Different Plant Types Experience Different Life Cycles.

Plants are basically categorized into three groups based on their life cycles: annuals, perennials and biennials. Knowing which plants are which type can help you anticipate your needs for planning vegetable and flower gardens.


Plants are basically categorized into three groups based on their life cycles: annuals, perennials and biennials. Knowing which plants are which type can help you anticipate your needs for planning vegetable and flower gardens.

Annuals experience their entire life cycle within a single growing season. Every part of the plant dies annually, including leaves, roots and stems. Before the plant dies, it goes to seed. While the seed may grow on its own and start a new cycle, the originally plant is gone in an annual timeframe.

  • Examples: many grasses, marigolds, petunias, zinnias, corn, wheat, peas, beans, lettuce, rice


Perennial plants live for several growing seasons. Generally the leaves and stems die at the end of the season and the root remains alive through the winter. In spring, the root system produces new flowers or fruit.  Many perennial plants keep their leaves all year and make attractive landscape plants. When planting perennial plants from seed, keep in mind that they will not bloom until the second year.

Biennial plants have a two-year lifespan. They behave like a perennial for the first season, dying back and regrowing from the root. During the second season, the plant flowers and goes to seed. At the end of the second season, the entire plant dies.

Where the classifications of annual and perennial get tricky is with different climates. Plants that are generally annuals may behave like perennials in warmer climates because they don't experience temperatures that normally signify the end of their season, and are known as tender perennials, including tomatoes and peppers. Biennials grown in cool climates generally experience the life cycle of an annual.

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