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Annual and Perennial Flowering Plants

 Annual and perennial flowering plants are like the icing on our landscape cake. Once you’ve planted your trees and your shrubs, it’s time to give your yard that splash of color and texture that will really make it pop. This article will supply you with all you need to know when planning and planting your yard with annual or perennial flowers.

Annuals and Perennials can be planted through seeds or by buying immature plants and planting them. Proper site selection, soil preparation, pre, and post-transplant care will make the planting successful. Tilling the soil, adding organic matter, seeding or transplanting, and watering are the few essential steps in flowering plant establishment.

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So What is the Difference?

Annual and perennial flowering plants are different depending on where you live.

An annual plant is one that will only survive for one season. This is good in some ways because it allows you to dramatically change the look of your yard by choosing different varieties of annuals each year.

A true annual plant will grow one season, drop seeds and then die. The seeds will regrow the next season if given the right environment.

Some plants that are considered annuals in colder climates because they will only survive one year are actually perennials. Plants such as Geraniums, Dahlias, and Impatiens are perennials in the warmer areas but are strictly annuals here where I live in zone 5. The freezing temperatures will kill the roots, causing the death of the plant, not because they have dropped seeds and died.

Perennial plants will typically die back during the colder portion of the year and then re-sprout the following spring. These plants are usually used in groups in your yard’s more consistent and non-changing areas. Because they grow for many years, perennials will get larger and spread over time, so it is common practice to dig up sections of plants and transplant them to a different part of your garden or maybe to a friend’s house.

The fact that they grow and spread can be a blessing or a curse. If these spreading perennials are grown in a border or more wild areas, their tendency to spread can be welcome because they will often crowd out unwanted weeds.

On the other hand, when you take the time to layout and plant an elaborate perennial garden with many different textures, layers, and colors, all planted in perfect portions, this spreading tendency can ruin the look of your garden. Avid perennial gardeners understand that regular dividing and transplanting is just a normal part of perennial maintenance.

The Planting Process

Site selection

Site selection will depend upon the types of flowers you want to plant and their tendency to do better when grown in certain conditions. Always be sure to check the tags of purchased seeds or plants to ensure that you are planting them into an area where they will thrive. If you are transplanting your perennials from a neighbor’s yard, take note of the sun and water conditions where they were dug out and choose a similar spot in your yard.

When planning your annual and perennial flower planting, you can either choose a specific area of the yard and buy plants to fit that area or buy the plants you like and then find areas of your yard where they will grow.

Most people start with an area in mind and plant perennials as the backdrop with a splash of annuals in front or scattered in between to add a bit of instant color and interest.

Flower Selection

This is the hardest part. When planning a perennial garden, you need to understand when each flower will bloom and fit with the other plants to truly understand how your finished garden will look throughout the season. If planting annuals, assume that they will bloom most of the season and mix colors according to your preferences.

To decide on your flowers, arrange a visit to the local garden center and choose your favorite flowers to add a beautiful appearance to your garden. Seeds, bulbs, potted plants, or cuttings, will all have similar planting requirements. The important part of this step is to find things that you like that will grow well in your yard.

The plants at the garden center are likely small and immature, but you need to consider how they will look when flowering and mature to truly understand how they will fit your plan.

The shape, growing habit, texture of foliage, bloom period, and mature height are all very important factors to consider.

Soil Preparation

Whether planting annuals or perennials, you will want the entire area to be prepared before planting. You will want nutrient-rich, well-drained soil, so dumping some black, organic topsoil and creating a raised bed is probably the easiest way to go.

If you want to do this without additional costs, you will want to go through and dig or till the entire planting area at least one shovel deep, turning over the clods of dirt as you go. Then, mix in some aged compost, break it all up, and mix it with a tiller or a digging fork.

Once it is all broken up and mixed, you can shape it with a rake and begin to layout your plants.

Plant Layout

If you are seeding your garden, take your time to mark out areas with string so that you can keep straight where you should sow the seeds.

If you are planting immature plants, I suggest laying them all out in the bed prior to planting. This will give you the opportunity to stand back and look at your bed before planting everything. This will also allow you to space things out to make the best use of the space and your plants. Remember that you need to layout the bed based on the mature sizes of the plants, not the size that they are now.

It’s Time to Plant

When planting from seed, I like to place the seeds and then just push them in a bit with my finger and cover them up, making sure to somewhat follow the recommended planting depths on the packet.

For planting immature plants, carefully step into your bed and work from one side to the other, making sure not to crush any plants as you work. Gently pull the plants from their pots by gripping the stem and tipping them upside down or pushing in the bottom of the pot. If the plant is root bound, cutting the pot might be the only way to get it out. If the roots are bound up in the pot, massage them a bit with your fingers to help loosen them slightly before planting. If your soil is well prepared, you can just scoop out the soil with your hand and plant all in one motion.

Once your bed is planted, be sure to water it thoroughly. If you have purchased a bunch of annuals or perennials and they are all sitting in your yard on a hot sunny day, you may need to water them prior to planting or maybe plant half the bed and then water. You don’t want to allow these tender flowers to wilt prior to planting. Keep them moist and cool.

After You Plant

Dead-heading or pinching off the spent blooms will always encourage more blooms, so the amount of this activity that you choose to do will affect how your beds look throughout the summer. Removing the spent blooms will ensure that the flowers don’t go to seed; this will keep them blooming more and longer.

Many people like to use synthetic fertilizers for their flower beds because they can be easily applied with a hose-mounted applicator. I never recommend chemical fertilizers and would instead suggest the application of aged compost to increase soil fertility.

The watering requirements of your bed will largely depend on the location and the plants’ needs. Beds in the hot sun will dry more quickly, and shady areas will hold moisture longer. You will need to keep an eye on your bed and make sure that it has all the water it needs. Use your finger to judge soil moisture in several areas of the bed.

Here is a list of some flowering favorites:

  • Hibiscus
  • Baby’s Breath
  • Dianthus
  • Zinnia
  • Phlox
  • Amaranths
  • Celosia
  • Gomphrena
  • Cosmos
  • Rosa Hybrid
  • Sweet Allysum
  • Pincushion flower
  • Calendula
  • Pansy
  • Forget-me-not
  • Petunia
  • Snapdragon
  • Marigold
  • Coleus
  • Nasturtium 
  • Dahlias
  • Iris
  • Marigold
  • Lavender
  • Bachelor’s button
  • Impatiens
  • Daylilies
  • Coneflowers
  • Daisy
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Tulip
  • Carnation
  • Blanket Flower
  • Hostas