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Annual, Biennial, and Perennial Plants and Herbs

Robie loves growing her own herbs and vegetables and taking care of her garden. She loves to share tips from her everyday life.

Annual and Biennial Plants

The main difference between annual and biennial plants is their life-cycle length.

Annual plants sprout from seed, flower, and die in a one-year period.

Biennial plants develop leaves and sometimes flowers during the first year, go dormant in the fall and winter, and flower again the next year before dying.

Growers have developed several breeds that were considered biennials to become annuals.

Black-eyed-Susan from my garden, a self-seeding biennial.

Black-eyed-Susan from my garden, a self-seeding biennial.

Examples of Annual and Biennial Plants

Annuals are a quick and effective way to add colors in the garden, and they usually flower from spring to late summer. Some of the most common annual plants are petunias, impatiens, coleus, and begonias.

Biennials can sometimes be mistaken for perennials because they are self-seeders. Some of the most popular biennial flowers include foxglove, hollyhock, pansy, black-eyed Susan, sweet William, Queen Anne’s lace, honesty, forget-me-not, Canterbury bells, and several varieties of evening primrose.

Characteristics of Perennials Plants

Perennials come back year after year. Many times it takes few years for the plant to be established in a garden and bloom in full beauty.

They cost more than annuals but definitely pay for themselves.

Perennials come in a wide range of types and sizes and can range from fruit-bearing trees to flowery plants.

The common characteristic of all perennials is that they live more than two years and regrow each year.

Types of perennials include:

  • Evergreen perennials
  • Deciduous perennials
  • Monocarpic perennials
  • Herbaceous perennials
  • Woody perennials
Rhododendrons and azaleas from my yard, both perennials. Azaleas are deciduous (pink flowers on right), rhododendrons have beautiful flowers in spring, and stay green all year long, providing great texture and color also in the coldest winter months.

Rhododendrons and azaleas from my yard, both perennials. Azaleas are deciduous (pink flowers on right), rhododendrons have beautiful flowers in spring, and stay green all year long, providing great texture and color also in the coldest winter months.

Evergreen Perennials

Evergreen perennials appear to be dormant during the warm season, but come very handy adding texture and color to the winter garden. They tend to require very little maintenance.

Some popular evergreen perennials include English lavender, Christmas fern, coral bells, and blue oat grass.

Deciduous Perennials

Deciduous perennials prefer a warmer and temperate climate and tend to grow only during spring and summer.

They are reliable and spectacular plants that can provide a delight of colors and texture to the garden year after year.

Some examples of deciduous perennials: daisy, peony, poppy, ferns, iris, daylilies.

Monocarpic Perennials

Monocarpic perennials have a very unique life cycle. They die after they flower the first time; however, a plant can live up to 40 years before it flowers.

Agave and bamboo are examples of monocarpic perennial plants.

Woody Perennials

Woody perennials are what we consider trees. Woody perennials are pretty strong and require minimum care, but you have to plant them in the right climate zone and in the right soil.

Examples of woody perennials are maple, apple, banana, and pine trees.

Many types of geraniums are excellent perennial ground covers. These grow and bloom every summer in my yard.

Many types of geraniums are excellent perennial ground covers. These grow and bloom every summer in my yard.

Herbaceous Perennials

Herbaceous perennials tend to go dormant during winter, like the deciduous perennials, and their roots continue to grow, shooting out new sprouts in spring.

Popular herbaceous perennials include herbs such as chives and dill.

Herbs

There are herbs of all three categories: annual, biennial, and perennial.

Some herbs are technically perennials but they are not winter-hardy in cold climates, and they are therefore grown as annuals in most parts of the country, like fennel, scented geraniums, lemongrass, marjoram, and rosemary.

Some biennial herbs are Angelica, caraway, clary, watercress, and parsley.

Some perennial herbs are thyme, oregano, mint, lavender, cardamom.

Winter Hardiness of Herbs

Type of hardinessCharacteristics

Not winter hardy

Will not tolerate frost.

Hardy annuals

Annuals that can be planted outdoors in early spring or even in fall and winter. Anise, dill, coriander, garlic, etc.

Tender annuals

Annuals that are easily injured by frost and thus must be planted outdoor after the ground has warmed up and all danger of frost has passed. Ex: basil, cumin, safflower, sesame.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: Is mango an annual plant?

Answer: No, mango is a perennial, evergreen tree.

Question: Is hibiscus a monocarpic perennial plant?

Answer: As far as I know (and I might be wrong because there are hundreds of hibiscus species and I am no hibiscus expert) but in my knowledge hibiscus is a perennial that flowers every year, so it qualifies as a polycarpic perennial.

Question: Is Neelakurinji annual or perennial?

Answer: As I am not familiar with Neelakurinji, I had to use google to find it is a beautiful blooming plant typical of southern India. I am not sure if it's an annual or perennial, but some information I found indicates that it blooms every twelve years, so I am assuming it's a perennial, but I could be wrong. What an amazing and beautiful plant!

Question: Is bamboo annual or perennial?

Answer: Bamboo varieties belong to the grass family and are typically perennial evergreen woody-stem plants. There are hundreds of types, and they can grow all over the world.

Question: What is Maize classified as in terms of annual, biennial and perennial?

Answer: Maize is an annual crop that dies after reproduction within the growing season in which it was planted.

Question: What is the unusual word which easy growing, drought tolerant plants, both annuals and perennials are called?

Answer: Succulents?

Question: Is banana a perennial plant?

Answer: Yes, the banana plant (Musa, Musella, and Ensete) is a large herbaceous perennial.

Question: Is an orange tree an annual plant?

Answer: No, the orange tree is a perennial plant.

© 2012 Robie Benve

Comments

Shahid khan on April 25, 2019:

Plant chapter is good

Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on August 07, 2013:

Hi claudyobcn, that's one thing about plants: gotta make sure they get some water. Even harder when they are in pots, because they dry up quicker. Look for plants that are forgiving, I love those that seem to "resuscitate" when I water after a dry period . :)

claudyobcn on July 22, 2013:

I like evergreen perennial. I had other plants but as I forgot to water them from time to time.

Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on May 28, 2012:

Nettlemere, nature can be so amazing in many ways. Monocarpic perennials have sure a surprising life-cycle.

Thanks for you comment. :)

Nettlemere from Burnley, Lancashire, UK on May 28, 2012:

I'd never known the name for the type of plant that lives for years then dies after flowering, so I've learnt something and I'm going to try to remember it!

Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on May 28, 2012:

Marcy, thanks for your comment. Good luck with your perennial garden, it can be a very rewarding experience. Make sure you pick some drought tolerant perennials. :)

Marcy Goodfleisch from Planet Earth on May 28, 2012:

I truly need this hub - big time! I lost a lot of my yard (bushes, everything) in the bad drought last year. We are busy clearing away the things that didn't come back after winter, and I have some bare spots to fill in. I believe in low-maintenance plantings, so I'll be checking out the perennials here!

Thanks for this great information! Voted up and up!