Basic Plant Care

Annuals vs Perennials

It is best to know the difference between the two so you can make the most of these gorgeous flowers in your garden. An annual is a plant that lives for just one season. Whether you plant from seed or purchase seedlings to plant, an annual will sprout, flower, seed, and then die – all in the same year. Annuals tend to bloom all season long, until first hard frost, and are often bright and showy. Perennials, on the other hand, live for three or more growing seasons. They can be planted from bulb or seed – often bulbs must be planted in the fall to produce spring-blooming plants – or you can purchase young plants at a nursery to plant in the spring. Perennials generally have shorter blooming periods than annuals, so gardeners often pair them with perennials that bloom at other times to maintain constant color from spring to autumn.


Determine whether your plant needs sun or shade. Most full sun plants can do well with a small amount of shade. It does make a difference whether you have morning or afternoon sun. Most flowering plants will need 4-6 hours of full sun a day to produce their best blooms.


Containers and hanging baskets may need water every 1-2 days depending upon rainfall and temperature. Check the soil by sticking your finger in about 2 inches. If the soil feels dry, it’s time to water. Most plants will tell you right away if they are too dry by drooping. If water runs right through the container you may need to give it a good soaking.  Place the container in a large bowl or basin with a few inches of water. This allows the water to be absorbed from the bottom up. Recheck the soil in about 15 minutes. If it feels saturated it is ready to remove from the bowl/basin. Never allow water to stand in the tray under a pot for more than half an hour as this can cause roots to rot.

Garden beds will depend more on the overall weather conditions. If plants show signs of wilting they probably need water. One inch per week is usually sufficient for established perennials. New perennial plantings and annuals may need a bit more the first month.


Plants require fertilizer for optimal growth and to remain healthy. Determine what fertilizer you need based on the type of gardening you do. Compost or aged manure is ideal for flower beds. Containers and hanging baskets should be fed weekly or every other week with a water soluble all purpose plant food. A combination of slow release and water soluble is a good choice for heavy feeders.


Deadhead spent blooms by snipping or pinching stems back to the next closest leaf or flower intersection. Many plants tell you where to cut because the next flower is starting to form below it. If you do not deadhead, your plants will produce seed instead of new buds.

Prune dead or broken branches. If trailing plants look leggy (long spindly branches) trim the long stems back even with the bottom of your container to promote new bushy growth.


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