Biennial Plants, Perennial Crops, And More Gardening Terms Explained

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When you first begin gardening you are faced with terms you may not understand, such as Biennial Plants, Perennial Crops, and Annuals.  Here we will explain each of those and more terms so you can get on with the fun of growing.

Gardening is a universally fascinating and rewarding hobby. However, if you’re new to it, it can seem intimidating with all the things you need to learn. What’s even more daunting for some is the slew of gardening terms that they might encounter for the first time.

Sometimes it can feel like you’re reading a foreign language every time you crack open a gardening brochure or read the back of a seed packet. What is the difference in Biennial Plants , Perennial Crops, and Annuals? What does bolting, dead heading, and heirloom mean?

Don’t let the jargon and buzzwords get the better of you. Today, we’ll be going through some of the most used gardening terms that will turn you from a clueless newbie to an informed gardener in no time.

Annual Plants

Annuals are plants that have a one-year growing cycle. Its complete life cycle involves germination,  flowering, producing fruit and seeds, and then dying  within a single growing season. Some examples of annuals are watermelons, basil, peas, lettuce, and corn.

Biennial Plants

Biennials are flowering plants that take two years to complete their life cycle. In its first year, it grows its vegetative structures including leaves, roots, and stems. Once the colder months kick in, it grows dormant leaving short stems and leaves close to the ground (called rosettes).

Once the next spring and summer season comes, its stems shoots up tall and ready to go. This is followed by the production of flowers, fruits, and seeds before the whole plant finally dies.

Examples include members of the onion family like leeks, some members of the cabbage family, carrots, parsley, fennel, clary sage, forget-me-nots, fox gloves, pansies, and violas.

Perennial Crops

Perennials are plants that keep growing for more than two years. There are two types of perennials, woody and herbaceous.

Woody perennials refer to trees and shrubs that lose their leaves in the winter but have active roots, branches, and buds. They remain year after year and have a long life span.

Herbaceous perennials, on the other hand, are plants with soft green stems that die back to the ground once the colder months come. They grow back when the chilly season passes and continue to bloom. Examples of this type of perineal include peonies, poppies, rhubarb, and artichokes.


Organic can mean a wide array of things. It can refer to something derived from living organisms or it can also refer to a method of growing plants.

Organic gardening is a method of gardening that relies on building healthy and living soil that can support and feed all the plants being grown in it. It also depends on the use of organic matter to enrich the soil.


Heirloom plants are a variety of plants that have been passed down within a family or a community for at least fifty years. Heirloom varieties are open-pollinated and they maintain their unique characteristics of the original plant. They can be biennial plants, perennial crops, or annuals. These old cultivars of plants have been grown in earlier periods in human history and are not generally used in modern large-scale farming.


Open-pollination refers to plants that have been pollinated naturally by birds, insects, the wind, or by humans. This results in genetic diversity within plant populations. Moreover the seeds that these plants produce will often maintain their unique characteristics as long as pollen from other species are not introduced.

Dead Heading

Dead heading is the process of removing spent flowers from a plant. This is done to maintain the plant’s appearance and stimulate more flower production. Regularly deadheading annuals and perennials transfers their energy from seed production to creating more blooms which means you’ll have healthier plants with continual blooms.


Mulch is any type of material spread over the soil surface to help retain moisture, to prevent weeds from growing and competing with your plants, and to improve the soil’s organic matter content.

Mulch can be any material ranging from compost, manure, and wood chips to grass clippings, dead leaves, and even moist newspaper.

Use our Mulch Calculator to find out how much you’ll need for your next project:


Quiescence or seed dormancy refers to an evolutionary adaptation that prevents seeds from germinating during unsuitable conditions. This allows plants to increase the likelihood o seedling survival. Dormant seeds do not germinate until more favorable conditions for growing are present.


Bolting is when a plant prematurely produces a flowering stem to create seeds. When this happens, a plant diverts its energy from producing parts such as roots and leaves into producing flowers. Plants like lettuce and spinach tend to bolt due to factors such as changes in day length, sudden exposure to high temperatures, and other stressors like insufficient water or minerals. When a plants bolts or “goes to seed”, the fruit or herb it produces tends to be less flavorful and can even become bitter since the plant is sending its energy into flowering and not fruiting. Don’t confuse this process with plants that require flowers to make fruit, such as tomatoes, squash, and cucumbers.


Hardiness of plants describes their ability to survive adverse growing conditions. It is usually limited to discussions of climatic adversity. Thus a plant’s ability to tolerate cold, heat, drought, flooding, or wind are typically considered measurements of hardiness.

Crop Rotation

Crop rotation refers to the practice of planting different crops in each area yearly as a way to keep the nutrient content of soil balanced. Moreover, it is also used as a method to prevent the spread of diseases in a garden. It is often used in container gardens. For example if you plant squash in an area in your garden this year, either don’t plant it next year at all or plant it in a different location.

Hopefully these gardening terms help you understand some of what you read and hear about when people are discussing gardening. Biennial Plants, Perennial Crops, and Annuals are terms we need to keep straight when planting in our gardens. Do you have any questions or need another term defined? Please leave your comments below.

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When you first begin gardening you are faced with terms you may not understand, such as Biennial Plants, Perennial Crops, and Annuals.  Here we will explain each of those and more terms so you can get on with the fun of growing.
When you first begin gardening you are faced with terms you may not understand, such as Biennial Plants, Perennial Crops, and Annuals.  Here we will explain each of those and more terms so you can get on with the fun of growing.


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