Annuals and Perennials
Annuals and Perennials
Botanically, an annual plant is a plant that germinates, flowers and dies in one year.
An annual plant often refers to a plant grown outdoors in the spring and summer (warm season annual), or fall and winter (cool season annual), and surviving just for one growing season.
A perennial plant or perennial (from the Latin per, "through", annus, "year") is a plant that lives for more than two years. When used as a noun, perennial refers specifically to herbaceous bedding plants, even though larger plants like trees and shrubs are also perennial in their habit (i.e. live more than two years).
A third, less common category is biennial plant. This is a flowering plant that takes two years to complete its lifecycle. In the first year the plant grows leaves, stems, and roots (vegetative structures), then it enters a period of dormancy over the colder months, The plant then flowers, producing seeds before it finally dies. There are far fewer biennials than either perennials or annuals.
Examples of biennial plants are parsley, sweet william and hollyhock.
Fast growing, heavy blooming and ideal for mass plantings annuals are great for making your yard come alive with exuberant color. Inexpensive, easy and instantaneous effect.
Here in southern California you can have annuals blooming in your yard year round.
Cool season annuals are typically available in your nursery from the fall through to March. Some favorites are:
The warm season annuals take their place in the nursery from March through September. Some favorites are:
Most often you’ll purchase your annual plants in 6-pack/ponypack or 4" pots. You can also start them from seeds if you have a little patience.
When you shop for annuals be picky and buy the best specimens that are well rooted and vigorous. Avoid any with withered new growth or puckered discolored leaves. A healthy plant will stand upright with strong stems and roots holding them firmly in their containers. Choose compact plants over lanky or floppy. Pinch off the first blooms – this will pay off after a few weeks as you will get bushier, healthier blooms.
The single most important thing you can do when planting your annual is to give it nutritious, well drained soil. Plant placement is your next important task. As with all plants, annuals grow best when their foliage barely overlaps. This leafy shade conserves soil moisture and encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria that helps the plant absorb nutrients from the soil. Avoid crowding the plants though – this can encourage fungus and mildew. The plant tag should tell you the mature size of your plant and/or recommended spacing.
When planting your annuals, dig your hole twice as deep and wide as your plant container, half fill with planting mix or compost mixed in with a little organic fertilizer, then place the plant in the hole ensuring the crown remains at soil level – just as it was in its pot. When you take the plant out of its nursery container just ruffle up the outer roots leaving the rootball as intact as possible – most annuals have relatively fragile roots systems. Fill in the hole with your compost gently pressing the soil to compact it. Water well.
If you’re using an organic fertlilizer like Dr Earth, apply every 2 months and water in well. Your watering schedule depends on the type of plant, its location and the weather. Don’t let them totally dry out – nor keep them wet. They will go limp with either over or underwatering.
To keep them blooming a little grooming will go a long way – dead heading (removing spent blooms) will stop seeds from setting (which tells the plant to stop blooming – its work is done!). Also remove any yellow or ugly foliage.
Annual plants will also look fabulous in containers. In containers though extra watering will be needed – possibly daily in the hottest days in full sun. Use more diluted fertilizer mixtures in containers.
Perennials, as there name suggests, are longer-lived than annuals. Some are short lived though – two or three years and some go on for many years.
Although theoretically, all plants that live more than one year are perennial, this section on our website is devoted to the bedding perennials that are generally grown for two to four years before being replaced.
Some of our perennials here in southern California are effectively annuals in other less gentle climates.
Some examples of these are: