Plants have a definitive life cycle, termed by the length of their normal growing season. There are annuals, biennials, and perennials. Each of these tell the gardener how long it will live and when it will be most likely to bloom. It is an easy way to categorize plant life. Depending on the type of garden you’re planting, each of these life cycle’s serve a purpose.
Plants that have a growing season that is one year long from germination to seed production are called annuals. Some flowers that are termed ‘annuals’ may not be annual in their native life habitats but are called annuals in non-native areas. There are both winter and summer annuals.
- Winter annuals are the plants that have a late summer or fall beginning to their life cycle and the flowers in the spring, able to live through the winter.
- Summer annuals are the plants that have a spring or summer beginning to the life cycle and will finish their growing season prior to fall or winter.
Biennials typically do their growing life cycle through two years. They start out from seed and get their food storage organs and their vegetative structures through the first season, with basal leaves going through winter, and then flowers, fruits, and seeds through the second season. There are times that biennials may turn into an annual if there are unusual conditions like drought and other climate changes.
Plants that grow year after year are called perennials. They are able to live and produce seeds each year. Perennials are also classified in several ways. They can be hardy, tender, evergreen, deciduous, herbaceous, and woody.
- Hardy plants are those that can make it through cold temperatures without dying.
- Tender plants are those that won’t make it through cold temperatures without dying. Tender perennials are usually just grown as an annual plant.
- Evergreen plants have leaves that stay on throughout winter and typically stay green.
- Deciduous plants have leaves that will go during the winter. Plants that are deciduous will have some of their growing season without leaves.
- Herbaceous plants are those that will have new growth after dying back to the ground during the winter.
- Woody plants are those that will have their tops persist, like in shrubbery.
Annuals are good to use as “filler” plants to help bring color and texture into gardens. Perennials are nice for those areas where you want persistent plants without having to replant year after year. Depending on what you’d like to do, these are the types of plant growths you see the most.
University of Missouri Extension: Master Gardener Core Manual
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