When I posted 6 Tips for Container Gardens, I neglected to mention one of the most important considerations: Annuals or Perennials.
For some reason, many people are intimidated by perennials. Do they seem to be more work? Is there a fear they won’t come back? Are they too expensive? Is there not enough all-season flowering?
Here’s a very basic primer on plant longevity.
…are plants that in our region usually die off completely at the beginning of winter. They may live forever in South Africa, but in BC, not so much. So the Gloriosa rothschildiana (Climbing Lily) I just bought would come back year after year in Atlanta, but in Burnaby I’ll just get one summer from it. (All images clickable incidentally.)
…are an unusual group of plants that grow lots of leaves the first year they germinate, then die back over the winter, and in their second year they make flowers, set seed, drop their seeds all over the place, and then die. And because they drop their seeds all over the place, there will always be new first year plants. Hollyhocks, foxglove, forget-me-nots are all biennials.
And finally Perennials…
…these are plants that are hardy in your area–wherever “your area” is.
If a plant comes back every year for more than two years, it’s a perennial.
“Herbaceous perennials” will appear to die, or disappear, come winter, and then reappear the next spring. “Evergreen perennials” don’t disappear–like hellebores, for example (Lenten Rose or Christmas Rose–aren’t those the most delightful names?)
OK, now a few more semi-accurate generalizations about annuals and perennials:
Annuals are very hungry and very thirsty, no matter where they’re planted. Perennials much less so, but will still need more feeding and watering in containers than planted in the ground.
Annuals’ chief advantage is that in general (hence the “generalizations” in the heading), they flower most of your summer season. Some will find the heat of summer more than they can take and languish until it cools down in later August, but they will pick up again as the nights cool down. Delphinium is one of those.
Perennials in general have a shorter flowering season, but have a lot more foliage interest than most annuals. (Exception is the coleus I mentioned in the last post–Ahhh, the beautiful coleus…) And some perennials’ shorter flowering season is still really long, like the Black Eyed Susan, Rudbeckia. Blooms for at least 5-6 weeks.
Annuals are usually cheaper to buy, but have to be cared for through the growing season, and have to be replaced every year (unless you want to get into overwintering, which can be a lot of fun, and the subject of another post…)
Perennials are more expensive, but it’s a several year investment, since they’ll come back at least two more years, as long as you treat them right.
So are you an instant gratification kind of person, or does the idea of seeing a favourite plant that “died off” last Fall resurrect in the Spring fill you with delight?
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