Plants Life Cycles

Someone recently asked me what a perennial actually was, and I thought it would be useful to recap on a few common botanical words which most gardeners are familiar with, but may not realise what they really mean. All plants have different life cycles ranging from very brief to thousands of years…

Annuals complete their life cycle in one year, they grow from a seed, flowers and set seed, after which they die. Chickweed and Sweet Peas are both examples. Also commonly known as annuals are Ephemerals – these can complete many life cycles in one year, such as the pernicious weed Bittercress. Many bedding plants are treated as annuals but in fact frost-tender perennials, such as petunias

Biennials complete their lives over two years, growing from seed at the end of the first year, continue to grow and then flower early the next year, set seed in the summer then die, such as Sweet Williams.

Perennials live for more than two years and in most cases, many years. Trees, roses and shrubs fall under this category, these have a permanent structure, herbaceous perennials grow and bloom over the spring and summer and then die back every winter, their root-stock (or crowns) surviving below ground to re-shoot again in the spring. All perennials are either deciduous, dropping their leaves every Autumn, or evergreen, retaining their foliage all year.