Understanding annual vs. perennial vs. biennial is a crucial part of gardening. And the differences in these plants can impact your choices of what to grow and how you care for them.
If you’re new to gardening and need help figuring out the difference between annual vs. perennial vs. biennial, we have you covered! We’ll break down the defining characteristics of each plant type, the general care differences, and some of the common plants that fall into each category.
What is the difference between annual, perennial & biennial plants?
The differences from annuals to perennials to biennials are significant in the long run. Each has unique characteristics that help them reproduce or not reproduce each year.
If you want to know how each plant type differs, keep reading!
Annual plants are plants that only live for one year/season. Some of the most common annual plants that everyone knows are petunias, tomatoes, and marigolds. They differ from perennials and biennials because of their short lifespan. Perennial plants, including vegetables such as asparagus and artichokes, come back every year for three years or more. And biennial plants, including money plants and hollyhock, have a lifespan of two years.
Perennial plant varieties are plants that return every season with flowers, fruit, or vegetables. Some of the most common perennials people may know are hibiscus, daylily, and potatoes. How they differ from biennials and annuals is because they return every season. Perennials live for three years or more; this supersedes biennials which only live for two years, and annuals, which only live for a year and die at the end of their season.
Biennials are plants that return every season for two years and include plants such as parsley, hollyhocks, carrots, and more. They differ from annuals and perennials because of their lifespan. They live longer than annuals which only last a season, and they live shorter than perennials, which last for three years or more. Some biennials return following seasons, despite their two-year lifespan, but not like perennials. Biennial plants can produce by self-sowing; this means that at the end of their lifecycle, they drop seeds that germinate, helping the plant to return.
During biennials two-year life, they grow different parts of the plant each year/season. Firstly, a biennial plant’s leaves, roots, and stems will form, and in the following season, they will flower and produce seeds.
Frequently Asked Questions
Annuals, such as tomatoes, zinnias, and larkspurs, do not come back every year and often die in the winter season, although these plants can drop seeds which you can use to replant the following year.
Perennials are plants that come back every single year. You can enjoy plants such as rhubarb, hostas, and catmint year after year with proper care and maintenance. And the good news is some perennial plants live up to fifteen years.
Biennials don’t come back every year the way perennials do. What biennial plants do best is self-sow. That means they release seeds onto the ground and germinate at the end of their life. Although, outside of self-sowing, the typical life cycle of biennial plants is two years, which is more than annuals that only live for one year.
The significant difference between perennial and annual plants is how often they grow back. Annuals never grow back and only live for one year. Perennials are long-lasting plants that come back annually for the next three to fifteen years.