Prior to going to the nursery or ordering your plants and/or seeds through a catalogue, you will need to understand some general gardening terms. The terms listed below describe a plant’s lifecycle. Understanding the difference between annuals, biennial, and perennials will help you plan a more successful garden while stretching your gardening budget.
The terms below will be organized from short-term growth to a long-term commitment.
Annuals are plants that complete their growth cycle in one season. This includes vegetative growth, flowering and seeding. In some situations, annuals will reseed themselves while others just die-off. Those that can reseed include marigolds, snapdragons, and pansies. But if you are looking to extend the life of your annuals, consider taking stem and/or leaf cuttings. Those that do well with this approach include begonias and geraniums.
An annual’s season ends when the cold wind of winter blows in and a killing frost occurs. Once this happens, pull up the plant material and dispose of properly. Doing this simple step will reduce the chances of harboring plant diseases and pests.
Biennials, on the other hand, grow for two years. During the first year, the plant spends a lot of energy on vegetative growth and root development. When a killing frost hits the area, the vegetative growth of the plant is killed but the root mass remains alive. Then, the following spring, the plant will send up new vegetative growth. The plant will then bloom, sending up a flower stalk. In many cases, after the flower has died, the plant will follow but in some situations a killing frost is required to kill the plant.
Biennials can be propagated through seeds and in doing so one can save their own for future propagation. If the seeds are not harvested, the plant will reseed itself in areas that you want and may not want.
Perennials are plants that grow both vegetative growth and flower the same season. When the fall winds blow and a kill frost sets in, the plants do die-back but only on the surface. Below the ground, the root mass is alive and well. Then in the spring, the plant breaks ground and the cycle begins again.
Perennial plants can be propagated through division, tip cuttings, and seeds.
Understanding each type of growth cycle will help make your garden center/nursery and seed catalogue experience more enjoyable and productive. The information about each plant sold in a seed catalogue can be found alongside the name of each plant but where do you find the information on a plant or seed package? This information is easily found on the tag placed in the pot along with the plant. If looking at the seed package, this information is located both on the front and back of package. Along with this information, you can also find light, soil type, and moisture requirements, which are just as important.