Perennial Definition

Easy to understand perennial definition. The difference between annuals and perennials. Pros and cons of both types of plants and how you can expect them to behave in your garden.

Beautiful Perennial Garden Wall Decal

What Does Perennial Mean?

Simply put, perennials are plants that return (from beneath the soil) each year without you having to replant them.  They are called perennials because their behavior exemplifies the meaning of the word perennial which denotes something that recurs on a yearly basis.

Annual vs Perennial Plants

Easy-to-Grow Types of Perennials:

Coneflower – SunriseCoral Bells – Cherry ColaSedum – Autumn Fire

Just So You Know:

Perennials appear to die each fall, just like annuals.

Do not be alarmed by this.  The plants will resurrect themselves the following spring.

garden annual is a plant that dies after setting seed or being exposed to a hard frost.  Annuals give you everything they’ve got in one growing season.  If you want a repeat performance, you have to install new plants the following season.

Perennials behave very differently.

They grow much more slowly, maturing over a period of years.  There is an old adage about perennial plants that will help you to remember this: “The first year they sleep, the second year they creep, and the third year they leap.”

I don’t recall who coined this saying, but I can attest to its accuracy.  Three years is about how long it takes most perennials to reach maturity.

Why Should I Care When My Plant Will Mature?

A small front garden devoted, almost exclusively, to annuals.

Because plants usually do not bloom well, if at all, until after they mature.  This accounts for why annuals flower so heavily soon after they are planted–they mature in 60-90 days!

This also explains why perennial plants can take so long to reach peak bloom.  They have to grow to maturity first, which can take three growing seasons.

So Why Not Just Plant Annuals and Skip All That Waiting?

A perennial garden grows more lovely every year.

Helpful Plant Lists:

List of Perennials Divided by Height

List of Perennials Divided by Color

While filling your beds with annual flowers will give you glorious color and a full, lushly planted yard in record time, the fun will be short-lived.

Unless you enjoy growing plants from seed (the cheapest way to obtain the number you will need, and the only way to access the full range of these plants), and have the space to do it (all those seed trays take up a great deal of square footage), perennials represent the better value.


Despite their higher initial cost, perennial plants are cheaper long term.  When you purchase one, you are investing in a plant which, given adequate care, will grow, bloom, and even multiply for many years.

They also save you the time it would take to completely replant your beds every spring.

So Which is Better?

Low Maintenance Types of Perennials:

Daylily – South SeasSedum – Lemon DropBee Balm – Purple Rooster

It depends.

How much time do you have?  How much patience?

If I were preparing my yard for a summer wedding–this summer–I would plant annuals.  If I were planning a garden just for my own enjoyment, I would fill it with a mix of mostly perennials with a few annuals added to satisfy my need for instant gratification.

In my opinion, neither plant type is better than the other.  Both are necessary and useful in the landscape.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.