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Types of Flowers - Annuals Vs. Perennials

Anyone who has ever shopped for, purchased, planted, or cared for flowers has likely heard them referred to as either annuals or perennials. These terms are used as a means of identifying and separating certain types of flowers. What makes them different from one another is the life cycle of the plants and how long they produce blooms. When planting flowers or creating a garden, it is necessary to understand which plants are perennials and which are annuals. With this knowledge gardeners are able to better plan their gardens as well as provide them with the proper care.


Flowers that have a single life-cycle of one year are called annual flowers. Once the growth season for these plants comes to an end, they die and must be replanted the following year. Because their blooms last throughout the season, annual flowers are often planted to add long-lasting, vibrant color to a garden. There are three types of flowers that fall under the umbrella of annuals: hardy annuals, half-hardy annuals, and tender annuals. The difference between these types of flowers is their ability to tolerate cold weather and frosty conditions. Flowers that are tender annuals damage easily when there is frost. They are also highly sensitive when it comes to cold temperatures because they typically originate in warm weather regions. Marigolds, petunias, and zinnias are examples of tender annuals. Hardy annuals are flowers that are particularly tolerant of cold. Generally a light layer of frost will not kill hardy annuals, nor will short periods of freezing temperatures. Some of the types of flowers that are considered hardy annuals include the pansy, cornflower, and larkspur. Annuals that can tolerate damp, cold temperatures, but not frost are called half-hardy annuals. Some examples of half-hardy annual flowers include forget-me-nots, bells of Ireland, and baby's breath. In addition to these three types, they may also be categorized as warm or cool season annuals. Cool-season annuals are the annuals that grow best when night temperatures are cool, and day temperatures are no higher than 75 degrees. Warm-season annuals grow best when temperatures are warmer, such as the summer months when temperatures are in the 80s and 90s.

To best care for annual flowers, gardeners will first want to ensure that they are planted in an environment that is suitable for the specific type of flower. Annuals, like all flowers, require the basics of watering and fertilizing. This will depend entirely on the needs of the flowers that are planted in the garden. To fertilize, gardeners can use a general purpose fertilizer on their annuals. When fertilizing, following directions carefully will help gardeners avoid over-fertilization, which can kill the flowers or cause a decrease in blooms. Deadheading, or cutting back the faded and dead flowers in your annual garden, will help keep the flowers looking their best, encourage extra blooms, and prevent them from dropping seeds. Pinching is a way to improve the shape of annual plants. It is a pruning method that encourages the plant to branch out for fullness while keeping it from becoming overly tall. To pinch the plant, gardeners should use their fingers to "pinch" the tip of the stem off.


Flowering plants that live for three years or longer are called perennials or perennial flowers. Perennials are either short or long-lived. The short-lived plants live for approximately three to five years while long-lived perennials may have an indefinite life span. Examples of perennial flowers include the hyacinth, daffodils, tall bearded iris, and day lilies. In addition to these flowering plants, gardeners may choose from numerous other perennials. Perennial flowers or plants can be divided into different types: tender, hardy, herbaceous, and woody. Tender perennials, such as gladiolus and dahlias, cannot withstand winter conditions and frost. These perennials are harvested in the fall and moved indoors before the first frost, and are replanted after freezing temperatures have passed. Hardy perennials, unlike tender perennials, will survive freezing winter temperatures and frost and may remain outdoors throughout the winter season. Woody perennials are typically trees or shrubs. They are often long-lived and have branches and woody stems. Certain types of woody perennials may also be flowering perennials, for example, azaleas, rhododendron, and hibiscus are flowering woody perennials. Perennials that die all the way to the ground only to come back at the next growing season are called herbaceous perennials. Although these plants appear to die, the roots of the plant remain alive and healthy during the winter months. A majority of flowering perennials, including the Shasta daisy, primrose, and peonies, are herbaceous perennials.

Care for perennial flowers is very similar to the care provided for annuals. They must be watered and fertilized according to the season and the needs of the particular variety of flower. Deadheading, staking, and pinching are also a part of the care requirements for these types of flowering plants. Perennials must also receive care during the fall and winter months to ensure their survival. Prior to an expected hard freeze, gardeners should deeply water their perennial as it will help to protect the plant from the effects of cold and dry winds. Mulching is beneficial during both warm and extremely cold weather conditions. During the warm months, mulching can help keep the plant hydrated and the soil cool. During freezing weather conditions, applying mulch over frozen ground will help to protect its roots. Every two to four years, perennials also require division. This involves splitting apart larger plants into smaller ones to keep them healthy and to maintain a healthy amount of blooms.

Written By Ava Rose.

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