Choosing Annuals & Perennials

Choosing Annuals & Perennials

Tips on Annual and Perennial Choices for your Landscape

With Calgary’s sometimes harsh and unpredictable weather, choosing the right plants for this environment may seem like a bit of a task, but with these tips and a little research, we’re confident that you will be enjoying your luscious new yard in no time!

Annual vs Perennial

When making a decision on what to plant, it’s important to know the difference between annuals and perennials. Here’s a quick definition of both:

Annual – These plants have a lifecycle that only lasts 1 year. They grow from seed, bloom, produce seeds and die in one growing season. These plants tend to produce more flowers and bloom for longer periods of time than perennials. Annuals will need to be replanted each spring, which in the end can be more work, but it opens up the possibility of changing the look of your yard year after year. Another thing to note about annuals, is that since they aren’t going to live for more than a single growing season, from the last frost to the first frost, there’s no need to assign them to growing zones, which makes the possibilities nearly endless when making your planting choices!

Perennial – Perennials are plants that return year after year until they reach maturity. This can vary from plant to plant, but on average is about 4-5 yrs. Unlike annuals, perennials tend to bloom for a short time. These plants will require less maintenance than annuals because you only have to plant them once, so if you are looking for a low maintenance option, perennials are the way to go.

Things To Consider

Hardiness Zone – A hardiness zone is a geographically defined area in which a specific category of plant life is capable of growing, as defined by climatic conditions, including its ability to withstand the minimum temperatures of the zone. Calgary and surrounding areas are technically rated for zone 3, but depending on the plant, many zone 4 varieties will survive just fine.

Maintenance – Take into consideration how much upkeep and maintenance you are willing to do on the plants you choose. This may be the difference between choosing a perennial over an annual or choosing plants that are more water wise and won’t need trimming. A great low maintenance option is a Karl Foerster, which is a beautiful and tall ornamental grass or a Coral Bell, which blooms mid-summer with tiny bell-shaped flowers of varying shades of pink.

Placement – Sun, shade or part shade – be sure to pick a plant that is suitable to your site so it receives the correct light requirements to thrive. “May Night” Salvia or a Russian Sage are great full sun options. Hostas are always a great go-to choice for shady areas and are available in a huge variety of different sizes and colours. And the Bloody Geranium and Siberian Iris do well in those partly shaded areas. Another thing to consider when choosing plant placement is the size of the plant and the spacing. Be sure not to plant too close together to avoid overcrowding, which can hinder optimal growth.

Choosing plants can often come down to personal preference of colour and style, but as you can see there are a few other things to take into consideration before making your choice to ensure healthy growth. It’s recommended that you take a trip to your local garden centre, like Blue Grass Nursery, to browse the different options and don’t be afraid to ask questions. With these tips along with a little inquisition, picking the plants for your landscape will be a breeze!

Check out these Yard Smart Perennials and more plant recommendations by the City of Calgary.

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