How Long Do Perennial Plants Live? What’s Their Average Lifespan?
Want to add some perennial plants to your garden, but want to learn how long they typically live before you do? In this article, gardening expert Jason White looks at exactly how long perennial plants live for, what their average lifespan is, and how you can help prolong their lifespan through proper care.
Perennial plants can be an exciting and diverse way to liven up any backyard garden or commercial outdoor space. From adding color to creating seasonal aesthetic appeal, perennials are one of the most popular types of plants for landscapers and plant enthusiasts alike.
Annual plants need to be replanted once per year after being planted in their chosen location. Perennials however, are planted, and then will die off during the winter frost. They then return the following spring as part of their natural life cycle.
But how long do perennials live? The beauty of perennials is that they will often re-grow in the same spot from past root systems if given the proper care and attention. Living for roughly three to four or as long as 15 years, depending on their species, location, and amount of care, perennials are typically very easy to keep and offer outstanding beauty.
What Are Perennial Plants?
A perennial plant is considered one that can survive in the ground for upwards of two years. This plant has a longer lifespan than a biennial and a shorter lifespan than annuals, which can often live indefinitely.
Perennial plants are can be grass-like, have flowers, or even be regarded as herbs such as Lavender, which grows in early summer. Some are even small shrubs, or can be grown into small shrubs depending on the type of plant.
One of the major characteristics of perennials is that they die off during cold climates in autumn or winter and tend to regrow or return during spring. They sprout from the same roots and stock and are therefore known as herbaceous perennials. Herbaceous perennials prefer to grow wild in fields or pastures or reside in small and simple gardens.
When a perennial is first planted, it can be grown from any of the following:
- From seed
- Starts or cuttings
- Divisions or plant splits
How Long Do Perennials Live?
Once planted, perennials come back each year. Depending on the type of plant you’ve planted, they can live anywhere from 3 to 15 years! While you can always dig them up and re-plant, it’s usually best to pick a plant type that you can see yourself living with for a few seasons in your garden. Some plants like the coleus will live longer indoors than outdoors, so make sure to keep that in mind.
In the perennial plant group, you have ornamental plants, but also edibles, which include perennial vegetables. These make great crops for smaller gardens and amateur gardeners. Some of the more popular perennial vegetables include certain asparagus varieties, Leeks, shallots, spinach, kale, and cabbage.
There are plenty of perennial flowers which are more ornamental in nature, and they come in many different color varieties. There are many popular yellow perennial flowers, and some even in a more rare color of black perennials, which can add a little mystery to a flower garden. Let’s take a look at some more specific examples of perennial plants!
Examples of Perennial Plants
There are more than 100 different variations of perennial plants. These beloved plants consist of many other flowers, bushes, grasses, herbs, and even catnip.
From Hibiscus and Lavender, which is used in teas and tinctures across the globe, to quaint and lovely Russian Sage and Coral Bells, there’s a perennial out there for everyone’s stylistic preference.
There are thousands of varieties of Daylily that come in varying sizes and almost every color you can think of. Blue is the only color that does not pertain to Daylilies, which enjoy harsh conditions, including dry soil, small urban garden plots, and sloping properties.
While the lifespan of one single Daylily flower bloom is only a couple of days, the plant itself can live up to three years. Keep in mind, that in some states, the daylily is considered a weed due to its invasiveness and will need additional control to prevent daylilies from taking over.
The Hosta is a beautiful perennial plant with very large leaves. These beautiful and decorative plants have many different cultivars. Their colors are subdued and sophisticated, making them a favorite perennial of landscape designers and home decorators. With stall stems and hardy blooms, they are great shade plants, excellent for creating coverage in densely planted areas.
Hosta perennials, when properly cared for with enough hydration and humidity, can live for 15 years! Hostas are quite easy to grow, making them a great option for gardeners of all skill levels.
From teas to perfume scents, Hibiscus is one of the most popular and well-loved perennial due to its scent, beautiful color, and edible qualities. It enjoys the sun and prefers very wet soil, therefore thriving in tropical environments.
The best time to plant a Hibiscus is during the early spring. You’ll want to plant them before committing to growing anything else in your garden. This is because the Hibiscus needs time to settle and dig its roots into the soil. It’s important for them to have growing room unobstructed by other companion plants.
Hibiscus plants can live from 5 to 10 years, depending on their quality and consistency of care.
Heuchera (Coral Bells)
Coral Bells are a perennial with a gorgeous, round, bush-like shape created by pointed partial-star leaves. These leaves have a deep purple, sage, or green color depending on the time of year and the climate of the exact location where they are planted.
With sprouts of tall stems that each contains at least ten tiny bright pink flowers, Coral Bells are an excellent addition to any garden for a pop of added color or to increase your home’s curb appeal. Coral Bells do well both planted in pots or containers and growing freely along the edges of lawns, driveways, fences, or pathways.
Coral Bells are a perennial that live only around three to four years. However, as they age, they become stronger and more vibrant instead of weaker and smaller like some plants.
Nepeta (Catmint, Catnip)
Catnip is famous for being the favorite intoxicating treat of sweet kitty cat friends across the globe. Catnip, also known as Catmint, is also a great perennial to plant for a big display of color that will last all through the warmer months.
Since Catnip prefers a lot of heat and direct sunlight, make sure it is the tallest plant in its area, kept away from large shaded trees or other perennials that will become bushy and cast shadows.
If properly clipped and trimmed every couple of weeks, a Catnip plant will live for three to five years, depending on whether it is in a pot or growing in a yard.
Ornamental Grass (Various)
You may believe that grass is something that just makes up a lawn or grows wild on the side of highway underpasses. However, Ornamental Grass is one of the best perennial plants to add dimension and depth to your outdoor spaces.
Ornamental Grass comes in many types. Almost all of them are perennials that can live up to 15 years with little to no maintenance. A very durable perennial, they are an excellent choice for filling in extra landscaping gaps near fences. They can also help create a romantic beachy style by planting them by the pool.
Perovskia (Russian Sage)
Russian Sage is the perfect strong perennial for hot and dry places. Technically a woody perennial, this plant does not originate from the Eastern European woodlands as its name suggests.
Russian Sage loves to live in well-drained soil and does not handle humidity very well. It must be pruned about a month after planting if starting with a mature plant and can live for three years, though its purple blooming buds that resemble the well-known Lavender plant only last about four total months.
Baptisia (False Indigo)
False Indigo is a perennial that also loves being planted in direct sunlight. With intolerance to shady conditions, it can live for ten years if established in an area with very deep soil.
False Indigo can grow up to around 3 feet tall when cared for properly. It sprouts small purple flowers that look similar to the pea blossom in shape and bright purple. One of the best things about False Indigo is that it can be relocated in the same year as planted if necessary. This makes it incredibly hardy and versatile.
Lavender is by far the most planted perennial in the world. With its calming and aromatherapeutic fragrance and its beautiful light purple appearance, it is no wonder that Lavender is a garden favorite of families, farmers, landscape designers, and wellness enthusiasts alike.
Grown for centuries due to its supposed healing powers and ability to grow nearly four feet tall, Many lavender varieties can live up to four or five years depending on the acidity of its soil. However, the older it gets, the bushier it becomes and the less it can retain its tall appearance.
For anyone who has been keeping a hive of bees for upwards of a year, Lavender makes an excellent pollinator for bees. It gives their honey a tender yet fragrant profile.
Caring For Perennials
Once you have chosen your favorite types of perennials based on how long they will live, their bloom types, and what sort of light and space they require to thrive in your garden, you should follow the following guidelines to ensure that they are healthy and properly cared for.
- Always water your perennials extra during the first growing season. This will encourage their roots to remain even when the plant deteriorates during the winter.
- Wait in between waterings until the soil around your perennial is completely dry. This applies to both potted perennials and garden perennials.
- Place mulch around your perennials when planting them to avoid root rot, pests, and excess water. The mulch will soak up some of the moisture and help the plants dry out between waterings or occasional summer rains.
- Make sure your lawn is not encroaching on your perennials. Edge back your grass so that its stolon runner roots do not infect the roots of your perennial plants.
Hopefully, you now know the answer to the question of how long do perennial plants live. Whether you opt for longer-lasting perennials that can live nearly 15 years or are a bigger fan of the perennials with shorter three to four-year lifespans, these plants are an excellent option for spring and summertime garden beauty.
With many options to choose from for dry and sunny or mild and wet climates, there’s a perennial out there for every gardener and plant lover.