What’s the difference between Annual, Biennial, Perennial

What’s the difference between Annual, Biennial, Perennial?

If you’ve decided to embark on the magnificent journey of gardening, you’ve probably gotten overwhelmed by the vastness of the information you receive. 

Which plants to choose from, based on your area and climate, and what’s available to you. What kind of care do they require, will they be easily-adaptable or high-maintenance. How much do you water them, what kind of soil to use? 

And you’re here because of another: What the heck are annual, biennial, and perennial plants? It is important to understand what kind of plants you’re trying to plant and how long their lifecycle lasts. 

Annual plants are basically plants that bloom and die within the same year. Biennials, on the other hand, typically last two years or seasons, where the second year is usually when the plants really thrive. Perennials last longer than both of these, at three seasons or even more. 

So which ones are best suited for you?

How are classified this way? 

This is solely based on the plant’s life span. It usually starts with how seeds germinate and then make their way into plants. Some produce flowers or fruits in their designated season, while others do not. 

Annual Plants

Annual plants get their name because of their lifespan. These plants go from germinating seeds to blooming season where they produce their flowers to set seed again in just a single year. 

Because of this cycle, some people (especially those who are just starting out) find it easier because they are fewer commitments and can be replaced each year. 

In some conditions, there will be annual plants that reseed themselves which makes it easier for you. These are called self-seeding plants and could drop hardy annual seeds in your flower garden which makes for an automatic reappearance the following year. 

Some of these plants must be housed indoors, while growing, especially during cooler temperatures throughout the year.

The great thing about this type of plant is that they can bloom their entire lifespan, so they will most likely be blooming all year long unless the onset of cold weather kills them. 

You can also “dead-head” these flowers, which is the process of separating the older flowers and putting them in different containers to fill plant beds that house perennial flowers since perennial flowers bloom for a shorter amount of time. 

Annual flowers will definitely add color and appeal to any area they are planted. 

Herbs, plants, and any member of the grass family fall under the annual category. Other popular examples of annual plants include: 

Standard greens like lettuce, mustard, spinach, and basil. Other examples of annual crops and produce are watermelon, corn, wheat, carrots, broccoli, squash, peas, and beans. 

Popular flowers that fall under the annual category and do well during the spring include snapdragons, African daisies, sweet alyssum, dianthus, and pansies. 

Popular flowers that fall under the annual category and thrive during the summer are marigolds, geranium, vinca, morning glory, zinnia, impatiens, and cornflower. 

Popular flowers that fall under the annual category and do well during the fall are begonias, petunias, nasturtium, celosias, and calendula. 

Popular flowers that fall under the annual category and survive throughout the winter are stocks, primrose, sweet pea, and flowering kale. 

Some plants can also be sold as annuals in areas that have warm climates but are usually perennial in nature. This is because some, if not most, of these plants, will not survive the winter. 

Biennial Plants 

Biennials differ from annual plants in the sense that they may take two years before they even produce anything. During the first year of their lives, the plant develops its primary parts: a good root system and the leaves of the plant. 

Biennial plants typically remain short, while leaves are almost touching the ground. 

Come wintertime, these plants suddenly go into dormancy or hibernation. Then in its second year, that’s when it blooms. Biennials typically bloom at a shorter time than annuals because of their split lifespan. 

The flowering season of biennials depends on what kind of plants you decide to use, what your climate is like, and how well you really take care of your garden. 

This is not the case for all biennials, as foxglove and some species of stock and poppies definitely bloom during their first year, but it is the case for most other types of biennials.

Since these do not require replacing, it may be convenient for those who don’t want to commit to year-to-year planting. 

Some popular examples of biennial plants include parsley, fennel, money plant, Sweet William Dwarf, and hollyhocks.

These plants are usually planted late in the summer or in the fall, but some can be planted in the spring as well. 

Biennials are also known to be self-seeding, like annuals. 

Perennial Plants

Perennials are the ones with the longest growing seasons — usually three or more, which means they’re also a huge commitment. 

Again, they are also convenient for those who don’t exactly want to keep gardening each year. 

Because of their long process of developing and growing, perennials have root systems that are capable of surviving the winter. Each season brings a dormancy or death wherein the stems of these plants die and the leaves fall off. 

The next season brings new growth, and perennials typically have shorter blooming periods that go from as short as two weeks to as long as two months but perennials typically survive for their usual 3 years to decades and decades, as long as poor weather conditions or wild animals don’t kill them. 

Some popular examples of perennials crops and plants include those that tend to grow on bushes or trees, like many fruits: apples, oranges, pears, lemons, and other genus of tree nuts like walnuts and pecans, asparagus, lavender, English ivies, Black-eyed Susan, and sage. 


Now that you know what kinds of plants fall under which category, hopefully, you will be able to identify which one is best suited for your garden and living conditions. If you’re patient enough, maybe you can even try a combination of all types of plants.