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Planning Your Garden – What is an Annual vs Perennial?

Whether you’re picking up some seeds or potted plants, knowing how long your plants will last is important when you’re designing your garden beds so you buy accordingly. This will ensure you have a full garden all growing-season long. Where I live, the growing season outside is basically from Late May-Early September.

In a nutshell, an annual doesn’t come back each year but a perennial does. I’ll go over the differences a little further!


Annuals have one growing season and then die (or reduce to seeds). Annuals are only intended to last one season but their viable seeds may remain in the garden. You might get a lucky few surprise returns the next year but that’s not the expectation. At the end of their life cycle, you just need to accept the yearly loss.

Why choose annuals?

Annuals are perfect when you can’t make up your mind. Some only bloom for a couple months then die away. This is a great way to experiment with what Think beautiful blooms! Annuals often bring a lot of bright colours to your garden. They can attract bees to pollinate, which will help any veggies or fruits you’ve planted grow too. Annuals are typically cheaper than perennials per plant.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash


Perennials come back year after year. These are the plants that don’t lose their roots at the end of their growing season. They will reduce in size, lose any flowers and much of their foliage, but will grow back the following year as the weather turns to their liking. These plants may need protection outside during their dormant (read: non-growing) season(s). You can protect them in a variety of ways. Depending on their size and type, here’s some suggested ways to create a safe haven from the ice and snow. These are what you’ll want to mulch or mound. Wrapping smaller perennial plants can be helpful too if they will be near sidewalks or roadways using road maintenance supplies like salt.

Why choose perennials?

Perennials are great to maintain structure in a design and add staple plants to your gardens. It’s nice that you don’t need to plant them or move them every year. These make a good investment plant because they’ll be around longer, which offsets their initial price tag. Choosing perennials that grow naturally in your region is important to help the natural ecosystem.

Try Gardenia’s plant finder to learn about your plants and so you can do a quick search when you’re browsing at a plant shop.

Check out my Pinterest board for some inspiring designs!


Published by sarahelletyler

I run Well-Grown Home, a plant blog, with passion. I'm additionally interested in public relations, video editing, painting, photography, makeup and communications.

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