perennial

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perennial, any plant that under natural conditions lives for several to many growing seasons, as contrasted to an annual or a biennial. Botanically, the term perennial applies to both woody and herbaceous plants (see stem) and thus includes numerous members of the kingdom. In horticulture, however, the term is usually restricted to hardy herbaceous perennials, particularly border plants such as alyssum, chrysanthemum, iris, peony, phlox, pink, and sedum, all of which characteristically die down to the ground each year and survive the winter on food stored in specialized underground stems (corms, rhizomes, and tubers in horticulture; bulbous plants are not considered perennials). Perennials form seeds each year after reaching maturity, but since plants grown from seeds do not normally bloom until the second season (unless forced), most garden perennials are propagated by dividing the rootstocks (see propagation of plants). In fact, division every few years—as well as judicious pruning—is usually necessary to prevent the plant's becoming straggly and weak. Perennials, including the woody perennials, may have a rest period of some duration during their life cycle. In the plant different parts rest at different times and resume growth independently, e.g., the buds of deciduous plants, which form in late summer and remain dormant until spring. Even in tropical areas where plants appear to retain their leaves the year round, some plants lose all their leaves for a brief period and others grow new and drop old leaves on a continuing basis, as do most conifers.

See R. W. Cumming and R. E. Lee, Contemporary Perennials (1960); J. U. Crockett, Perennials (1972); A. M. Armitage, Herbaceous Perennial Plants (1989); R. R. Clausen and N. H. Ekstrom, Perennials for American Gardens (1989); P. J. Harper, Designing with Perennials (991).

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per·en·ni·al / pəˈrenēəl/ • adj. lasting or existing for a long or apparently infinite time; enduring: his perennial distrust of the media. ∎  (of a plant) living for several years: tarragon is perennial.Compare with annual, biennial. ∎  (esp. of a problem or difficult situation) continually occurring: perennial manifestations of urban crisis. ∎  (of a person) apparently permanently engaged in a specified role or way of life: he's a perennial student. ∎  (of a stream or spring) flowing throughout the year. • n. a perennial plant. DERIVATIVES: per·en·ni·al·ly adv.

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perennial A plant that lives for a number of years. Woody perennials (trees and shrubs) have a permanent aerial form, which continues to grow year after year. Herbaceous (i.e. nonwoody) perennials have aerial shoots that die down each autumn and are replaced in spring by new shoots from an underground structure (see perennation). Lupin and rhubarb are examples of herbaceous perennials. Compare annual; biennial; ephemeral.

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perennial Plant with a life cycle of more than two years. It is a common term for flowering herbaceous and woody plants, such as the lily, daisy, and all trees. See also annual; biennial

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perennial XVII. f. L. perennis, f. PER-1 + annus year; see -IAL.

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perennial A plant that normally lives for more than two seasons and which, after an initial period, produces flowers annually.

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perennial A plant that normally lives for more than 2 seasons and, after an initial period, produces flowers annually.