The life cycle is just one method that scientists utilize to classify plants. Understanding this method is useful in all types of garden plans. Each classification is based upon a series of changes that occur throughout the lifetime of a plant.
Basically, the life cycle begins with the germination of seed or initial vegetative growth. The plant matures and flowers. When its flowers are spent, new seed is produced and the life cycle is complete. The timeliness of this developmental process determines the life cycle of a plant, classifying it as an annual, biennial or perennial.
Annuals are the aggressive bunch. An annual plant generally completes its entire life cycle within one calendar year. In gardening, annuals are often used because of their vibrant and season-long color. Dead-heading its blooms increases this effect, because the plant has only a short time to reproduce. The plant will die after reproduction, and seed can be harvested. Annual seed needs to be sown every year.
A biennial takes two calendar years to complete its life cycle. During the first year, it grows vegetatively until fall dormancy. Stored food in the root system will support the plant until regrowth begins the following spring. A healthy plant in the first season suggests fine quality blossoms in the second year when the plant flowers. In the fall of its second year, the plant will die and seed can be harvested. After it is established, a bed of biennials may appear to bloom every year with consecutive sowing. Biennials are largely used in the garden for distinctive displays.
Perennials are unique because they live indefinitely and do not die after reproduction. This type of plant can reproduce by seed production, root growth or cuttings. While growing stronger above and below ground, the plant continues to produce flowers each year. The flowering period for most perennials is relatively brief, yet it is powerful. From fall dormancy until the reviving warmth of spring, perennials enjoy a nap well earned. Many gardeners choose these plants because of their timely blossoms, consistent foliage and longevity.
Many varieties of seed and plant labels indicate the life cycle classifications annual, biennial or perennial. This provides gardeners with valuable information that is used in plant selection and garden design. From simple sowers to strategic planners, gardeners everywhere can achieve the garden design or impact that is desired with the understanding of the plant life cycle classification.