Perennial plants are ones that live for an extended period of time. Annual plants are those that must be replanted each year. Many perennials will go through a dormant stage where the plant appears dead but will bloom again next season when temperatures rise enough for its roots to grow. Some perennial plants, such as azaleas, come from tropical climates and don't need to dorme...
Do not confuse this yearly dying with dieback, which is a generic word for portions of the plant dying and shrinking due to illness or cold; dieback is not always permanent. Perennials include flowers, trees, shrubs, vines, and herbs. Flowers usually appear before you see any leaves, but some perennials have leaves or woody stems at ground level (subshrubs). Others have small flower heads like daisies on short stalks (monarchs). Still others have no stem at all but instead form clumps of green leaves and brown seed pods (Indian turnip).
Some perennial flowers last only one season but others remain alive all year round in sheltered places. For example, many geraniums and coleus species have thick roots that spread over the soil and thin shoots that reach for the light each spring. The foliage may be bright red, orange, yellow, or green and depending on the species its shape can be round, linear-lance-shaped, or flat.
Not all perennials are flowers. Some species of bamboo, for example, are evergreen trees or shrubs that grow in temperate climates. Bamboo has stiff, hollow, brittle stems that grow up to 2 meters (6 feet) high. Leaves are arranged in pairs at the end of the branches, with smaller leaves lower down.
Ferns (Pteridophyta) are ancient perennials that are among the oldest surviving plants on the planet. They persist for many years once established, and unlike other species of plants, they reproduce by spores rather than seeds or pollen. Spores are produced in clusters called fronds. When the clusters die back to the root system during winter, new shoots develop in early spring. The new leaves are identical to the original cluster, but they are carried high on thin stalks called stems. As more sunlight reaches the plant, the stem grows taller. New clusters develop from the lower part of the stalk each year, giving ferns multiple chances to spread their spores far and wide.
Annual ferns survive one season and then die back to earthbound roots. They cannot live without human help to keep them going all year round. These plants will only live up to three months in cold weather but require some form of protection over much of the rest of the year. In particular, they need to be kept dry during periods of rain or humidity otherwise they will lose their delicate fronds and die. Annual ferns are easy to grow from seed or cuttings taken in late summer or early fall. New plants will appear to come up from between the roots of the parent fern.
Some people might think that annual ferns are less interesting than perennial ones because they're not going to live forever.
When purchasing perennial ferns, take in mind that plants become dormant in the winter. Perennial ferns sold in the early spring may not be fully grown. Because they grow more slowly than tropical ferns, acquire the largest plants you can find the first year if you want to make a statement in your yard. They will keep producing new fronds over time so don't worry about running out of foliage once they are established.
The best time to buy ferns is when they are dormant, usually from mid-November to late February. If you wait until after their first season, the prices will be higher because they are already growing and will continue to do so for several months after you buy them.
Ferns are very easy to care for. In the fall, remove any dead parts from the plant and water well. Don't let the soil get dry. In the spring, as soon as the weather gets warm enough, start watering again. That's it!
Ferns are good choices for adding texture and color to your yard. There are many varieties available, so no matter what kind you choose, there is a good chance it will attract attention when displayed in your home or business location.
People often wonder if ferns are poisonous. The short answer is yes, but only certain ferns have toxins stored within their fronds.
Garden ferns that can withstand cold winter temperatures can be planted all year in gardens in the United States. Many ferns can resist both winter cold and summer heat, making them very suitable in the shaded southern setting. While most tropical houseplants require a constant temperature range between 75 and 85 degrees F to thrive, many ferns can survive being frozen solid for several months before breaking down completely if the roots are not damaged by too much water during thawing.
Ferns were widely used in colonial American homes as interior plants because of their attractive foliage. They were also used to make upholstered furniture. Today they are popular as garden ornamentation. There are more than 500 species of fern, each with its own unique leaf shape and color. All have two sets of leaves: one on top of the stem and one below. The lower set often grows into a rosette at the end of a short stalk while the upper set usually unfolds in a single plane.
The word "fern" comes from the Latin filare meaning "to spin" because of the way the leaf stems coil around their parent stem. In fact, some species are able to complete their life cycle within one season by producing baby plants called spores that will later germinate under different conditions. Other species remain dormant over winter and emerge the next spring with new growth.