted in containers, offering so many combinations and varieties to compliment porches, patios and decks. They’re also great fillers for the perennial garden, perhaps to hide some faded foliage or some color where the perennials faded off.

Cons – Annuals

Since most annuals will bloom through out the season, it seems like a really good idea to have all that color all season long….but wait…you get that color at a price…and I do mean price $$$$$.

Remember, annuals last only one season, so if your whole garden is filled with annuals, this can prove to be a hefty price to pay out each year.  Annuals are usually sold in 3 1/2 inch x 5 inch packs of 6.  With a pack of 6  small plants, which do not cover a very large area,  at a price between $5  – $20, this can get rather costly.

As an example, lets’ say you want to plant a 10 foot border of  Alyssum annuals, usually that’s done in an staggered sequence, like a V shape, and you want 3 rows for a nice full border , and they need to be spaced 6 inches apart.

  •   10 feet = 120 inches , divided by 6 inches apart = 20 plants x 3 (rows) = total 60 plants
  •   If a pack contains 6 plants , you would need 10 packs, cost each $6.99 = total cost $69.90.

Remember, that’s just for the border, now you need to fill in the rest of the garden, so you see how quickly that cost can really balloon ?  And, that’s just for this year….you’ll need to do it all over again next year and who knows how much the price will increase.


The Verdict

After all is said, why not have the best of both worlds.  Use the perennials as the foundation of your garden and build color around those perennials, with annuals.  As time goes on, you will find you need fewer annuals, because you will evolve as all gardeners do, knowing just what to plant, when to plant how to plant and where to plant…it’s all part of the process of gardening.

The reason I say that, is gardeners love to share…when it’s time for you to share your beauties with others…they in turn will share with you….and Mary, Mary, this is how your garden grows.

But most of all, relish the moments spent in your garden, experiment with colors and texture and take satisfaction knowing that you have created something lovely to enjoy.  Who knew playing in the dirt could be so much fun and so rewarding ?


Until then……



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