Which is the right choice for your yard?
When summer finally rolls around in Northern Michigan, homeowners are eager to see color around their yard. Annuals and perennials both can provide pops of color throughout the year, but they have very different bonuses and downfalls. So which is right for your property?
What is an annual?
The term annuals is used frequently in the green industry and those with some general flower knowledge. Many refer to annuals as just the flowers they are excited to plant in the summer here in Northern Michigan. Annuals complete their entire ‘life cycle’ in one growing season. They are seeded, flower, and then die completely. These flowers do not come back year after year. The word annual literally means yearly–but this does NOT mean they come back year after year! Surprisingly, many of the plants we think of as annuals are actually only ‘annuals’ because we have a long frigid winter season! Some true annuals no matter where they are planted are sunflowers and marigolds!
What is a perennial?
The term perennial is used frequently in the green industry and those with some general flower knowledge. Perennials refer to any type of plant that lives longer than two years, returning season after season. They are called this really to distinguish themselves from annuals (which are only one season long). Perennials tend to be a little slower growing and only bloom for a single season. Most perennials have beautiful, showy flowers, but there are ornamental grasses and other plants that are considered perennials that do not flower. Be sure to learn about how to maintain your specific type of perennial so it shines year after year!
How to care for your annuals
The most important mistake we see homeowners make is planting their annuals too soon. There are very few annuals that can survive temperatures below freezing, and frequently through May our temperatures dip that low at night. Ground temperatures take even longer to warm, so we recommend holding off until at least Memorial Day! One of the great things about annuals is that they can flower (most anyway) nearly all season long. Simply ‘dead head’ the blooms. Different plants have different guidelines for deadheading, but a general rule is to snip the dead bloom back to the first leaf under the bloom. Don’t cut directly under the bloom and leave a stem hanging there! Clipping off even a few dead blooms can keep your planters and garden beds looking beautiful all year.
How to care for your perennials
The idea of perennials is that in general, they are easy to care for plants. Some, like roses, require specialized pruning techniques and knowledge. Overall, care for perennials is rather easy. Most perennials are cut back in the fall. Some can be left for winter interest and some do better being cut back in the spring. Do a quick google search to figure out when is the best time to cut back your perennials. Once your perennial is established, it does not need watering like annual plants do–if you have an irrigation system or regular rain fall, perennials will do just fine. Watch for diseases on your leaves–sometimes even turning white is a sign of disease (usually powdery mildew). Removing spent blooms on perennials helps to clean up your landscape and help it look fresh throughout the season! Plant fertilization each year helps perennials thrive as well.