As you plan and buy for this year's garden, the age-old question comes up: is it better to plant annuals or perennials? While we at Michler's have favorites on both sides of the dividing line, it's certainly true that there are pros and cons to each variety.
By definition, annuals are plants that complete their entire life cycle over the course of one year (so you have to replant them annually, or every year). Though some annuals may drop seeds at the end of their life cycle and give you a new crop of the same annual next year, the plant won't be in exactly the same spot as the one you originally planted.
You can plant annuals at any time in the year. Annuals also tend to be less expensive and to be sold in multipacks instead of in single-plant pots. They can produce showy, colorful blooms up until the first frost, especially if you deadhead spent blooms.
Unlike annuals, perennials' life cycles last several years. Plants will bloom for a short period every year (two to six weeks) and go dormant over the winter. They need to be planted in either the spring or fall, depending on the variety of plant. While some perennials may need a couple of years to establish themselves before they will be at their prime, some show dramatic growth and blooms during the first season.
Different perennials bloom at different times (think hellebores versus salvia), so you can create a dynamic perennial garden that will have different character throughout the year. Perennials also create a great environment for a variety of pollinators.
Because they last many years, perennials tend to be more expensive and to be sold in single pots. However, perennials are hardier than most annuals and require less overall care if planted in the right spot.
To Plant or Not to Plant
So which is the clear winner? It truly depends on what you're looking for in your garden.
If you like to experiment from year to year and love the opulent look of beds bursting with blooms, then annuals might work best for you. If you like looking forward to the same plants emerging every spring and don't want to replant your beds every year, then opt for perennials.
But don't limit yourself to just one or the other! Mixing up annuals and perennials, especially perennials that bloom at different times, allows you to fill in pops of annual color after certain perennials have bloomed out for the season.