What’s The Difference Between Annual and Perennial Flowers?

yellow flower

CC Flickr photo courtesy of Lighthelper

Annual and perennial flowers have a significant amount of differences between them including, but not limited to, the life span of the plant. In fact the most important difference between the two types of plants is their life span. Additional differences include anatomy, cultivation, and ecosystems.

Annual plants germinate, flower, and die in a single growing season. They will grow in the spring and summer, then they will wilt and die by or during the first frost. These plants will spend most of their life as a seed to avoid dry spells and unfavorable conditions. The annual plant’s seed-to-seed lifecycle can span anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. On the other hand, a perennial plant will last for two years or more. These plants can even have remarkable life spans. Some have been known to live for thousands of years. More often than not, these are the herbaceous, woody plants.

Annual plants are almost always flowering plants, many of which are popular in gardens. They tend to have fleshy exteriors and flowers or fruits that attract pollinators and seed carriers. Meanwhile, perennial plants tend to have woody exteriors and are herbaceous.

These two types of plants tend to produce different agricultural products and are used in many different gardening practices. Annual plants are those that are grown for their edible roots and leaves. These include all types of domesticated grains. These also include lettuce, peas, watermelon, beans, zinnias, and marigolds.

Perennial plants also provide many benefits including their deep root systems. These include rice and wheatgrass. However, because many of these kinds of plants include trees and shrubs they are more suited to landscaping rather than gardens. Popular crops are the alfalfa and red clover plants. From the perennial plants, the fruits are the most common foodstuff products such as apples, bananas, pears, pineapples, plums, strawberries, grapes, and many others.

Annual plants are not winter hardy and therefore do not grow in cooler weather. They will not survive any frosts and they usually require a generous amount of sun, water, and organic rich soils. Many annuals are cultivated crops and therefore are very picky. They can grow in most climates but only if they have a fairly warm summer season.

Perennials, on the other hand, are much hardier and can survive through incredibly tough conditions. The perennials are nearly always the plant that grows where others cannot. These kinds of plants flourish on the prairies and tundra, and some are even known to grow in salt water. Furthermore, nearly every plant you see in the forest is a perennial.

Despite all these differences it is not very easy to spot the difference between annual and perennial plants by simply looking at them. In fact, many perennials are grown as annuals because of the convenience it provides to the farmer or gardener. Many of the species found in both categories make beautiful additions to any garden.

Other Reputable Information on Annual and Perennial Flowers:

Details on gardening with perennial plants can be found on the University of Illinois website.

Details on gardening with annual plants can also be found on the University of Illinois website.

Texas A&M University goes into more depth about annuals, perennials and biennials.

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