Annual vs. Perennial Plants

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Difference between Annual Plants and Perennial Plants

Plants as we know them today developed from blue and green algae which populated the Earth many millions of years ago. Fossils have been discovered with an estimated age of 3,100 million years. Simple structures formed at first, with mainly ferns covering large portions of the planet they have suffered modifications throughout the ages. Botanists have identified almost 350,000 extinct plant species by scientific study of fossils. These pertain to early ages and refer to seeds, ferns and bryophytes – these plants don’t produce flowers and reproduce through spores. In 2004, scientists had classified about 287,655 plants populating the earth today having different periods of growth ranging from annual to perennial.

Annual Plants
Perennial Plants

Life Cycle

Annual plants have a short life cycle of up to one year. But this varies a lot from a life cycle of a few weeks for some plants like the scarlet pimpernel – which blooms in spring and throughout the year rests under seed form in the earth – to plants lasting only a season like watermelon. Annual plants include vegetables such as corn, wheat, cauliflower, beans and flowers such as poppies and daisies. Perennial plants have a life cycle which generally exceeds 2 years. Their growth depends on the climate. In warmer climates they can grow all year long, while in temperate regions they can bloom on a seasonal basis and wither in the winter. Some perennial plants are more resistant during the winter and horticulturists prefer to plant them in their gardens to ensure a multiple range of blooming stages. Perennial plants include asparagus, eggplant, apples and strawberries. It’s common for perennials to flower over many seasons during their life, but there are some rare species which bloom for just a short while even though they grow each year.


Annual plants reproduce mainly from seeds produced by the plant when reaching maturity. Pollination is also a reproductive method plants use by relying on bees, butterflies and other insects to take the pollen from one flower to others to ensure species survival. Some use the wind to produce the same effect. Perennial plants have a specific vegetative reproduction system resorting to new structures they generate such as bulbs, tubers, rhizomes and others to grow the next year. Perennials can also set seeds but they are better adapted to extreme dry or moist environments.


Some annual plants can become perennial through molecular genetics as scientists have recently discovered. Perennial plants are cultivated as annuals by some gardeners. This is the case for tomatoes, bell peppers, petunias and several others.


  • Annual plants usually have a one year seed to seed cycle, while perennial plants last several cycles.
  • Annual plants set seeds in the reproduction process or use insect or wind pollination, but perennial plants have a different process which entails generating specific structures such as tubers, bulbs or rhizomes.
  • Due to genetics recent developments, an annual plant can be easily transformed into a perennial one.

Annual Plants and Perennial Plants Video

Which is best for Your flower garden?
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