A plant with roots taken out of the soil.

How to Identify Plant Types

Does your garden lack color or structure, and would it benefit from more glitz or a greater sense of permanence? Different types of plant have different roles to play, and understanding what each one can bring will help you make your garden more beautiful, and create year-round interest.


These plants germinate, grow, flower, set seed, and die all in one year. They are bold and colorful, and quickly gone, although hardy ones may self-seed and appear the next year.


Much like annuals, biennials are short-lived, but spread their time over two years, growing in the first, flowering in the second. They too are used as colorful bedding plants.


Perennials are the mainstays of flower gardens, producing their flowers and foliage year after year. Most die down in winter and produce a fresh crop of leaves every spring.


Some ornamental grasses are evergreen and keep their leaves all year, while others die back. They create movement and light in the garden, and many have striking winter skeletons.


Deciduous or evergreen, these plants form the backbone of the garden. Shrubs have a woody framework and create a permanent structure. Many also produce attractive flowers and berries.


For privacy, enclosure, and a sense of permanence, plant a tree. Evergreens provide color all year, while deciduous species bring young spring leaves and blossom, autumn color, and a wintry outline.


Scrambling up walls and across trellises, climbers soften the sharp lines of hard landscaping, and they can also be grown through shrubs and trees. Many have beautiful flowers, and some are scented.


If you have a pond, there is a wide range of plants to consider, from marginals with ornamental foliage or flowers that thrive in shallow water, to spectacular deep-water aquatics, such as water lilies.