Choosing Annuals/Perennials (annper)

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Choosing Annuals or Perennials

by Don Janssen, UNL Extension Educator

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Comparing annual and perennial flowers is a little like comparing apples and oranges. Each type of flower has its own characteristics and advantages. Annual flowers are those that complete their lifecycle in just one growing season. That means you plant a seed (or plant), it grows foliage, then flowers, all in the same year. Annual flowers tend to bloom from spring until autumn frost. Although they must be replanted each year, annuals are hard to beat in terms of showy, season-long color.

Popular annual flowers include petunias, marigolds, zinnias and impatiens. If you're looking for something a little more exotic than these traditional bedding plants, try spider flower (Cleome), gazania, vinca (Catharanthus) and lisianthus (Eustoma). Some annuals are grown for their attractive foliage rather than flowers, including coleus, Joseph's coat and snow-on-the-mountain.

You can add some edible interest with ornamental peppers, flowering cabbage and okra.

Perennial flowers grow for three or more years. Although most perennials tend to have a relatively short season of bloom, combining several species in a garden can yield season long color.

Many colors, textures and sizes are available in perennial plants. Some of the most popular perennials include daylilies, hosta, peonies and garden mums. For a spikey show of pink/purple, try blazing star (Liatris). For a stiking yellow, try coreopsis 'Moonbeam.' For dramatic late-season color, try black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) and purple coneflower (Echinacea).

If you can't decide whether to plant annuals or perennials, pick some of both. Annuals and perennials can be combined in your planting design to reap the best of both.

(This resource was updated May 2008 and appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper Sunday edition. For information on reproducing this article or using any photographs or graphics, read the Terms of Use statement)

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