Annual vs. Perennial vs. Biennial

Kalie Larkin Expert Advice, Landscaping, Plant Care


Annual flowers are defined as one that completes its entire biological lifecycle in a single year. This means they will start from a seed, grow, flower, set seed and die in that single season. With such a short lifespan they have a great need to be up and doing. Most annuals will flower all season long, giving you a brilliant show of color. They have a wide range of colors and are often showier than the longer lasting perennials. Some common ones being petunias, begonias and marigolds.


Perennials are plants or flowers that live for three or more seasons. They will continue to grow and flower multiple times throughout their lifespan. A good way to remember this is that trees and shrubs are technically perennials. Perennial flowers however are more often sold as a single pot in the spring or a bag of bulbs/ tubers in the fall. They will not bloom for nearly as long and so it is often best to plant multiple varieties that have variable bloom times so as to get a longer show of color. Some examples of common perennials are: lilies, iris, coneflowers and daffodils.


Biennials are the reason why perennials are defined as three or more seasons. This is because a biennial takes two seasons to complete its entire biological lifecycle. They will start from a seed and grow their base or floret during the first season (the vegetative stage) and then flower, set seed and die off during the second (the reproductive stage). Some common biennials are: black eyed susans, hollyhocks and pansies.

Many people like to say that perennials are less work than the annuals but I find that with all things considered they equate to about the same. You will have to plant annuals each year and there will certainly be more of them but they do not require as deep a hole, are generally sold by the flat and can simply be pulled out when the season is over. Perennial flowers are technically only planted once but many will need to be dug up and split apart to keep them healthy. Pruning them can be just as easy as the annuals, the difference being you leave a stump of brush when you cut them back to the ground.

All flowers require care and some amount of maintenance to reach their ideal but it is always worth it. If you have any questions about your landscape please feel free to give us a call at: 208-523-5296.