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

There is nothing like cooking with, and growing, fresh herbs. If you enjoy vegetable gardening, be sure to have some herbs growing, too. 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.

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

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.

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. 

AnnualsAnnuals

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

BiennialsBiennials

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 5-8)

PerennialsPerennials

Perennials are my favorite 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:

  • Oregano
  • Mint (keep this one in a pot unless you want a garden full of it)
  • Fennel
  • Tarragon
  • Thyme
  • Bay leaves
  • Chives
  • Winter Savory
  • Lavender and
  • Rosemany


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:

Thyme.

Oregano.

Rosemary.

Basil.

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

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