What Are Annual Plants? - Definition & Examples

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  • 0:01 What Are Annual Plants?
  • 0:32 Characteristics
  • 2:04 Examples of Annuals
  • 3:24 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Derrick Arrington

Derrick has taught biology and chemistry at both the high school and college level. He has a master's degree in science education.

All plants have individual needs and complete their life cycle in unique ways over a period of time. In this lesson, we will learn about a group of plants known as annuals.

What Are Annual Plants?

Do you plant flowers around your home? If so, have you noticed the ones that only live for one year and then die? If you have bought these kinds of plants before, then you are buying annuals. Annual plants are plants that complete their entire life cycle in one year. This means the sprout from their seeds or bulbs grow to maturity and produce their own offspring within the course of a year. Some of the plants can accomplish this within a little as one month, while others take almost an entire year.


Annual plants tend to be showier than perennial or biennial plants. The prevailing theory is that they need extreme colored flowers and foliage in addition to more fragrant scents to attract pollinators in the time they have available. This is why annuals tend to be full of multicolored blooms and have sweet smells, as opposed to perennial and biennial plants, such as trees and most shrubs, which have more leafy foliage and have a longer lifespan for pollination to occur.

Annual plants are typically planted in the early spring of the year. From this point, their cells begin rapid elongation processes to ensure quick growth. Once the plant has reached full size, the plant hormones, such as cytokinins and gibberellins, take over, causing the flowers of the plant to bud and open. This normally happens by late spring or early summer. The opening of the flower coincides with summer, which is the time of year when most pollinators are more active. Once pollination occurs, whether by insect, bird, or wind, the plant begins to develop seeds.

Chemical changes that occur within the plants during seed formation signal to the plant that it has completed its life cycle. This often coincides with late fall and early winter. These changes lead to the death of the plant itself. The plant has therefore completed its mission of reproducing, by producing seeds, and has ensured that its genetic information will be carried into the years to come.

Examples of Annuals

If you have ever planted a garden, you have probably grown annual plants. Some common annual vegetables are corn and watermelon. Some popular annual landscaping flowers are impatiens and petunias.

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