Plant type categories may seem a bit confusing. But once you know the basics that plants are grouped by their lifecycle, all will become clear.
Here’s a guide of the three types of plants you can buy. Perennial, biennial, and annual.
These plants are ones that flower reliably every year. Usually get bigger each time. The stems die back over winter, but the roots don’t. Meaning the plant can regenerate the following year.
Most plants in this category fall under the title ‘herbaceous perennial’. Trees and shrubs, which don’t die back to ground level over winter are sometimes referred to as ‘woody perennials’.
There is a huge range of perennial plants. And they can be used for a wide variety of planting schemes. Perennial’s work particularly well in beds and borders. Blooms such as lilies, Salvia, cranesbill, peonies, hydrangea, campanula, delphiniums, Alchemilla and Kniphofia (red-hot pokers) are eye catching additions.
Also, there are also evergreen perennials that keep their leaves through the winter months, such as Euphorbia, hellebores and Tiarella.
Perennial plants may set seed, but a common way to propagate them is by dividing established plants or taking cuttings.
Biennial plants have a two-year life cycle. During the first year, they grow only the roots, stems and leaves. In the second year they come into flower, produce seeds and die.
No gap planting
To ensure continuous flowering year after year, plant a new batch during the year that the first plants come into flower. Many biennials are also self-seeders, meaning they spread seed around the parent plant.
Pansies, foxgloves, wallflower, hollyhocks and evening primrose are all examples of biennial plants. Some biennial plants are grown as annuals, such as parsley and celery.
These are plants that germinate, come into flower, set seed and die in one season or year. By harvesting the seeds, you can grow them year after year.
Hardy annual seeds are sown in the particular site where they will flower. Examples of hardy annuals are poppy, cornflower and Nigella.
Half and half
Half-hardy annuals are sown in pots and kept sheltered in a greenhouse. These are then planted out later in the year when the risk of frost has passed. Half-hardy annuals include cosmos, Lobelia, and Nasturtiums.
The most prolific flowering summer bedding plants are annuals sown from seed and they include marigold, petunia and pelargoniums.
Now you’re up to speed with the gardeners’ glossary, you’ll be able to plan your beds and borders to be thriving year after year with colourful blooms whether you are going for a wildflower meadow or a formal garden look.
David Domoney is a Chartered Horticulturalist, Broadcaster, and Author. David has worked with a number of the UK’s leading garden retailers as a plant buyer and strategic consultant. With more than 30 years experience, in horticulture, David is as passionate about plants now as he was when he bought his first plant at a village fete.
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Really useful and easy to understand advice foe a complete beginner. Thank you., will.use all the time
This has been the best firm of information I have found. I am a beginner in terms of gardening and everywhere else I have looked for info has been confusing and lots of lingo talk.
Definitely be using this website again.
Fantastic – simple and easy explanation to someone learning everyday.
What does a hardy perenial do does it come up every year
Thanks for your comment. Yes, perennials should flower every year. Hardy plants can resist adverse growing conditions, such as frost, cold winds or drought, meaning they should survive (depending on the plant) year after year.
I hope this helps!
Hi I have two very healthy holly bushes one female one male I have not had any berries as yet I have had these bushes about 3 years; do I just have to be patient?
Thank you for your comment. There are a number of reasons why a holly bush may not be giving out berries. Firstly, make sure they are definitely male and female and not male and male or female and female. Secondly, if they are the correct sexes, they need to be planted within 200 yards of each other. Some varieties of holly do not produce berries at all so check that they are definitely berry producing trees. It can also take from 3 to 5 years for a holly to start producing berries, so unfortunately you might have to wait for another two years, but fingers crossed and hopefully they will come sooner, rather than later. Remember not to over-prune and make sure they are getting the right amount of water and sunlight. I hope this helps!
I replacemy plants in the spring and fall. Which are best for fall?
Hi Ermalee, thanks for your question! There are plenty of plants that can be sown in Autumn. Some of my favourites include Pansies, Poppies, Dahlia and Crocuses. Hope this helps.
Perfect explanation of the different types of plants excuse the pun , but no beating about the Bush.
No questions right now, The information was very good for a beginner and someone who has not tried for fear of failure. Getting older now so ‘what the heck’? LOL
I agree with everything you said Nancy. The information was very good for a beginner. I haven’t tried for fear of failure. I’m getting older and figure “what the heck?”, so I’m going to try it and see how it turns out.
Mind me asking if you went for it and how it looks?
Thank you . All makes sense at last !
Thank you I will use this every time I plant as I am a complete novice
Great help loads of information