Believe it or not, we will be changing pansies for petunias very soon! Annual color is a great accent, but the twice a year change-out can get old. Perennials can be a great solution, but they can be higher maintenance. Now, I know you are scratching your head, saying “But perennials are LOW maintenance!” And you would be right. Most commonly available perennials are tough, drought tolerant, long blooming, and don’t require a lot of fuss to thrive. BUT in the wrong spot, perennials might require a lot of care. How is this possible? Well, you have to understand the qualities of perennials vs annuals.
Annual/Perennial…What’s the DIfference
Annual plants put most of their energy into blooms. They have to set as much seed as possible all through the season so that the species can continue. Annual varieties are bred for more abundant and more rapid bloom cycles than they would have if left to the hand of Mother Nature, and cultivars that have larger flowers and that easily shed old blooms make a constant show of uniform color. Perennials, on the other hand, have to live through multiple seasons. They have to put some of the energy they “earn” from the sun into a “savings account” to get them through the winter, which means that their bloom cycles are more distinct. Regardless of how healthy or well located the plant, there WILL be times when perennials look messy or tired. Which brings us to maintenance.
How to Use Perennials Effectively
In general, for an area that is seen up close all the time, perennials need to be frequently groomed to keep them looking their best. Otherwise, they are less “lush English garden” and more “weed patch”. (By the way, those lush English gardens usually had a full time staff!) BUT, if you need color on the far side of a wide lawn, or somewhere that will be typically seen from a moving car, you can use the “plant and forget” method. Garden phlox and coreopsis are ideal for this type of situation. Like real estate values, perennial maintenance requirements are about 3 things: location, location, location!