Perennials vs. Annuals: A Top Choice New Year Showdown

The new year is fast approaching, and one thing is on everyone’s mind: “how can I make my yard look tip-top this 2019″… Okay, maybe that’s not the one thing on your mind, but it’s a nice goal that doesn’t involve giving up donuts or getting a personal trainer. Here’s some tips and advice to keep your neighbors envious of your yard this new year.

What should you be thinking for 2019?

Utilize a variety of perennials. Perennials are the plants that come back each year even after they die back during the cold. If you want the biggest bang for your buck, focus on the perennials.  They will be around year after year and form the backbone of your landscape. You can always change out annuals (don’t come back each year) seasonally, but choose your perennials with the long-term future in mind!

Which Perennials?

Some good practical questions to consider when selecting perennials: drought tolerance, sun and shade requirements, necessary maintenance, cold hardiness and seasonal interest. Despite the recent 2018 torrential down pours, we’re in Austin and we want to use our water responsibly. Is your intended planting location getting more shade than sun? How often does your perennial need to be pruned or fertilized? Does this plant bloom and if so during what season(s)? Knowing the answer to these questions is critical to choosing the best perennial for your yard. Using a variety of perennials with different times of seasonal interest will maintain curb appeal annually and keep your neighbors jealous all year.

A few of Austin’s tried and true perennials are xeric deer resistant perennials such as cacti and yucca. They require little maintenance and don’t undergo much change throughout the year so they can be considered reliable design elements. Although most cacti have similar texture, you can choose from a variety of forms. Adding perennial ornamental grasses with your xeric plantings can add movement and seasonal color variation.

The perennials you want to invest time and money in will be your trees and shrubs! Trees are the most powerful, substantial plants you own, so don’t forget, with great power… comes great responsibility. Woody perennials benefit from fertilization and many have pruning requirements you won’t be able to tackle on your own. Always research pests and diseases and consider the tree’s height at maturity when choosing a planting location. Is your tree deciduous or evergreen? Does it flower or produce fruit? These are important considerations for ongoing care and maintenance.


Don’t forget your annuals. Annuals are the colorful show stoppers that you can change out seasonally. Growing up, I truly thought Snapdragons were called “Neighbor Beaters”. Turns out my mom is just highly competitive and my neighbors were always really envious of our beautiful, colorful Snaps.  In central Texas we can utilize warm season annuals a lot longer than many other regions. It’s also common for us to use perennials as annuals, like Petunias and Violas.  

My best advice for annual plantings is to have fun and be creative. Take a chance with something you’ve never planted before and if it does well, add it to your pallet of preferred annuals to plant again next year. Annuals are great transitional fillers. They can have colorful flowers or colorful foliage and with a foundation of great perennials, you can use minimal annuals if you’re on a tight budget.

 Lucky for us, plant breeders and nurseries have readily supplied us with a huge selection of varieties and cultivars for some of our favorite species. Each year you extenuate your landscape you’ll find more colors and options to choose from than you did the year before. The possibilities are endless. So find your timeless classics and don’t be afraid to try something new! This new year we hope you embrace change and find what keeps you and your yard happy and healthy.

Brought to you from the one and only Ally “Bueno” McBeal


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