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Colorful zinnias in the garden.

Difference Between Annual And Perennial Flowering Plants

Every plant has a specific time within which it completes its life cycle—the time from which the plant starts to germinate to the production of seeds to be ready for harvest and then dies.

This is referred to as the plant’s life cycle.

Woman gardening in springtime and holding Petunia flowers in her hands

Flowering plants can be classified based on their life cycle as annuals or perennials.

Annual flowers complete their life cycle within one year or, even less, of planting.

Plant growing from seed to flowering and fruit-bearing plant

They have a seed-to-seed life cycle. Annual flowers planted in summer germinate and then mature in the autumn of the same year, and vice versa.

Though this may vary according to different geographical areas, however, botanically speaking, you plant an annual flower this year and have its harvest this same year as well.

Annual flowering plants usually produce few leaves but numerous flowers that can add magic to the landscape of your garden. The flowers of annuals are usually brilliantly bright with a sweet scent that easily attracts pollinating insects into your garden.

Annual plants can be grouped into two types: summer annuals and winter annuals.

Summer annual plants germinate and complete their life cycles from the spring or summer of the growing year to the autumn of the same year. Summer annuals grow during the warmer season.

Low angle view of woman’s hands planting flowers in spring

Simply put, after you sow your plant’s seed, summer annuals sprout, grow, flower, produce seed, and die all during and around summer. Summer annuals include Zinniah, Sunflower, Dahlia, Marigolds, Gloriosa Daisy, Peony, and others.

Colorful zinnias in the garden.
Colorful Zinniah in the garden.

Winter annuals have different names: cool-season annuals, hardy annuals, and frost-tolerant annuals. Winter annual plants germinate and complete their life cycles from the autumn of the planting year to the spring or summer of the following year.

pink dahlias, selective focus, late summer garden, morning light
pink dahlias, selective focus, late summer garden, morning light

The sprouting, growing, flowering, and seeding occur during and around winter. Examples of winter annuals are pansy, Sweet Pea (Lathyrus odoratus), Primerose, Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima), and Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus), and so on.

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  • The flowers of annuals take little time to bloom.
  • They bear few leaves with no basal rosette.
  • Annual flowering plants produce flowers with a sweet fragrance, which helps in attracting pollinators.
  • The color of annual flowers is usually bright, which in turn attracts the pollinating insects to visit.
  • Annual flowering plants produce more flowers.
  • They produce multicoloured flowers that bloom rapidly.
  • The plant dies after producing seeds.
  • The most popular examples of annual flowering plants include marigold, Zinniah, sunflower, snapdragon, petunia, vinca, pansy, cosmos, and lantana.

What are perennials?

Perennials, on the other hand, complete their life cycle and live for more than two growing seasons.

Perennial flowers that are sown in summer and then left to germinate and grow, die in autumn, returning in the next summer from the rootstock or other structure, and do this for more than two growing seasons.

Sunflower growing process vector illustration flat design. Planting process of sunflowers. Growth stages from seed to flowering and fruit-bearing plant with yellow flowers isolated on white background.

Planting perennials usually requires less labour. Once perennials are planted, they continue to regerminate every year from the structure that survives the winter. Perennials have a shorter blooming period and are usually not very attractive.

Perennials have a vigorous root system which enables them to survive winter weather and regrow during each growing season.

Characteristics of Perennial Flowering Plants

  • Perennial flowering plants have numerous leaves arranged in a basal with an unbranched rosette.
  • Perennials produce fewer and smaller flowers.
  • The flowers of perennials take a longer time to bloom. Though this may differ depending on geographical location.
  • Perennial possesses an extensive root system which allows them to survive winter weather.
  • Perennials can withstand irregular rainfall and require less labour during germination.
  • Perennials require less work as they usually regrow after each growing season.
  • There are numerous popular examples of perennials, some of which include clematis, coneflowers, yarrow, peonies, coreopsis, and so on.

Another classification of flowering plants based on their life span is the biennial.

Some flowering plants only complete their life cycle within just two years of the planting season. These are the biennials.

There are differences between these flowering classes based on life span. I’ll highlight these differences below for you to know the best plants you can choose for particular growing seasons and for what purpose you want them to serve.

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What Is the Difference Between Annual and Perennial Flowers?

There are numerous differences between annuals and perennials. However, the major difference is that annuals take a year or less to complete their life cycles annuals take a short period to grow, germinate, flower, seed, and die while perennials complete their life cycles for two or more years of planting season. Thus, the annuals have a shorter growing span compared to the perennials, which have a longer life span.

Other differences include

  • Perennial plants require less labour as they regrow themselves each growing season. This is made possible by the extensive root system that continues to supply the plant with all the requirements, especially water for fruitful germination, and keeps the plant surviving during the winter. The reverse is the case for annuals. Annuals only survive for just a period of one growing season. You need to plant annuals every season. For it to produce enough flowers and seeds, a garden needs to keep a close eye on its germination.
  • Perennials produce fewer and smaller flowers compared to annuals, which produce numerous bright flowers that bloom rapidly. This is because perennials concentrate more on root systems, whereas annuals grow and live for just one period of the growing season.
  • Annual flowering plants die annually, while only the tops of perennials die annually. Perennials live for more than two years and above.
  • Annual plants bloom all season. Perennials only bloom during the summer or spring of the second year of their planting season.
  • Seed is the only reproductive structure for annuals, while perennials can reproduce from the seed and other surviving outer or underground structures such as bulbs, corms, tubers, rhizomes, and so on.
  • Annuals have characteristic rapid growth with flower and seed formation. Perennials do not.
  • Perennials can withstand harsh conditions and survive extreme weather. Annuals only survive for a period of one growing season.
  • Annuals usually produce bright and showy blooms, while perennials only produce showy flowers.

When should you choose annuals and/or perennials?

Annuals germinate, flower, and produce seed within one growing season, with a longer flowering period. You can choose annuals to give your indoor and garden a stunning look of flowers and enjoy your view when you sit on your balcony.

If you’re a gardener that loves flowers but has little time to daily water, weed, and carry out other maintenance labor, go for perennials. Perennials have a stronger root system than annuals, allowing them to access water on their own.

As a gardener who practices nursery mostly in his garden, you should go for annuals. Annuals can survive well in pots and flower rapidly. This may not be the case for perennials. Even though perennials require less maintenance, they need to be planted in a field where the roots can easily sort for water on their own.

If you’re a gardener with an admiration for colorful, bright, dextrous, and flamboyant flowers, do go for annual flowering plants. Only annuals can work the magic on your farm. Perennials can do it too, but annuals are the best for this purpose.

Do you love trees and shrubs under which you can sit and enjoy your novel with a cup of coffee beside you? Yea, I love that, too! You know what? Go for perennials! Perennials are trees that can provide shade for you when it’s sunny in your garden or compound.


Knowing the differences between annual and perennial flowering plants allows you to choose which plant to have in your garden during each growing season. You may choose based on the differences I’ve highlighted above.

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