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Difference Between Annuals and Perennials

Annuals vs Perennials

What makes an annual plant different from a perennial? Annual plants are so called because they have a one year life cycle. An annual plant life cycle may happen in any duration under a year, with some annual plants having a life cycle of just a few weeks. On the other hand, perennials may have a few years of life cycle. Some perennial plants have a life cycle of 20 years, depending upon the species of plant.

Annual plants start their life cycle from seeds to flowers to seeds again within a single growing season. After one year, the roots, leaves and stems of an annual plant dies. What bridges the gap from one generation to the next are the dormant seeds.

In some cases, some biennials and perennials could be grown as annual plants. This is because some annual plants growing in their natural habitats may live perennially when they are introduced to the harsh winter season. Biennial (plants that take two years for their life cycle) root vegetables such as carrots are considered annual plants. Carrots are harvested during the first year because they have strong roots that grow, thus providing the right nourishment to the plants in the following year.
Annual plants have two major groups. First, the summer annuals start the germination and death cycle within a single season, whatever the season is. Summer weeds fall under this variety. On the other hand, winter annuals, the second of the two major annual plants groups, live longer. They start germinating during the fall or winter season and bloom later in the season. Winter annuals are very useful in maintaining the balance of the ecological system because they serve as ground cover for perennials when they become dormant.

On the other hand, perennial plants, also known as herbaceous plants, are very diverse. Some perennial plants are called monocarpic when they bloom and bear fruits only once. Polycarpic perennials bloom and bear fruit every year. Compared to annual plants, perennials are hardier. They are characterized by evolved structures that allow their survival for many years. This is typical of rhizomes and bulbs. There are times when perennial plants become deciduous. This means they have alternating periods of growth and dormancy as a response to the change in climate. Evergreen perennial plants grow all year round.

Perennial plants persist in growing for many seasons. In general, the top portion of a perennial plant dies during winter and when spring comes, it grows back from the same root system. This is true with the Purple Cone flower. Some perennial plants have their leaves all year, serving as nice borders and ground covers like the Ox-Eyed Daisy, Shasta and Tickseed. When planting a perennial seed, you would expect it to bloom in the spring or summer seasons of the second year and each year thereafter.

A plant may be perennial or annual depending on the local climate and geographical growing conditions. In some places in the southern United States, some plants grow quicker than those in the north. Warmer weather and extended growing season work behind this. The Black-Eyed Susan is considered as an annual plant when grown in Louisiana. On the other hand, if it is grown in Ohio, the Black-Eyed Susan behaves as a perennial plant.

1. An annual plant has a life cycle of one year but may be shorter depending on the climate.
2. Perennial plants take more years to complete their life cycle and are much woodier than the annual plants because they have more time to develop.
3. A plant may behave as an annual or perennial depending on the climate and the place where it was planted.

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