Enjoying the fruits--or flowers--of your labors is the best part of gardening to many gardeners. Knowing and understanding the life cycle of the flowers you grow enhances your experience as a gardener. Being aware of the process each plant must undergo provides more realistic expectations for your flowers and the ability to recognize proper progression of the plant.
Germination refers to the actual sprouting of the plant seed. This occurs with flowering and non-flowering plants. Germination must occur at the proper time in order for the plant to grow and live. Aside from timing, factors including the length of daylight and darkness, the temperature, moisture (amount of moisture and timing of the moisture), heat, abrasion and even a non-environmental factor like the digestive juices from an animal, can all impact germination. Germination time can vary based upon the specific plant. Some seeds have a short germination period while others take many days for germination to occur.
After germination of the seed occurs, the plant will experience a period of growth. The time of growth from a seedling to a mature plant varies and depends on the species of the plant.
Flowering and Reproduction
Flowering is the next phase of the plant's life cycle. The flower includes the reproductive male and female parts--the anther and the stigma. The flower will play a key role in pollination to continue the reproductive phase. The flower will attract bees and butterflies that will cause the pollination to occur when they drink nectar from the flower head. Other methods of pollination are wind and water.
Pollination occurs when the pollen drops from the anther into the stigma. There are two sperm cells in each pollen grain. The two pollen grains travel down into the ovary of the stigma. One sperm cell will fertilize the egg to create a zygote which will develop into the embryo and will become a new plant. The other sperm cell will form an endosperm to provide food for the plant embryo. What is actually being formed is a new seed that will create a new plant once it germinates.
Seed Production and Dispersal
A seed coat will surround the embryo and endosperm to create the new seed. In order for the plant for complete reproduction, the newly-formed seeds will need to be dispersed away from the parent plant to repeat the life cycle. Dispersal occurs by wind, water, or animal (birds eating seeds and dropping them or passing them in their droppings, seeds clinging to animal fur). After seeds have been dispersed, the life cycle begins again with each seed.
All plants die off at the end of their life cycle. Plants that die after one year or one season of life are known as annuals or ephemerals. Plants that live for two years or two seasons then die off are called biennials. Plants that live and continue a life cycle of flowering every year are known as perennials.