What Exactly Is a Perennial?

Posted by TYammy Sons on Jan 25, 2016

Perennial Plants

Perennial plants are any that last for more than two years in the garden. It comes from the Latin words “per” and “annus” that mean “through” and “year.” We use the term perennial as a label on plants to differentiate them from those plants that only survive one season and are called annuals. This includes plants such as impatiens, geraniums, and lobelia.

Perennials will die back each autumn and remain dormant through the winter months. They will return from their root-stock each spring to provide an excellent foundation to any garden.

Growing Perennial Plants

Perennials are considered the backbone of any good landscaping project. The annuals must be replaced each year as in the case of lobelia, but the perennials reappear each year without any additional work or expense. They provide texture, form, and a variety of colors that can be counted on year after year.

Bloom time, lifespan, and culture will vary among perennial plants. Short-lived perennials last only three to four years. This category includes delphinium and lupines. Other varieties can last as long as 15 years, while peonies will continue on for a lifetime.

There is no set rule for all perennials. Some require shade while others need full sun. You’ll also find ones such as the gooseneck loosestrife that will over run the garden. Perennials are beautiful on their own, but they can be accented with annuals. Lobelia has a dainty flower that is perfect as a garden border around perennials.

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Types of Perennials

Many people think of garden varieties when they hear someone mention perennials. This would include the daylily. It is a favorite of gardeners for their continuous blooms. Each daylily has many buds that continually open up into beautiful flowers. The flowers only last for one day, but with so many buds, you’ll have non-stop blooms all season. Daylily is often called the perfect perennial because it comes in numerous sizes, shapes, and colors. It’s drought tolerant and suitable for many forms of landscaping.

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Some perennials are found scattered in the wild such as the May Apple. They are found throughout Eastern North America in pastures, woods, and thickets. The May Apple is actually an herb, but the roots are toxic so it should only be used by those with experience. The small white flowers that appear each April and May eventually turn into edible fruit.