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Plants with lesser known perennial habits

Posts: 85
Location: Fryslân, Netherlands
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I'm only gardening since a couple of years now, still needing to look up basic info on this or that plant that I'm growing. But often I notice that my plants behave in a way that the textbook didn't prepare me for, or sometimes the textbook seems plainly wrong.
Especially when plants show more longevity than expected or a procreation method that is new to me I'm pleasantly surprised, and I believe it's worthwhile to share here a few things I found out, because if I missed the info before, likely other people did too. Or perhaps other people know of examples that compare to the two examples I'm posting below...

Leeks which make bulbs:

This is not the leek that's called perennial leek, that's a different strain, but this leek had made a bulb resembling those on perennial leeks. I was surprised when I found this bulb on a forgotten ordinary leek - the leek had already made a seed head. I had another old leek standing in the garden, I checked and found a bulb on the foot of that one too. I've left this leek standing, and now you can see a new leek forming from the foot of the old one:

A different veg: Cavolo Nero, maybe you call it Tuscany kale, maybe Palm Kale, maybe different even, but this is how this kale commonly looks like (not my own kale):

As I like to save my seeds, I let this kale overwinter and go to flower. When I was harvesting the seeds, I already saw young leaves sprouting from the old stem of the only plant I had spared by that time. So I left it, and it has now turned into a multi-stemmed kale. While last year I hardly had a harvest from a small row of plants, as the plants had remained small and the slugs had had their takings as well, this year I'm having a decent harvest from only one plant:

This looks like a perennial, while if looking up this plant online, you'll likely see it described as a biennial.

A leek just making one bulb, and only after letting it go to seed, might not be too interesting from a practical point of view. The Palm Kale booming in size after leaving it in the garden definitely seems interesting to me.    
Posts: 616
Location: SW Missouri, Zone 7a
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Many plants listed as annuals in seed catalogs and in nurseries are actually perennial in their country of origin. They are simply treated as garden annuals where they are not hardy year round. For example, we have some hot pepper plants that are over 10 years old and producing abundantly each year although we live in USDA Zone 6b-7a where they should die off in winter. The reason is that we bring them inside to a cool room in winter and allow them to go dormant as they would in their original homeplace. In the country of origin, they would be long-lasting shrubs.

Many other plants that are, indeed annuals or biennials, will reproduce through seeds so that while the parent plant is dead (or resting) the seeds will sprout in place to form new plants. An example of that is our Malabar spinach -- a tropical vining plant we've had in our garden for at least 15 years -- which dies down every fall when the weather gets cool, then pops back up and spreads luxuriously from the seeds it dropped in the previous summer.

One other way that non-perennial plants often appear to be perennial is when they are cut to the ground before they die so that the warmer roots (warmer because they are insulated from cold air down in the soil) merely go dormant and then send out new growth in the spring. A lot of brassicas (such as your kale) will resprout that way.

I think the takeaway lesson is that if we can duplicate some of the conditions in the country of origin (like adding warmth in the form of a greenhouse or bringing indoors) or do some other thing to maximize survival of tender roots in situ (like deep mulches) a lot of so-called annuals will become perennials for us even in cold climates.
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