Annual, Biennial, and Perennial Plants and Herbs

Updated on June 19, 2018
Robie Benve profile image

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 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. | Source

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, begonias.

Biennials can sometimes be mistaken for perennials because they are self-seeders. Some of the most popular biennial flowers: 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. | Source

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 forty 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. | Source

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 hardiness
Characteristics
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.

Questions & Answers

© 2012 Robie Benve

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    • Robie Benve profile imageAUTHOR

      Robie Benve 

      5 years ago from Ohio

      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 profile image

      claudyobcn 

      5 years ago

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

    • Robie Benve profile imageAUTHOR

      Robie Benve 

      6 years ago from Ohio

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

      Thanks for you comment. :)

    • Nettlemere profile image

      Nettlemere 

      6 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      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 profile imageAUTHOR

      Robie Benve 

      6 years ago from Ohio

      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 profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 

      6 years ago from Planet Earth

      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!

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