Plant Groups

Annual, biennial and perennial, what’s the difference?

Think of perennials like a boxer who just doesn’t know when to quit. Not even the punches and haymakers thrown by brutal Minnesota winters stop these never-say-die flowers and shrubs from coming back for another round. You can count on these garden workhorses to die off every autumn and winter, and pick up right where they left off the previous summer from the very same roots. Examples of perennials in Minnesota include: peonies, roses and bleeding hearts.

Bleeding Hearts


Biennials are the kids who play a couple great years of college ball before opting to go into the NBA or NFL draft than elect to come back for their junior and senior years and finish out their college careers. These plants last for two growing seasons before setting new seeds and calling it quits. Examples of biennials in Minnesota include: hollyhock, pansies and foxglove.

Fox Glove


Annuals are the one-and-dones of the garden world. They complete their entire life cycle from seed to flower to seed in one growing season before throwing in the towel. Examples of annuals in Minnesota include: marigolds, impatiens and petunias.



Which is best? Like a lot of things in life, it is a matter of personal preference. If you are looking for a low maintenance garden with little upkeep from one season’s end to the beginning of the next, perennials are the route to take. But if you like getting out there and going through the motions of pulling out flowers who have passed on at the end of every season, and planting, fertilizing and watering seedlings at the start of the next season, annuals will satisfy that craving.

For more on spring and summer gardening, check out our tips on planting zones, light requirements and watering.



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