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Fresh Herbs – Annual, Perennial or Biennial – Which is Yours?

There is nothing quite like the flavor of fresh herbs for cooking.  Growing herbs is something that many cooks try their hand at, to have them on hand all the time.

Do you know whether the one you are growing is an annual, perennial or biennial? This can sometimes be confusing and the answer is not always cut and dried.

Is your herb an annual, perennial or biennial? This handy chart will tell you everyting you need to know about fresh herbs.

If you enjoy vegetable gardening, be sure to have some herbs growing, too. They like the same conditions as most vegetables.

Are your fresh herbs an Annual, perennial or biennial?  It is easy to tell with this handy chart.

Identifying herbs can be somewhat of a challenge at times since many of them look similar. Be sure to check this handy chart for  herb identification .

Cooking with fresh herbs makes every recipe much better than if you just used the dried version. But were do you easily get fresh herbs?  Dried herbs last quite a while in the pantry but fresh herbs have a limited lifespan, so they will need to be replaced.

When the summer comes to an end and frost is on the way, don’t despair. There are lots of ways to preserve fresh herbs to use during the winter months.

You can also try growing herbs indoors during the colder months.

Thanks to nature, the answer is right in your own back yard, or on your patio.  Some stores even stock a limited range of herbs in the fresh produce department.

Just like flowering plants, herbs come in several varieties – annuals, perennials and biennials.  Some do better than others if you try to grow then in pots inside the home.

See this post for my favorite herbs to grow indoors.


Annuals are plants which go through their whole life cycle from seed to flower , and again to seed in a single growing season.  Once this happens, the stems and leaves of the annual plant die. 

If you collect seeds from annuals, you can have another growing season by planting again, but in most cases, they will not grow on their own the following year. 

Most flowers that you see at the garden centers are annuals and many herbs are too. Some common annual herbs are:

  • Basil
  • Cilantro
  • Chervil
  • Margoram
  • Summer Savory
  • Coriander (seeds of cilantro) and
  • Dill (this herb is actually a biennial but doesn’t like the frost so is normally grown as an annual.
  • Bay Laurel (considered a perennial in warmer zones)


Fortunately most herbs freeze well, so this enables you to enjoy annual herbs all winter long.


Biennials are plants which require two years to complete their whole life cycle.  One of my favorite biennial flowers are foxgloves. (although they are prolific self seeders, so you will often get new plants the next year.) 

The top of the plant may die but the crown will just go dormant.  There are not many biennial herbs, but a few are:

  • Parsley (often treated as an annual for best flavor)
  • Stevia
  • Sage (hardy for longer in zones 4-9)


Perennials are my favorite herbs to grow, of course. I hate spending money, so having a plant come back year after year is a real delight to my penny pinching self. 

It would seem by the name that they will last forever but this is not really the case. However, they will continue to grow for many seasons. 

Often the top part of the plant will die back in the winter, but the crown will just go dormant and will return the following spring.  Most of the garden herbs are perennials and some are even woody perennials, which will continue growing right through the winter if you live in some of the more temperate zones.

Some common perennial herbs are:

A note on Cross overs

A few will cross over between annual and perennial depending on your growing season.  So the above graph is not totally accurate but should give you an idea of how they behave generally.  

For me, even though I live in zone 7b and most will come back for me, I never get basil back, and tarragon is iffy at best. Chives often act like biennials for me.

But some, like rosemary, thyme, and oregano are stalwarts that I can always plan on seeing each spring.

Is your herb Annual, biennial or perennial?

If you like cooking with herbs, I have put together my list of my favorite 10 herbs for the cook.

A cook's herb garden. Find out how to grow fresh herbs like basil, oregano, rosemary and thyme.

I have also written several articles on how to grow herbs.  You can find them here:





For a complete list of perennial herbs, be sure to check out this post and watch the video at the top of this page.

For more gardening tips, be sure to see my Pinterest Gardening Boards.

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Tuesday 11th of May 2021

Hey, thank you for this quick guide explaining the differences! I'm a beginner gardener starting with herbs and this has been very helpful.

Marie McIntosh

Monday 4th of March 2019

I would be interested. Thanks.

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