Annual, Biennial, or Perennial Plants. What is the difference?

daisy flowers in a book

Horticulture and botany, like any science, has its own terminology. Whether you’re an inexperienced newbie trying to unravel gardening instructions or a professional, here are some horticultural terms decoded.  Let’s begin with annual, biennial and perennial plants- what’s the difference? At The Plant King Blog, we always have new posts so check regularly for additional gardening terms, that you’ve always wanted to learn.

Annuals: Plants that complete their entire life cycle from seed to flower to seed again within a single growing season. Marigolds, zinnias, and impatiens are typical examples of annual flowering plants that gardeners plant every year to add vibrant color to their gardens. These plants produce beautiful flowers that bloom profusely during the entire season.  All roots, stems, and leaves of annuals die back each season and it is only the dormant seed that begins the next generation.  If gardeners are planting annuals there are two options for next season: either buy a new flat of annuals each springtime or direct sowing of seeds in order to see those colorful creations again.

Biennials: Plants that require two years to complete their life cycle. The first year biennial will produce leafy growth but second-year plants produce flowers. Typical examples of biennials include Black-eyed Susan, California poppy,
Canterbury Bells, Hollyhock and Sweet William. Non-flowering in their first year can be frustrating to gardeners growing ornamental flowers. However, you can get around their two-year cycle by starting seeds in the summer instead of the spring.

There are delicious vegetables that are biennials too.  Some examples of these biennials include onions, cabbage, carrots and herbs such as parsley.  Typically biennial vegetables are usually eaten in about a few weeks after planting. We do not eat second-year plants because they develop wood parts, but if you continue to allow them to grow they will develop flowers and seeds. 

Perennials: Perennials are flowers or plants that can live for more than two growing seasons.  Perennials form a wide assortment of plant groups from ferns to the highly diverse flowering plants like orchids, grasses, and herbs such as hops and lavender. The term is used extensively to distinguish plants with little or no woody growth from trees and shrubs, which are considered perennials.  Woody perennials consist of trees such as pine, maple and apple trees as well as shrubs. Herbaceous personals die back at season’s end but regrow the following year. Plants of this type include daffodils, alfalfa, red clover, and lemon balm.

 

 

 

 

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