Annual vs. Perennial vs. Biennial: 3 Plant Types You Should Know
Are there times when you browse through the nursery and find yourself not understanding the labels?
One of the most difficult things to distinguish is whether plants grow as annuals, biennials, or perennials. It’s crucial to know the difference between each type of plant.
The types of plants can mean the difference between having lush landscaping for a year or for many. I’ll explain what the differences between them are, as well as giving you examples of each type of plant.
The following tips will help you choose the right plants at the nursery. Here’s what you need to know:
An annual is a plant that produces its crop only once a year, and you would have to replace it the following year if you wanted to still have it for another year. They do not overwinter.
In a nutshell, a perennial plant completes all its growth and production process in a single growing season, typically between spring and fall.
The Lifecycle of an Annual
An annual begins its lifecycle with germination. When the seeds sprout, they produce flowers. The flowers die off when they are finished flowering.
However, the plants’ end-of-life process includes the production of seeds so that future generations can develop. If the seeds are left alone, some plants come back each year on their own.
When I plant annuals in my window boxes and take them down for the year and store them in my garage, I’ve noticed the following year that I sometimes get volunteers in the window boxes because the seeds survived the winter.
I will still plant additional annuals to get the look I want, but I will have a few that return on their own when this happens.
The seeds of annual plants planted in an in-ground garden bed usually fail to re-seed themselves because they have a difficult time overwintering.
When you see an annual plant die, you can collect its seeds. The seeds are contained in a seed sack inside the plant or flower, which is visible after the leaves begin to wither. Wait until the last petals fall before removing the sack.
If you want to finish drying the seeds indoors, you can open the sack, remove the seeds, and dry them the rest of the way. You’ll get free seeds to start your annual plants for next year.
What They’re Ideal For
Do you want to instantly improve the curb appeal of your home or office? If so, you’ll be glad to hear that annuals are one of the best ways to do this.
If you want to change your landscaping, annuals are an excellent choice since they create quick, beautiful beds. They don’t require years of waiting for their flowers to bloom. If you plant them in the ground, you will see them bloom the next year.
Additionally, if you have an area in your landscaping that seems bare, don’t assume it has to stay that way. Instead, plant an annual in the empty spot.
In no time at all, the flowers will come up and liven the barren spot right up. I also use annuals in my window boxes, as I mentioned earlier. They’re one of the easiest and most beautiful ways for me to add color to my porches.
Window boxes can be purchased or made yourself, and filled with different varieties of annual flowers. They are easy to care for and add beauty to our home.
Unless you choose annuals for their short lifespan, I encourage you to deadhead annual plants because they will thrive longer when you follow this process. This will extend the life of many annuals dramatically.
The plants can often live through the fall, giving you not only instant flowering but also improved longevity as a result. It makes them an excellent choice for many gardeners since they not only provide instant flowering, but will also live through the fall.
Types of Annuals
These annuals may be of interest to you if you’re planting them:
- Snap Dragons
In the world of botany, you don’t normally hear the term biennial flowers. This is because botanists have a difficult time telling when a plant is a short-lived perennial or a biennial in some cases.
Many short-lived perennials, then, get labeled as such simply for the sake of convenience.
In reality, biennials lie between annuals and perennials since biennials last for two years and die. Here are some important facts about biennials:
The Lifecycle of a Biennial
It is often the case that consumers fail to understand what they are getting when purchasing biennials. They plant them, expect them to bloom, and are frustrated when they don’t.
The next year the same plant returns and bursts with blossoms. When they fertilized the plant, talked to it, tried everything the book had to offer, but their efforts were fruitless.
The plant dies just as the gardener is getting excited for the next season. It leaves no forwarding address, and no amount of fertilizer and care will make it come back.
People who bought the same variety of plant will often think they did something to cause it to die, or they will believe they purchased a “dud.”
But what actually happened? That’s simple: The plant did what it was supposed to do.
In the first year, biennial plants will just produce leaves. They will look like a bunch of leaves.
The next year, the plant will typically produce beautiful flowers, but this will be its last year, though it will provide seeds that can be saved for further use.
However, the original plant is done – if you don’t identify your biennial, you will become frustrated thinking you’ve neglected your plant when you haven’t and will be left wondering what was going on.
Honestly, this might seem like a lot of work to care for just one plant, but if the plant is worth every bit of waiting, it may be worth it.
Alternatively, if you prefer, you can succession plant biennials to ensure that your favorite flower varieties continue to bloom.
Biennial vs. Biannual
Another difference between biennials and biannuals is that many people hear the term and automatically think they mean biannual.
It’s important to note that biannual means the plant produces every two years. It won’t die off at the end of the first growing season, laying dormant for a year and producing flowers the following year. This pattern would continue if the plant was biannual.
It is not the case for biennials. They produce during the second year and finally die as they reach the end of their life cycle.
Types of Biennials
These biennial varieties might be worth a try if you’re planning on planting them this year:
- Black-eyed Susan
- Foxglove (You may find labeled as short-lived perennial or a biennial.)
- Queen Anne’s Lace
Most gardeners prefer perennials, even though they can be hard to get started. Nevertheless, many feel that perennials are worth their time.
Perennial plants are plants you can plant once and they will return for three or more years. Keep in mind, some plants can be perennials as well as annuals with regard to the area they’re growing in.
Plants that grow in tropical climates, for example, are perennials when they are grown there. However, when you transplant them to an area with a colder climate part of the year, they become annuals.
When you plant perennials in your growing area, you’ll need to check your planting zone to determine whether they will remain true perennials.
The Lifecycle of a Perennial
Perennials have a long life cycle, so it’s important to understand it in the first year so you won’t be discouraged. The plants won’t produce flowers the first year they’re planted.
If the flowers do bloom, it is generally recommended to deadhead the plant. This will promote stronger roots that will lead to a more enduring plant in the future.
It will take two to three years before the plant grows enough to bloom again, and the plant will begin to grow more abundant and more beautiful to the eye with time.
You should also keep in mind that perennials don’t last forever. Each time the plant enters dormancy, it produces fresh seeds, which allow the next generation to flourish.
What does all of this mean for you? For one, when the parent plant dies, it will most likely not be noticed because the offspring will probably be very healthy by this point. This cycle will continue until something catastrophic occurs to upset the cycle of these plants.
Type of Perennials
Perennials are more expensive when purchased because nurseries tend to raise them for several years. Obviously, they want to earn compensation for their time and energy. You can grow your own perennials at home to save money or purchase them from a nursery and realize they will last for many years.
The following varieties of perennials are sure to excite you:
- Butterfly Bush
- Snake Plant
It is now clear how to distinguish an annual from a biennial or perennial, as well as how to tell what some of the most popular varieties are. Please let me know what type of plant you prefer, and what variety of that plant is your favorite?