A common dilemma when planning a landscape is deciding what to plant, where to plant and when to plant. There are so many factors that impact this decision and it varies for each type of vegetation such as trees, shrubs and flowers, so for this blog, we will focus on flower beds.
When planning your flower beds, there are numerous factors to consider. What is currently planted there? What’s the soil condition? Where is the bed located on the property in relation to the home or business and how will the height of the flowers affect what’s behind the bed?
Moisture, drainage, sunlight and even the amount of maintenance that’s feasible also all needs to be considered. And finally, the decision of Annuals vs Perennials.
So what’s the difference between annuals and perennials? Here’s a quick synopsis on what they are and the pros and cons of both.
Annuals have their entire life cycle within one year. This category of seasonal flowers, grows, blooms, drop seeds, and dies all in one season, requiring them to be re-planted year after year.
If you live in a zone with moderate weather, such as North Carolina and a long growing season, annuals typically require at least two or three rotations to keep your flowerbeds full.
Plant your spring annuals in late April or early May after the final frost. Summer annuals can be planted for hot July, but is not necessary. In October, plant winter annuals for the early November chills.
Some of our go-to-annuals for spring: begonias, impatiens, marigold, morning glory, verbena, zinnias.
Warm weather summer annuals: blue daze, four-o’clocks, vinca
Hardy winter annuals: pansies, violas, cornflower, sweet alyssum and ornamental cabbage
What’s great about annuals:
- Annuals are great bloomers and they flower at a pace to compensate for their short lives.
- They keep flowerbeds full, with beautiful colors all season long.
- Annuals vary in height and size, opening up the opportunity to play around with different designs or something creative like your brand logo in a 3D pattern. Again, you’re only limited by your imagination.
- Annuals are usually cheaper than perennials.
What’s not-so-great about annuals:
- Annuals are moody flowers and their success depends heavily on the weather conditions.
- They are thirsty and need lots of water and nutrients to keep them healthy and blooming.
- An obvious disclaimer, they have to be replanted every year.
- Annuals need more care and attention as compared to perennials.
Unlike annuals, perennials grow and bloom year after year without re-planting. Some short lived perennials will only bloom for about three consecutive years, but most grow and flower for several years until dug up or severe frost or drought kills the root system.
Perennial flowers, known as herbaceous perennials, should be planted in large groups in order to experience their full display of colors. Most perennials have a short bloom season with flowers only lasting a few weeks.
Planting various types of perennials or mixing in annuals will give you a colorful flower bed all year. With perennials, the stem and flowers can die in the winters, but will still grow back from the roots or bulb the next spring.
Some great perennials for North Carolina: peony, phlox, verbena, coreopsis (also known as tickseed), and helleborus
What’s great about perennials:
- Perennials are great bloomers, they too put up a great display of vibrant colors.
- They need less maintenance and are a long term investment for your landscapes.
- They come back year after year without new plantings.
What’s not-so-great about perennials:
- Perennials may be low maintenance plants but they do need constant pruning and trimming to keep them from overgrowing.
- Unlike annuals, they only bloom for a short period of time.
- They need occasional replanting to look fresh for long periods.
Biennials are a lesser known category of flowers and are often missed out amidst the hyped up battle of Annuals vs Perennials. They are two season wonders and come somewhere between the annuals and perennials. They generate leaves all throughout their first season, and bloom completely into the second season.
They drop seeds which may sometimes result into new plants in the next season. Poppies, foxgloves and sweet William are a few popular biennials.
Annuals vs Perennials. Which wins for your yard?
Still not sure. We recommend a little of both. It’s preferable to have a blooming flowerbed from the months of early spring to late fall, so a mix of both varieties is the best option.
Have the team at Southern Exposure Landscape Management design the mix that’ll best grow and accentuate your landscape. Our estimators can evaluate your property and create a plan that best suites your landscape and goals.