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Annuals vs. Perennials: The Epic Gardening Decision

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Jessica
08.23.12

Congratulations, you have a yard! Now what do you plant? If gardening terms sound like gibberish, you’re not alone. For most homeowners, it’s initially difficult to determine what works in front of the house, what’s high maintenance and what can be simply left alone to grow.

Use this guide to demystify your yard and choose what’s best for your lifestyle:

Perennial adj. \pə-ˈre-nē-əl\ - Plants that persist for many growing seasons. Typically, the top portion of the plant will die back in the winter and then regrow the following spring from the same root system. Many perennials keep their leaves even when it’s cold, so they’re a great option if you want something that will look attractive year round. Perennials have extensive root systems, which can hold soil to prevent erosion and outcompete weeds. Note: In warmer climates, perennials grow continuously.

A few common perennials are: Begonia, goldenrod, mint, maple trees, pine trees, apple trees, red clover, dill, chives, fennel, garlic, lavender, oregano and thyme.

Begonia via Purdue University

Annual adj. \ˈan-yə(-wə)l, -yü-əl\ - Plants that grow quickly and perform their entire life cycle within a single growing season. When they die, the roots, stems and leaves of the plant all die out, so annuals must be planted every year! The seed-to-seed life cycle can be as short as one month for some species and an entire season for others. There are summer annuals and winter annuals, which can be switched out in the same garden patch to keep plants growing year-round. Winter annuals are especially important ecologically because they prevent soil erosion during the winter when no other cover exists. Plus, they provide food for birds.

A few common annuals are: Daisy, marigold, amaranth, angel’s trumpet, baby’s breath, balsam, zinnia, twinspur, thistle, sunflower, Queen Anne’s lace, periwinkle and petunia.

Petunia via Parks Brothers

Extra Tidbit: There are also biennial plants, which function like annuals but have a two-year lifecycle instead of one.

Photo: Garden Layout Ideas

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