Plant classification is something that often confuses new gardeners, so here are the short-and-sweet answers: An annual lives for only one growing season; a perennial slows down or dies back in the winter months but comes back bigger and better the next year, and the one after, and so on. Whether a plant is an annual or perennial may depend on the climate of where you live.
So you have to buy and plant new annuals every year, while perennials are a long-term investment. You can see Chapter 6 for the lowdown on annuals and Chapter 7 for info on perennials.
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