Meaning of perennial plant

Perennials and Annuals: What’s the Difference?

Although they may look similar, annuals and perennials act differently in your garden—because they have different life cycles. By Karen Weir-Jimerson
When you walk into a garden center, you are greeted with a swath of colorful flowers: annuals and perennials. So what’s the difference? Perennial flowers bloom during the spring, summer, and fall, depending on the species, and they come back the next year—and for years to come. Annuals bloom non-stop, from spring through fall, and then they fade.

Perennial Plants
Here are the characteristics of perennial plants.

1. Perennials are long-lived.
They come back year after year, some for decades.

2. Perennials are zone specific.
Perennials, such as coneflower, left, will grow happily in the temperature zone they are adapted to. That’s why you’ll find some perennials that grow in Alaska but will not grow in Georgia, and vice versa. The zone information is on the plant tag.

3. Perennials can grow anywhere.
Perennials can grow in containers and window boxes as well as garden beds and landscapes. Dwarf-size perennials are specifically adapted to small spaces.

4. Perennials have light preferences.
Each perennial species has a specific light need. Some need to grow in the shade and others thrive best in full sun. And some can take a bit of each. The light requirement for the perennial will be listed on the plant tag.

5. Perennials have a designated bloom season.
These plants are engineered by Mother Nature to bloom at different times during the growing season. For example, Virginia bluebells flower in spring. Coneflowers bloom in spring and summer. Asters wait until fall. Each species blooms at the time it is supposed to—and they won’t bloom any other time.
Check out our Perennial Flowers Bloom Guide.

6. Perennials die back in winter.
In colder climates, most perennials die back (though there are some evergreen perennials). In warmer climates, they may just go dormant. But next spring, they pop back up and go through their seasonal bloom again, year after year. Like magic.

7. Perennials are easy care.
Since you only need to plant them once and enjoy them for years, perennials are the backbone of any garden or landscape. Examples of some easy-care perennials include hosta, phlox, and sedum.

8. Perennials are in it for the long haul.
For reliable color year after year, look for perennial flowers. These plants come back in spring, growing bigger and better with each succeeding season. If you want color all season, plant a mixture of spring-, summer-, and fall-flowering perennials.

Annual Plants
Here are the characteristics of annual plants.

1. Annuals have a one-season lifespan.
But they make up for it with their blooms! They flower like crazy for one season. At the end of their growing season, most will set seed. This is the life cycle of an annual: sprout, flower, set seed, die.

2. Annuals can grow anywhere.
In pots, window boxes, containers, garden beds, and landscapes, annuals, such as begonia, shown here, can be jammed in about anywhere and will bloom happily.

3. Annuals have light preferences.
Like perennials, annual plants also have specific light needs. Some love full hot baking sun, such as petunias and geraniums. Others prefer shade, such as begonias and impatiens.

4. Annuals bloom non-stop.
Annuals don’t have a season of bloom. Unlike perennials, annuals are like the marathon runners of the plant world, blooming hard and fast all season.

5. Annuals are done at the end of the season.
Once they hit the finish line of autumn, annuals are done. You need to remove them and replace them next spring. Although a few can survive mild winters.

6. Annuals are easy care.
Annuals add instant color to containers and garden beds. For the instant-gratification gardener, annuals excel. Examples of annuals include geraniums, marigolds, and petunias.

7. Annuals are instant gratification.
For quick color in beds, borders, or containers, annual flowers are the way to go. They start flowering at a young age and are in almost constant bloom from spring till fall. Most annuals will die after a hard frost in the fall, although a few, such as pansies, can survive milder winters.

Annual or Perennial? Telling Them Apart
If you are new to gardening it’s hard to tell the difference between an annual and a perennial, unless you know the species of plant. The plant tag will help you determine which plant is a perennial and which is an annual. There are some plant species that actually fall into both categories. For example, there are perennial and annual versions of rudbeckia. And in warm climates, Northern annuals may act like perennials, lasting for several seasons, because there is no frost to kill them.
In South Florida where we have our Trial Garden, for example, the following plants are perennial and grow for several seasons, but are annuals in cold-winter areas:
> Angelonia
> Caladium
> Crossandra
> Curcuma
> Evolvulus
> Gerbera daisy (Garvinea varieties)
> Heliconia
> Lantana
> Pentas
> Plumbago
> Shooting star

The Best of Both Worlds
You don’t have to choose between annuals and perennials. You can plant both and allow them to work in tandem in your garden and landscape to create the most beautiful displays of flowers and foliage. The annuals will carry the color show while your perennials come in and out of flower, creating an ever-changing tapestry of bloom.

Types of Plants: Annual, Perennial and Biennial

If you’re just beginning to garden for the first time, you’re probably struck by how much information there is out there on the subject. How to prepare your garden for planting, what to plant for your climate zone, how much to water your gardens and so many other questions will crop up as you get started, and most things will become easier as you get more experience under your belt.

One piece of information you should definitely know before starting a garden, though, is the difference between annual, perennial and biennial plants. Though basic, this information will help you understand what plants to put where as you continue experimenting with your landscaping. Check out this guide to the differences between the three types of plants:

Annuals, including gerberas, marigolds and impatiens, are plants that grow, bloom and die, all within a single year. That means that you’ll have to replace the plant during the next growing season to fill your garden again. For this reason, they’re thought of as less maintenance than other types of plants because they don’t require a long-term commitment. One of the great things about annuals is their blooming time – they typically blossom all season long, which is much longer than perennials and biennials. Keep in mind that some annuals are self-seeding, which means they could potentially drop seeds that will flower the following year in a similar spot in your garden.

Perennials, like alstroemeria and peonies, last three growing seasons or more, which means they’re a much longer commitment than annuals. However, they’re perfect for people who are looking to create a garden that doesn’t require as much year-to-year planting. Perennials also have a shorter flowering season than annuals, though the exact amount of time your flowers will be in bloom depends on what you plant, how well you maintain your garden and your climate. People typically plant perennials in the late summer or fall when starting with bulbs or seeds, but if you’re beginning with young seedlings, you can plant them in spring as well.

Poppies and foxglove are two commonly planted biennials. These types of plants typically last two years before dying, and usually have better blossoms during the second year of their lifespan. However, like self-seeding annuals, biennials are also known for dropping seeds, which bloom two seasons later. So, if you want your biennials to flower every year, try planting them two years in a row – that way the two crops will alternate blooming.

What Should You Plant?
So, now that you know the difference between the three types of plants, which ones are best suited to your garden? The truth is, there isn’t one clear answer. Many gardeners like to use all different types of plants so that they can ensure their garden is colorful for as long as possible during the spring and summer. If you’re planting containers for your porch, you may want to opt for annuals, which will last a long time, and won’t need to be brought indoors for the winter. Whatever you decide, don’t be afraid to experiment! You’ll discover what works best as you continue trying different combinations.

Perennials That Bloom All Summer: Full Sun, Partial Shade and Drought-Tolerant Perennials

Planting perennial flowers that bloom all summer means enjoying gorgeous long-lasting blooms not only this year, but in years to come. There is still work to be done, though. Keeping up with deadheading, weeding, pruning, feeding and watering is necessary even with perennials. But with a little knowledge and the right care, perennials that bloom all summer will pay off when they put on a show for many summers to come! Learn more about which summer perennials thrive in full sun, which need some shade, and which are drought tolerant with the perennial summer flower guide from Gilmour.

  • Full Sun Perennials That Bloom All Summer
  • Partial Shade Perennials That Bloom All Summer
  • Drought-Tolerant Perennials That Bloom All Summer
  • Common Questions about Summer Perennials

Full Sun Perennials That Bloom All Summer

Yarrow – Nearly care-free with bright small clusters of flowers in many colors to choose from, yarrow is both versatile and hardy. It has dome-shaped or flat-topped blooms that are tightly-packed and grow above ferny foliage. Plant as ground cover, borders or in open spaces.

Sedum – Pretty, thick succulent leaves that bloom large pink clustered flowers, sedum is the best of both worlds. Drought and freeze tolerant, it will spread as a great ground cover and also does well in borders and containers. Enjoy sedum blooms from late summer through November.

Shasta Daisy – Shasta daisies are a classic summer flower, with sunny yellow centers and white petals that just seem happy. They are resilient but look delicate, and this low-maintenance plant will put on a show until early fall. Daisies also make great cut flowers.

Aster – Aster is both whimsical and easy to grow. It needs next to no care and brings a pop of color well into the fall when most other summer blooms have faded. Choose from many varieties of aster in blooms of blue, purple, pink or white.

Daylily – Perhaps the easiest of all summer perennials to grow, daylilies are true to their name. They have yellow, orange or reddish blooms that open in the morning and close tight at night. Daylilies will tolerate a bit of shade, but they really do need at least 6 hours of sun every day to thrive. Watch them bloom from late spring through fall.

Partial Shade Perennials That Bloom All Summer

Not all perennials need full sun to do well. Plant partially shaded areas of the yard and garden with any of the following perennials for bright blooms to enjoy all season long, year after year.

Primrose – Many gardeners love primrose for the early show it puts on. Elegant clusters of small vibrant flowers in a variety of colors including blue, pink, red, light purple and white. They have bright yellow centers and will be one of the earliest blooms in the garden, lasting throughout the summer.

Bleeding Heart – Delicate and dainty, the bleeding heart will flower with a soft pink, white (or the rare blue) bloom that appears to be tiny hearts dripping off arching stems. Some varieties bloom all summer but others (such as Dicentra) will drop their blooms and go dormant as soon as consistent warm days appear. Be sure to note which variety to choose before planting if an all-summer show is the goal.

Bluestar – As the name suggests, bluestar is a five-pointed star-shaped pale violet blue bloom wildflower. It is low maintenance and deer resistant. Flowers will turn to unique-looking seed pods. Long after the blooms are gone, fall foliage is still full and lush.

Lungwort – Known for early spring clumps of light purple blooms, lungwort is also called pulmonaria. It is another plant that continues to maintain showy foliage right up until the first frost of the season. It’s known for solid green or silvery leaves that are almost as pretty as its flowers.

Drought-Tolerant Perennials That Bloom All Summer

Don’t think that just because you live in a dry or drought-prone region that a summer garden can’t be a reality. Many perennials will do quite well despite drought conditions.

Blanket Flower – Blanket flowers are in the sunflower family and their sunny blooms are reminiscent of this. The daisy-like red, orange or yellow flowers will bloom from early summer to early fall.

Purple Coneflower – Purple coneflower, also known as echinacea, has soft drooping purple petals that bloom profusely for two to three months during the summer. It is easy to grow and can rebloom in the fall.

Delphinium – Tall, true blue elegant spires of periwinkle blue blooms, delphinium is a garden classic. Not fussy and able to withstand drought conditions, this showstopper will bloom prolifically over a long period of time. Cut spent stalks down to the ground to encourage a second bloom.

Ice Plant – A succulent favorite, ice plant spreads and starts to bloom in spring, with repeated sporadic blooms throughout the summer. Once established, it needs little water and provides a splash of color with daisy-like flowers in yellow, pink, orange, purple or red.

Black-eyed Susan – Dark brown, almost black centers are a sharp contrast to sunny golden petals and give this drought tolerant perennial its name. It mounds as it grows, making it a great option to fill in borders or containers.

Phlox – Phlox will bloom dainty clusters of star-shaped purple, pink, red, white or orange flowers from late spring through summer and into fall. It will do well in partial shade, but likes at least 6 hours of sun a day.

Common Questions about Summer Perennials

What is the longest summer blooming perennial?

The longest summer blooming perennials will bloom from spring through summer and into fall. Choose from shasta daisies or lungwort for the earliest show that will last the whole season.

How late in the summer can you plant perennials?

How late in the summer you can plant perennials depends on when you are hoping to see flowers. Planting in late summer through early fall really is the perfect time for early spring blooms. It’s also OK to plant early spring around March, while the ground is moist from winter, and still expect summer blooms. Many perennials can be planted throughout the summer, even up to late June, if transplanting young plant starts.

How much water do summer perennials need?

Summer perennials will need different amounts of water depending on the plant. That said, most do well with about 1” of water each week. Find out about your specific plants to determine precise watering needs for each.

Do summer perennials need to be transplanted?

Summer perennials should be transplanted or divided based on bloom time. For those plants that bloom in the spring through early summer, fall is a good time to transplant. Late summer through early fall blooms should be moved the following spring.

Summer perennials offer pretty blooms for years to come. They are often showy with bright colors that add contrast, texture and whimsical foliage to gardens. Knowing the growing conditions of zones and planting areas, as well as which plants will best thrive in those conditions, will help ensure a full, flourishing garden year after year.

What are Perennials?

What is the difference between annual flowers and perennial flowers?

Plants can be classified as either annual, biennial, or perennial. Annual plants live for only one growing season, during which they produce seeds, then die. Familiar annual plants include impatiens, zinnias, and sunflowers. Biennial plants, such as some types of foxglove, live for two growing seasons before setting seed and dying. The term perennial is reserved for plants that live for more than two years.

Trees and shrubs live for more than two years. Are they perennials?

Technically speaking, trees and shrubs are perennial plants — they grow for more than two years. But horticulturists usually categorize perennial plants into two types: woody plants and herbaceous perennials. Woody plants are trees, shrubs, and vines whose above-ground parts persist over the winter, and resume growth in the spring. In this course we will be focusing on herbaceous perennials. These are non-woody plants that die back to the ground each fall. The roots, however, survive the winter and the plants re-sprout in the spring.

Why grow perennials instead of, say, a bed of annual petunias, marigolds, or impatiens?

If you grow lots of annual flowers, you are familiar with the annual chores necessary to maintain such beds: you purchase flower seedlings (or start your own), and plant them. You nurture them throughout the growing season, fertilize and water them; then, when the season’s over and the plants die, you pull them out. Next year, the cycle begins anew.

Perennial plants remain in the ground year after year. Once established, many perennials need minimal upkeep in the form of watering and fertilizing, since their roots are more far-ranging than annual plants’ roots. Many perennials spread readily, filling out garden spaces and providing more and more color each year.

Now that you’re sold on adding perennials to your flower beds, let’s look at some common myths, and discuss why you still might want to include some colorful annuals in your new perennials gardens.

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What types of perennial plants thrive in the South?

Perennials are flowers that grow year after year. Since they don’t have to be replanted ever year – like their sisters, the annuals — perennials are a practical and economical choice for anyone who is looking to add some color to their garden. Yet, perennials require extra care since they don’t flower all the time. If you decide to plant perennials and you live in the South, you should take their foliage into consideration.

Since the South is generally warm, it’s a hospitable region in which to plant perennials during winter. Ironically, the most popular perennial to plant down South is a flower called the New England Aster. This flower can grow to be seven feet (two meters) high and has long, furry leaves. The New England Aster is comprised of pink or purple petals that are attached to a yellow head. To germinate properly, this flower needs approximately a month in cool soil.


Another popular Southern perennial is the coneflower, which is a relative of the sunflower. Coneflowers have a distinctive windblown appearance, since their petals grow away from the cone. Coneflowers can grow to be up to four feet (more than one meter) tall. If you’re looking for a slightly smaller flower, the Shasta daisy may be for you. This perennial’s maximum height is about three feet (90 centimeters). Shastas are especially well-suited for the Southern climate since they like warm temperatures while they germinate. Another flower that’s comfortable with the Southern climate is the daylily, which has been known to bloom as early as March. This flower gets its name from the fact that when it blooms, it only does so for a day. In contrast, the tickseed flower is a perennial that blooms like an annual, which makes it especially popular. This flower’s bright yellow color also makes it a “perennial” Southern favorite.

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