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The life span of perennials

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Q. How long do perennials really live? I’ve been told many die out in just a couple of years. Please explain.

Stephanie from Columbiana

A. Well, it depends. Although the word perennial means it will come back year after year, this may not always be true. It depends on the specific plant and how the plant is treated.

Many of us buy a plant because of its beauty. We plant it where we have space, not necessarily where it belongs. Putting plants in the right location can extend their life for many years.

Sure, many perennials may live a very long life, maybe indefinitely. If no planning is done before planting, plants can last anywhere from three years to 20 years.

The life expectancy of perennials is divided into three categories. Short – 2 or 3 years, medium – 4 to 7 years, and long-lived up to 8 years. There are famous exceptions to all of these, though. Peonies may live for decades. Rudbeckias, oriental grasses, ferns, and hostas are likely to last up to 10 years. Coreopsis, echinacea, lupines, bee balm, and Shasta daisies, are usually good for at least three years – but much longer if put in the correct spot.

Some plants that many of us think are perennials don’t bloom the first year. Then, they bloom the second and die. These are actually biennial plants that take two years to complete their life cycle. Fortunately, many of these varieties readily reseed year after year. Columbines are a good example.

There are many variables to be considered. Some species of a particular species will live much longer than others. The right growing conditions usually helps extend life expectancy. Careful dividing, fertilizing, watering to promote deep root growth helps as well.

Doing some research and planning before planting will make your gardening experience better.

To learn more about longer lasting perennials, go to:

To learn more about longer blooming perennials, go to:

Marilyn McKinley, an OSU Ext. master gardener volunteer in Mahoning County, provided today’s answer. Call 330-533-5538 to submit your questions. Regular clinic hours are 9 a.m. to noon Mondays and Thursdays.