Annual and Perennial Plants – What is the difference?
Even though the names of the plants will give you an idea of the difference between annual and perennial plants, they can be some confusion. Annual plants only bloom once and then they die. Perennial plants bloom year after year. The problem arises, though, in that what is classified as an annual plant in one country is a perennial in another and vice versa.
When you plant annuals, you know that they will not last for another season. You have to plant another lot of them in the following year. If you successfully plant perennials, you just have to make sure they are watered in the growing season and maintained throughout the winter to have them coming back year after year.
Most gardeners like to have plants of both varieties because they can have different colors and different plants each year. Perennial plants tend to be bushier than annual, but annuals are showy flowers. Some examples of annual plants are marigolds, petunias and zinnias. Perennials also tend to be higher and annuals are lower to the ground, but this is not always the case. Snow in summer is a perennial ground covering as is phlox. Then there are annuals that can grow to about three feet in height, so the height cannot be classified as a difference.
Annuals tend to flower more quickly than perennials and they spread out more. They keep flowering until they reach the maximum size of the plant and the flower. They die when the weather gets cold in the fall. Some perennials do not flower on a regular basis and the flowers do not last for the length of the season. Two examples of this are daffodils and tulips. They flower early in the spring but the flowers are gone by the time summer arrives.
There is a difference in the care that annuals and perennials need. Perennials should be covered during the winter months, although most people leave them uncovered. They need to be fertilized on a regular basis and in the initial growing stage, they need protection to make sure the roots are well-grounded.
As to whether plants are annuals or perennials depends on the climate. Exotic plants are perennials in their native habitats in tropical climates, but they are annuals in the colder, northern climates. The snapdragon is an example of a plant that is very sensitive to the climate.