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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Friday - July 25, 2014

From: Nederland, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: General Botany
Title: The Designation of Annual and Perennial Plants
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

Sometimes when researching a plant I will find it listed as both annual and perennial. I understand that some plants will be perennial in a warm climate and die in a colder zone, but it is still a perennial that is grown out of it's preferred environment.

ANSWER:

Plants that are perennials in warm climates but are not hardy in colder climates are there considered "tender perennials", but are sometimes termed "annuals" in those areas even though they are not technically annuals.  Likewise, some cool-climate annual plants will survive more than one year in warm areas.  Finally, some plants may complete their life cycle in one growing season or they may require more than one growing season to do so.  Those species can be considered both annual and perennial because they may behave either way.  As it turns out, plants are incredibly complicated organisms.

 

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