Biennials – What they are and how they grow

In this post I will explain what a biennial is and how to grow them, including the light they need, the watering situation, how to start them, and where to put them.


Biennials on the Homestead

I remember the first time I grew a biennial.  It was an Italian parsley plant.  I kept waiting for the flowers so I could collect the seeds to save for the next year.  Well, the frosts came before the flowers so I just covered it up for winter.  Checking every so often to see if there were flowers did me no good, but when spring came so did they.  Biennials set seed the second year.


Cabbage and Broccoli are Biennials


What is a Biennial

●      Definition:

biennial plant is a flowering plant that takes two years to complete its biological lifecycle.  In the first year, the plant grows leaves, stems, and roots (vegetative structures), then it enters a period of dormancy over the colder months. Usually the stem remains very short and the leaves are low to the ground, forming a rosette.  Many biennials require a cold treatment, or vernalization, before they will flower. During the next spring or summer, the stem of the biennial plant elongates greatly, or “bolts”.[3] The plant then flowers, producing fruits and seeds before it finally dies. There are far fewer biennials than either perennial plants or annual plants.

●      A biennial plant is….

A plant that takes two years to set flower and make seeds.

●      Onion family….

Plants of the onion family including leaks.  These will set seed the second year after a cold spell.

●      Cabbage family….

This family includes cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and collar greens.

●      Mullein and parsley….

Both are herbs.  Parsley is my personal favorite biennial.  Mullein is like lambs ears but much larger and can get 4 or more feet tall.

●      Fennel and carrots….

Fennel comes in two types, bronze and Florence.  Florence fennel has a bulb like area at the bottom and bronze is a lot like dill, but with a black licorice flavor.  Carrots come in many different colors.

●      Some Hollyhocks….

Not all of them so if you love hollyhocks then check with the person you buy them from and see if yours are biennial.  If you start from seed check the seed pack.



What is the best way to grow a biennial plant…

Biennials grow the basic way any other plant grows.  You plant the seed in a container or cell pack, transplant as needed and then put in the garden or you can plant them in containers as well, whichever you prefer.  Sometimes, if they get cold, they will seed early after a transplant.  I have had this happen.  But usually it takes a winter stint to get seeds from these glorious babies.


How to plant a biennial plant…

●      Purchase your seed

My personal preference is organic, heirloom or open-pollinated and there are many places both online and catalogs to purchase your seeds….

●      Use a sterile mix to start seeds

I generally mix my own using vermiculite, perlite, and peat moss in equal amounts….

●      Put your mix in a container

Cell packs are generally used, but there are many things that can be used to start seeds in including egg cartons, Styrofoam or plastic cups, plant pots, or anything you can get to drain properly so that water is not standing in the container….

●      Put the seeds in the mix and cover lightly with more mix

Once the seeds are in and covered water gently and wait; sometimes a little longer than others.  Parsley tends to take the full 10 days or more to get growing.



Parsley is an amazing biennial plant


What is the value of a biennial plant?

Biennials, as you notice from the list, are some of the yummiest and most used edibles out there.  Hollyhocks are just beautiful, but the rest are downright tasty so they are definitely of value….


How many hours of light do they need?


●      Onion family ….

This family generally takes to full sun quite well

●      Cabbage family ….

Also a full sun kinda bunch especially since they grow in the cooler weather

●      Mullein and parsley ….

These can take partial sun, especially if you are in a hot area like zone 7 or further south

●      Fennel and carrots ….

Fennel is a full sun kinda guy, but carrots can be placed in partial shade

●      Hollyhocks ….

I have seen these in partial shade or just 4 hours of light a day up against a house, but I have also noticed them in gardens in full sun.  I would venture to say it depends on the type.


How much water do they need?

Any plant in your garden will need water at least once a week or so.  Check the ground to find out for sure if your special friend needs a drink.  If you put your finger down into the dirt about an inch and it is totally dry, help him out and get him some water.  If it is still pretty moist give him another day or two and then check again.


Biennial plants are awesome!!!

As you can see from above biennials are very useful plants.  Some are even useful in more than one way, like the onion family which includes leeks and garlic which are culinary and medicinal and ward off vampires too.  Parsley is my personal favorite as I love Italian food and it is a mainstay of that particular area.  You can’t have spaghetti or lasagna without parsley my friend.

So grow some biennials in your garden.  It’s okay if you have to wait a year to gather seeds, they will still show up next year!!!  Enjoy your plants and if you want to know about annuals or perennials look here and here or if you want more information on biennials check here.


I hope you enjoyed this read.  I certainly enjoy helping you learn about how to begin a garden and what you are planting.  As a matter of fact I LOVE IT!!!


I will talk to you again soon.  Smile it makes people wonder what you’re up to.  J


Love you bye,

Kelly Jeanne


p.s. If you want to learn about anything specific or need to ask a question just leave a comment and I will answer you right here on the post.  Thanks again for stopping by.