Most of us know the names of many flowers: tulip, rose, pansy. But what we don't always know about are the broader flower categories, the families to which our favorite blooms belong. Though for all four groups of flowers the obvious goal is the same--healthy plants with pretty blooms--the habits of growth and plant features vary widely.
A home gardening favorite, perennial flowers are those which faithfully grow back and bloom, year after year. Some perennial flowers, such as peonies, will die back completely in the fall. Others lose their blooms and leaves but maintain their woody stems, such as roses and forsythia. Others are evergreen shrubs, such as gardenia, and will maintain their foliage through winter.
Annual flowers are usually quick growing and perfect for shots of springtime color. Annuals die completely in the fall, though many are happy to self-seed and will reappear from seed next spring. Popular annuals with lots of colorful blooms include pansies, poppies, snapdragons, begonias, petunias, sunflowers and zinnias.
Bulbs are a sure sign of spring and a gardening favorite. As early as March, you can look for the dainty crocus, the cheerful daffodil and the bright tulip. Bulbs grow from an underground organ which functions as both a root and a storage organ. There are several different types: true bulbs, corms, tubers and rhizomes. Different varieties of bulbs flower in spring, summer and well into fall. Bulbs make great container plants and spread each year.
Bromeliads, though not as well known as the first three flower groups, are a large group of plants. Most originated in tropical America and are now popular for greenhouse and indoor growing through North America. Bromeliads are annuals in that they bloom once and then die; however, they die off slowly, maintaining a plant base over a year or two while they produce young, offspring plants which can then be grown and produce blooms again. The most well-known bromeliads include aechmea, billbergias, pineapple and Spanish moss.