The Difference Between Annuals, Perennials, and Biennials

The Difference Between Annuals, Perennials, and Biennials

November 8, 2021  |  Annuals, Perennials
3 different main types of flowers.

Every gardener wants a vibrant, diverse garden, but not every gardener has the time, or skill level, to tend to the most high-maintenance plants. A garden full of lush, exotic flowers may bring you bragging rights in your social circle (and with good reason), but if you don’t have the time to care for your plants, all you will have is a flower bed of dead plants, and dead plants make everyone sad.  


Before you start planning and planting your garden for the following year, you should understand the different types of garden flowers and what to expect from each.  


There are three main types of flower-bearing plants: annuals, perennials, and biennials. Each type has its own commitment level, and a certain amount of planning is required for each. 


In this post, we will go over the differences between each type of plant and what a gardener should prepare for with each type. 




Don’t be fooled, annuals do not come up annually! Annuals are flowers that only grow and reproduce for one season. Common types include petunias, vinca, and lantana. They are ideal for beginner gardeners. Since they only last one year, they do not require commitment past one growing season and require little to no planning.  


Here are some quick facts: 


  • Annuals have a long blossom season to afford them maximum time to reproduce. 

  • Annuals are often more vibrant and colorful than other types of plants. These showy flowers attract bees and other insects for priority pollination.  

  • You can plant annuals in conjunction with less colorful plants to attract the eye to a certain part of your garden. 




Perennials are flowers that can live for more than one growing season, typically three seasons or more. Perennials rebloom every spring as the same plant and have a shorter blooming period as compared to annuals. Many gardeners use both types to add variety to their gardens, but perennials require commitment and typically more skill than annuals.  


Here are some fast facts about perennials: 


  • Perennials are planted Spring to Autumn and grow the following spring.  

  • A shorter blooming period means perennials have a shorter period of reproduction. 

  • Daylilies, peonies, and hellebores are common varieties of perennials.




The best of both worlds, biennials are halfway between annuals and perennials. Biennials grow for two seasons, but do not bloom until their second year. This unique life cycle gives the biennial the reproductive window of an annual with a bit more longevity. Because they do not reproduce until their second year, biennials require more skill to grow than annuals.  


Think of Biennials as a mix between perennials and annuals! 


Here are some quick facts about biennials: 


  • Many gardeners space out when they plant their biennials, planting the first batch in the first year and the second batch the following year so that each year some of their biennials are in bloom. 

  • Biennials drop their seeds after their second season and the next generation blooms two years after the death of their predecessors. 

  • Common varieties include black-eyed Susan’s, forget-me-nots, and hollyhock.

Which Flowers are Right for You? 


Not every type of flower is right for beginners. Likewise, experienced gardeners will become bored if they are not challenged with a wider variety of flowers. It can be great fun to plan out a strategy for your garden to give it a fresh look year to year.  


Annuals require the least amount of forethought and commitment as they can be replaced after they die, but perennials and biennials live longer and cannot be removed without killing the plant.  


Regardless of the type of flower you plant, be mindful of when it will drop its seeds. If you allow a plant to sow its seeds freely, your garden will be full of its descendants the following year and can quickly become unkempt and disorganized.  


If you are having trouble selecting the perfect flowers for your garden, stop by Knollwood Garden Center. Our dedicated and knowledgeable staff has the experience and wisdom to guide you on your gardening journey.