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Perennial

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Introduction to Perennial

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The plants and trees like other living beings also have a life span, they are enduring and continually recurring. Plants that live for a year enduring all seasons are called annual plants and biennial plants live and die within a period longer than a year and within two growing seasons. During these years, plants go through germination, flowering, setting seeds and death, the annuals grow through all these stages and die within a year or the same growing season, some examples are pea, corn, chickweed, watermelon, marigolds, radish etc. And biennials take two years for the same process. Some examples are cabbage, shallots, black-eyed Susan, parsley, etc. Perennial plants or perennial take more time for the same process and endure many seasons and live more than two years. Let us take a look into what is a perennial plant and learn more about the perennial species and perennial trees. 


What is a Perennial Plant?

Perennial plants definition can be stated as the species that lives and thrives for more than two years, perennial growth is not limited to just one growing season. And perennial plants may even go to seed every year and because of their dormant nature, the perennial stays in the same state for a long time before blooming. They do not die after bearing fruits like the annuals and the biennial plants, the perennials rather renew their parts, season after season.


Perennial Plant and the Growing Stage

The growth stage represents the seasonal changes and the ways a perennial plant would adapt to it right from the beginning that is the seeding stage to its flowering. The cycle is the same for every plant only the duration changes annually taking one season to grow whereas the biennial takes two and perennial growth takes longer. 

Stage 1- Seeding- The first stage of growth is the fertilization stage, when a seed is formed through pollination, via various agents like wind, water, insects and pollen reach the stigma. Depending on the type of plant, the method of pollination varies, it can be self-pollination or cross-pollination. Upon fertilisation, the seed is formed.

Stage 2- Germination- When the seed reaches its right place on the soil, it starts germinating by acquiring all of nature’s best conditions of water, warmth and oxygen. The germination to start can take longer if the seed formed is inside the fruit itself, to reach a suitable place for growth, one has to wait longer.

Stage 3- Sprouting- Sprouting is that stage when the seed starts growing above the ground and now along with other factors the growth is also dependent on the sunlight and weather conditions of the location. The nutrition, minerals and water are taken from the ground and sprouting occurs.

Stage 4- Growing Seedling- At this stage, there are more leaves in the young plant and this is the sensitive period for the growth of the plant. The leaves are sensitive to the surroundings and the limitation of any growth nutrients, light or water can hinder the growth process, with that in mind one also must not give too much water to the young plant either because that too can be counterproductive. 

Stage 5- Adult Plant- The plant now in the adult stage is mature. It is ready to produce, the perennial plants can stay in this dormant phase without dying if the seasonal changes are adverse for many months at a stretch. Once the conditions are favourable for growth it reproduces through flowering.

Stage 6- Flowering- Flowers are formed and the pollination, germination and the entire process of the plant growth cycle repeat itself. After flowering, in other plants like the annuals and biennials, the plants die without seeding, but in Perennial plants, the seeding occurs and their growth continues for long periods through many seasonal changes. 


Annual Plants and Perennial Plants 

There are often instances where annual plants after their blooming and flowering season from spring to fall, have seeded and then come back the next season and shown growth and perennial blooms in all seasons depending on the species. The annual can be told apart from the perennial even if the annual plants grow after one year by the following differences and similarities. 


Differences Between Perennial Plants and Annual Plants

Perennial Plants 

Annual Plants

The main nature of perennial plants is that they are long-living and for decades some come back year after year. 

The lifespan of annuals is uni-seasoned, and they complete their entire plant cycle within a year and most of them will seed and fade away. 

They grow in the zone that they have specifically adapted to. Perennials that grow in the temperate zone will not grow in the polar and tropical zones. 

They can grow in new regions, not just the ones they are adapted to since it only takes a year

They are not confined to spaces they can grow anywhere be it in containers, window boxes, garden beds and landscapes. Perennials that grow in small spaces are called dwarf-size perennial plants.

Annuals also like perennials can grow anywhere and in any sort of confined places and needs to be planted again after one year. 

Perennials are light-sensitive, some prefer direct sunlight while some thrive in indirect sunlight and shade. Some shade-loving perennials are Toad lily and Astilbes.

Annual plants like Petunias and geraniums grow under the full hot baking sun, while annual begonias prefer shade, annual plants too have light preferences. 

During the growing season, according to nature’s design perennials have a unique and specific blooming season depending on the perennial species. 

There is no specific season designated for them to bloom, they bloom non-stop hard and fast throughout their growing season without any exceptions differing this innate nature.  

Even with perennials that bloom in different seasons, it is inevitable that they die in the winter season, unlike the evergreen perennials which go dormant in colder and warmer climates and again when it is blooming season they grow back year after year. 

A very few can survive the winter but they do not bloom again after its yearly cycle and almost all of the annual plants wither and die after the autumn season post their blooming and growing season. 

Though they bloom and give fruits after a long-standing period once established they are easy to maintain. 

Annuals give the gardener instant gratification as the stage of full bloom comes quicker and also ends quickly.

Perennials are a great addition to your gardens and you can plant summer blooming, spring-blooming and fall-blooming perennials for colour throughout the year.  

They are easier to plant, maintain and care but the only point of work that needs attention is if you want to only grow annuals you need to plant year after year which can be a tedious process. 

Perennials are typically cold-hardy plants as they endure a lot throughout many decades. 

There are three types of annual plants that can be subdivided as Hardy or cool-season annuals, Tender or warm-season annuals and Half-hardy annuals. 

 

Maintenance and Care For Perennial

Perennials require care till the establishment and pruning and feeding is essential for them to grow in a healthy way. Some of the ways to maintain the perennial plants:

  1. Digging and Division- If the plants have overgrown, their normal size within just a few years they can be divided from the main plant using a shovel lifted and then the split area is again planted into a dug up land where it can plant its roots and grow from there. This process even though done often, after a few years it is not required or mandatory for every perennial plant like for instance peonies unless we need more of that, the dig and division are not required. 

  2. Pest Patrol and Control- As weed control or disease control, pest patrol is very important. When annuals are spoilt due to diseases, one might face losses for a year. But for perennials, which are more susceptible to diseases because they are planted and grown in clusters if affected, one might suffer a huge loss for more than two years or decades, hence pest patrol saves us time.

  3. Deadheading is the process of removing the old blossoms. It is done for two purposes, one to keep up the bloom anew in every season for a long duration. This requires a very in-depth knowledge of the perennial species and it is best to leave it up to the gardeners. The other reason to practice the deadhead of older flowers is that when plants have to provide tools of nourishment to both old and new flowers it takes up a lot of energy making it difficult in the long run. So to redirect the energy to the roots stems and leaves deadheading is important. 

  4. Regular Seasonal Clean-Up- Removal of old foliage after the perennials die back to the ground in the autumn is important to maintain and avoid a terrible fuss. The clean-up is done through pruning and making the beds ready for spring so it grows back. 


Perennial Varieties

  • There are many varieties of perennial plants, all serving different purposes, some are ornamental and can be used for decorative purposes like Dahlia, Kniphofia, Hollyhock and Lupin.

  • The fruit-bearing perennial plants that serve fruits like Apple Grape, Pear, Plum, Raspberries, Strawberry, Blueberry and Blackberry through the year.

  • The perennial herbs include plants like Fennel, Mint, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme and Grains that are the common ingredients used in our kitchen. 

  • The perennial plants that bore the vegetables are called perennial vegetables and they are plants that grow in tropical climates mostly to produce Asparagus, Chives, Globe artichoke, Rhubarb, Sea kale, Kale and Sweet potato. 


Conclusion

Perennials are beautiful plants that also test our patience since it is gratifying in the long term when they bear the intended fruits, herbs and vegetables. They are also used as a means to beautify our gardens and farm landscapes. Perennials return after a year and hence are a good long term investment even though one might be apprehensive about it initially because it is relatively more expensive than annuals and biennials. Once established, the cost of maintenance is comparatively less, and can even grow in gardens that are drought-prone as they will require less water and through division, their growth too can be propagated. 

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Can Perennials also Be Referred to as Annuals?

Ans. Some plants very freely grow as annuals and perennial plants but there are circumstances where the same plant can grow as either an annual or perennial. This is purely circumstantial and their growth and cycle can complete within a year or take more than two years depending on the local climatic and geographic growing conditions. If the annuals drop their seeds then even after their death after a year, the seeds germinate in spring and flowering can be seen throughout fall till it fades and dies again, the recurring annuals are often considered as perennials as they keep coming back every year. But according to the nature of a Black-Eyed Susan that grows as an annual, when planted in Louisiana due to warmer climates whereas if planted in Ohio due to colder regions the same plant takes longer to bloom and seed sometimes more than two years behaving like a perennial. 

2. Among the Annuals and Perennial What is Better to Grow at Home?

Ans. The annuals are quicker to flower and seed since it all happens within a year it is very easy to maintain and care for and the gratification of it is quicker whereas the perennials provide later gratification since they take long periods to germinate, flower and seed. There are benefits for both like perennials due to their longer and deeper roots that can bring up nutrients and water to the topsoil that can be helpful for other plants in your garden. One has to weigh the pros and cons and decide what is it that works best for them then pick one based on it. 

3. What are the Perennial Flowering Plants that Grow in India?

Ans. In India, there are many perennial plants that grow and add colour to the gardens and landscapes. For the perennials that bloom in seasons, there are summer-blooming perennials that thrive and can add colour in the months of March to May like Rose, Bougainvillaea, Hibiscus Rosa Sinensis, Ixora, Lantana, Adenium, Milii, Kalanchoe, Crossandra and Tiobouchina. The perennial flowering plants that bloom in the months of September to November are Mussaenda acuminta, Ixora Coccinea, Crape Jasmine, Bougainvillea Spectabilis, Allamanda cathartica, Snapdragons, Orange Trumpet Creeper, Clitoria ternatea, Phlox and Night Jasmine.