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Annuals vs. Perennials: What’s Best for Your Yard?February 17th, 2014 by
Choosing the right plants for your yard depends on many factors, including climate, light, and terrain. Personal preference for color and aesthetic will help you come to a decision, but even after narrowing the options down, there are choices left to you as a homeowner. Plants are available in both annual and perennial varieties, and it is important to know which are best for your yard in terms of maintenance and appearance.
When deciding on your flowers, the most important things you need to know ahead of time are the conditions of the area in which you plan to plant them. How much sun exposure does the area get? How much wind will your plants have to endure? What type of soil do you have? These questions will help you choose the best plants for your yard. Nurseries will often tag their plants accordingly, allowing you to make an informed decision before you purchase your flowers.
Annuals go through their entire life cycle within one season. They often flower brightly, and their blooms last from spring until the first frost in autumn. New ones must be planted every year, and they require attentive pruning and fertilization throughout their life. Although cheaper than perennials, they must be repurchased annually, therefore making them the more expensive choice in the long run. Popular annuals include poppies, marigolds, and sunflowers.
Perennials are long-lived, and they will grow and spread for multiple seasons. The initial cost of perennials is greater than annuals, but they are investment plants and will last for years. The blooms of perennials don’t last as long, but they can be combined with other perennials to provide season-long color. While they require less maintenance overall, perennials do need to be divided every few years to keep them from growing in an ever-widening ring, as they are spreading plants and naturally grow outward from the center. Popular perennials include roses and peonies.
Some plants, known as biennials, take two years to go through their full life cycle. In the first year of planting, you will see mainly leaves, and the plant will remain short. In the second year, a full stem will grow and the flower will blossom. At the end of two years, the plant will die. Biennials give bright, full blooms and will self-sow—meaning that after you’ve planted them, they will produce offspring plants reliably, making replacing them a breeze. Popular biennials include foxglove and hollyhocks.
Regardless of what you choose, perennials and annuals will provide a beautiful array of colors to liven up your landscaping. Combining the two can provide year-round color, depending on the plants you use. Larger perennials, like rose bushes, can serve as anchors for a landscaping project, which can be accented with annuals to create a beautiful and varied look. With so many choices available, you can be sure that your yard will make a statement.
Sources: Colorado State University Cooperative Extension; HGTV; Organic Gardening Magazine; Purdue University Department of Horticulture and Landscape Archictecture; Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
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