Have you ever heard of a plant labelled as annual, perennial, hardy or biennial and felt lost? Then this guide to help you identify the different types will help with planning what to sow, plant and grow in your garden. 

annuals

An annual is a plant that germinates, roots, sprouts, flowers, and goes to seeds before dying all in one year. Annuals can be hardy or half-hardy. 

hardy annuals

Hardy annuals are tough and can survive an English frost. Often gardeners will plant these in autumn or early spring. Hardy annuals grow well in our northern hemisphere climate and are staples of the veg patch and cutting gardens.

Hardy annuals are best grown directly in the ground outside and fair better than if grown in containers. Hardy annuals grown directly in the earth will be acclimatised and are more likely to survive harsh weather. If you are worried, you can cover your seedlings with a cold frame or fleece during the winter chills.

If growing from seed, hardy annuals prefer being sown straight in the ground from the middle of spring and will sprout well before the frosts finish in May. You can sow seeds in March if you want early crops, but to avoid the cold and wet, sow indoors to get the seeds started.

half-hardy annuals

Half-hardy plants will not survive a wet, cold winter and will perish in a frost. But fear not, you don't need to wait for the frosts to pass. Just sow half-hardy plants in a light, frost-free place. Keep the seedlings protected until after the frosts have passed. You'll then have decent sized plants ready to plant out at the end of spring that will bloom and go to seed before dying off in the frosts of autumn. 

biennials

Biennal plants have a two-year lifecycle. The first year is growing a good leaf and root structure before flowering, producing seeds and dying off in their second year. When you grow from seeds, biennial plants are usually sown from May until July to give the plants enough time to establish before getting ready for their first winter. 

perennials

Perennials are plants that grow in your garden each year. Perrenial plants certainly give you more bang for your buck and provide a consistent planting structure to your garden. 

hardy perennials

Hardy perennials are as tough as they come. These resilient perennials can live for a long time and survive even the coldest English winters. 

herbaceous perennials

Herbaceous plants are non-woody plants that will die back to their rootstock each autumn and regrow in spring.

tender perennials

Tender perennials are often suited to hotter climates and will need to be brought in over the winter and kept on a sunny windowsill.  

short-lived perennials

Short-lived perennials thrive in their first couple of years but then may struggle after that and most generally die off after a few years. You'll hear advice on these often say grow as a hardy annual. Most short-lived perennials thankfully self-seed, so often you won't be left without one.