Perennial Plant Identification

Written by sommer leigh
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Perennial plants--plants that live for more than two years--are winter hardy, but usually bloom and grow throughout summer and spring and die in fall and winter. Perennial plants may only live a few years, or they may live to be as old as 4,000 years. Perennial plant identification can be accomplished through consulting identification books, researching plants online, taking samples to your local gardening centre, or taking samples or e-mailing pictures to your local extension office. Evaluate a few identifying factors to help with plant identification.

Growth Habit

Consider the height and growing habit of the plant. Different varieties grow to various heights. Varieties differ in how quickly they grow and whether they are invasive, spreading out instead of staying in a confined area. Determine descriptive growth characteristics such as if the plant is tall, dwarf, columnar, bushy or acts as a groundcover.

Foliage and Flowers

A perennial plant is highly distinguishable by its foliage and flowers. Consider the colour of its leaves, taking into account seasonal colour changes. Is the plant evergreen, keeping its foliage throughout the year, or deciduous, losing its leaves part of the year? Consider what patterns can be seen on the leaves of the plant. When observing flowering, look at the shape and colour of the flowers. Count the number of flower petals and observe how the flowers emerge. Keep track of the flowering season--how often it flowers and in what seasons.


Consider the climate of the region in which the plant is grown. The USDA Hardiness Zone Map divides North America into 11 zones. Plants will grow better in some climates over others, and some will be perennial in some climates and be annuals in others. A perennial plant is only perennial if it can tolerate year-round conditions for that area.


Is the plant growing in loamy, sandy or clay soil? Clay soil doesn't allow for a lot of drainage, so most plants will not thrive in it. Sandy soil has great drainage, but moves a lot and holds water only at deeper levels, not at the top surface. Loam is a mixture of clay, sand and silt, and most plants thrive in this soil. Some perennial plants will grow in all soils, while others will only grow in certain types of soils. Soil tests are available at your local gardening centre if you are unsure what soil you have.

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