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Annuals Vs. Perennials: Which Is Right For Your Landscape?

by Emily Durgan | Mon, Feb 16, 2015

Clients often wonder which are the best types of flowers to plant in their Northwest Florida landscaping — residential or commercial. Our answer is often “It depends.” There are a lot of considerations, including:

  • whether to choose annuals or perennials

  • what’s currently planted there and whether the beds will get a complete overhaul

  • the soil composition and how much sunlight and moisture the area gets

  • what type of look the client wants

  • how much plant maintenance the client envisions

Before going further, it’s helpful to understand the differences between annuals and perennials.

Pentas are one of many annuals in Florida


Like the name suggests, annuals live for one season, and that includes growing, blooming, dropping their seeds,and dying. Then it’s time to replant. In Florida, where there’s a longer growing season and more moderate weather, sometimes three rotations of annuals are needed to keep flowerbeds looking their best. Spring annuals are typically planted in April. Summer annuals are planted in late July. Winter annuals are planted in November.

Pros: The good news is that annuals bloom all season, with bright colors. The height of these plants can vary greatly, producing many design options. A wonderful three tier effect can be created in an appropriately sized annual bed. They also bloom well because they have a short reproduction time and need to maximize that!

Cons: Annuals need a lot of water and nutrients to look great. The success of annuals is heavily dependent on weather. Plus they need more maintenance than their perennial friends, like removing the dead or dying flowers to allow the maximum growth and liveliness. And of course, they need replanting the next season.

Popular annuals in the Florida Panhandle include Zinnias, Pentas, Angelwing Begonias, Angelonia, Alternanthera and Salvia.


Perennials in Florida tend to live three or more growing seasons, and sometimes even longer. The flowers are known as Cat's Whiskers is one of many perennials in Floridaherbaceous perennials, versus woody perennials like shrubs and trees. While the stems and flowers may die in the winter, they grow back from the root system. They look great planted in mass for a brilliant color display, versus planting them as smaller pockets of flowers.

Pros: While they need pruning and fertilizing, there’s less maintenance than annuals, and can remain a consistent feature in your landscaping.

Cons: Perennials bloom for shorter periods of times and do need pruning to keep them fresh and so they don’t look overgrown.

Perennials that grow well in the Florida Panhandle include: African Iris, Begonia, Cat’s Whiskers, Chrysanthemums, Day Lilies, Gerbera Daisies and Hardy Hibiscus. Even though they live indefinitely, you still may need to occasionally replant them to keep them looking fresh.


One other category we didn’t mention above is biennials, because they’re less popular in Florida. These flowers complete their lives in two seasons. The first season they produce leaves, and they bloom during the second season, dropping seeds which might then produce more plants the next year. Some common biennials include Foxgloves, Sweet William and Poppies.

Annuals Vs. Perennials — Trouble Deciding? GreenEarth Can Help

So to answer the question about whether to plant annuals or perennials, the answer just might be to plant both! Annuals and perennials in Florida sometimes bloom at different times. For that reason, many homeowners and commercial property managers like having blooms from spring to fall, so they have both types of flowers in their garden landscaping. Maintaining perennials along with annuals means less replanting as well.

The horticulture experts here at GreenEarth would be happy to consult with you on how to get the Northwest Florida landscaping you want for your residential or commercial property. Give us a call at our Panama City Beach office at (850) 236-1959, or call our Santa Rosa Beach office at (850) 267-0010 to set up an appointment. You can also fill out the online form on our website to schedule a consultation.

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Images: Cat's Whiskers

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