As gardeners, we know that many variables affect the well-being of each and every plant we grow: hardiness, amount of light, type of soil, temperature, amount of moisture--the list goes on. Rarely, though, are we told about a plant's longevity. How long can we expect it to live in our garden, if we provide it with at least satisfactory, if not optimal, growing conditions? No tag at the garden center or on that perennial that just arrived in the mail will tell you. Yet it's important information to which every plant customer should have access.


With all those variables I just mentioned--along with genetic variability--it's not possible to give a precise longevity forecast for perennials, but we can at least group them as either long-lived or short-lived. Below is a list of examples that I've compiled for each group. The next time you buy one of these perennials, you'll at least know approximately when you can expect it to expire. If the plant is not on this list, ask the garden center staff or email the mail order nursery. Once you know the longevity of the plant, you can plan your garden (and your finances) accordingly.
Long-lived Perennials
(approximately 15 years or longer)
Short-lived Perennials
(
two to five years)
Astilbe (Astilbe simplicifolia) Baby's Breath (Gypsophila paniculata)
Balloon Flower (Platycodon grandiflorus) Basket-of-Gold (Aurinia saxatilis)
Bearded Iris (Iris germanica) Blanket flower (Gaillardia x grandiflora)*
Bee Balm (Monarda spp.) Cardoon (Cynara spp.)
Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida) Columbine (Aquilegia spp.)*
Bugbane (Cimicifuga ramosa) Coral Bells (Heuchera spp.)
Butterfly Weed (Asclepias spp.) Coreopsis (Coreopsis grandiflora, C. lanceolata)*
Carolina Lupine (Thermopsis villosa) Delphinium (Delphinium spp.)
Daylily (Hemerocallis spp.) Daffodil (Narcissus hybrids)
Euphorbia or Spurge (Euphorbia spp.) Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium)*
False Indigo (Baptisia australis) Fire Pink (Silene virginica)
Ferns (includes various genera & spp. more ) Geum (Geum spp.)
Gas Plant (Dictamnus albus) Hardy Mum (Chrysanthemum spp.)
Goatsbeard (Aruncus spp.) Hyacinth (Hyacinthus orientalis)
Goldenrod (Solidago spp.) Iceland Poppy (Papaver nudicaule)
Hardy Geranium (Geranium spp.) Lavender (Lavandula spp.)
Helianthus (Helianthus spp.) Leopard's Bane (Doronicum caucasicum)
Hellebore (Helleborus spp.) Lupine (Lupinus hybrids)
Hosta (Hosta spp.) Maltese Cross (Lychnis chalcedonica)
Ironweed (Vernonia spp.) Painted Daisy (Tanacetum coccineum)
Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium spp.) Perennial Flax (Linum perenne)*
Lady's Mantle (Alchemilla spp.) Pincushion Flower (Scabiosa spp.)
Lungwort (Pulmonaria spp.) Pinks (Dianthus spp.)
Monkshood (Aconitum spp.) Shasta Daisy (Leucanthemum spp.)*
Ornamental grasses (various genera & spp. more) Tulips (Tulipa hybrids)
Painter's Palette (Persicaria virginiana) Wallflower (Erysimum spp.)
Peony (Paeonia spp.) Woodland Phlox (Phlox divaricata)*
Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) * reseeds freely
Red-Hot Poker or Torch Lily (Kniphofia spp.)
Sedum (Sedum spp.)

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Snakeroot (Ageratina spp.) Photo at top is Persicaria virginiana, 'Painter's
Sneezeweed (Helenium spp.) Palette', a long-lived perennial in the author's
Trillium (Trillium spp.) garden.
LONG SHORT

Image
Astilbe
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Basket of Gold
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Carolina Lupine
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Columbine
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Daylily
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Delphinium
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Euphorbia
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Feverfew
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False Indigo
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Geum
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Gas Plant
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Hardy Mum
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Helianthus
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Iceland Poppy
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Ironweed
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Lavender
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Joe Pye Weed
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Leopard's Bane
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Lungwort
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Maltese Cross
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Monkshood
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Painted Daisy
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Ornamental Grass
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Pinks
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Peony
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Shasta Daisy
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Sneezeweed
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Wallflower
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Trillium
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Woodland Phlox

A Note on Biennials: Biennials are plants that require two years to complete their life cycle. Many biennials form basal rosettes of leaves close to the ground the first year and then send up flowering stems the second. This represents their entire longevity. They die after flowering. In some instances, individual plants of a particular species will complete the cycle in one year, particularly if they've been exposed to cold temperatures as seedlings. Common examples of biennials include Sweet William (Dianthus), many Foxglove species (Digitalis), most Hollyhocks (Alcea), and Money Plant (Lunaria). Biennial plants are not always marked as such. If in doubt, be sure to ask the vendor.

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Thanks to the following DG members for the use of their photos:

Astilbe: jg48650
Basket of Gold: hczone6
Carolina Lupine: Decumbent
Columbine: Gabrielle
Daylily: kellyp
Delphinium: onewish1
Euphorbia: bonitin
Feverfew: Happenstance
Gas plant: poppysue
False Indigo: hczone6
Geum: TuttiFrutti
Hardy Mum: Sneirish
Helianthus: frostweed
Iceland Poppy: kniphofia
Ironweed: Weerobin
Lavender: growin
Joe Pye Weed: DaylilySLP
Leopard's Bane: naturepatch
Lungwort: Todd_Boland
Maltese Cross: DaylilySLP
Monkshood: Joy
Ormamental Grass: baagrant
Painted Daisy: Gabrielle
Peony: amulet
Pinks: Songbird839
Shasta Daisy: DaylilySLP
Sneezeweed: melody
Trillium: Carkeekfish
Wallflower: Kell

Woodland Phlox: poppysue





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© Larry Rettig 2009