Herbaceous plants are a diverse group of plants that are defined by their lack of woody stems. They can be annuals, biennials, or perennials and include many flowering plants, ferns, and lycophytes. These plants are characterized by their soft and flexible green stems, and many can die back to the ground during winter, surviving with the help of underground storage organs like bulbs or rhizomes.

Herbaceous plants, also known simply as herbs, have non-woody stems. They differ from woody plants (such as trees and shrubs) in that their stems are typically soft and green and die back to the ground at the end of the growing season in temperate climates.

  • Characteristics: The stems are soft, flexible, and typically green. In temperate climates, the above-ground growth of herbaceous plants dies back in winter, though the roots may remain alive and regrow the next season.
  • Annuals: Complete their life cycle in one growing season. They germinate, flower, set seed, and die within one year.
  • Biennials: Take two years to complete their life cycle. In the first year, they grow leaves, stems, and roots. In the second year, they flower, produce seeds, and die.
  • Perennials: Live for more than two years. They die back each winter and regrow in the spring from their rootstock.
  • Type of Herbaceous Plants: Marigolds, petunias, zinnias, hostas, peonies, daylilies, foxgloves, parsley, carrots (in the wild, as they are harvested as biennials in cultivation).
  • Uses of Herbaceous Plants: Many are grown for attractive flowers, foliage, or form. Examples include tulips, daffodils, and ornamental grasses. Some are used as herbs in cooking, such as basil, thyme, and cilantro. Certain herbaceous plants have medicinal properties and have been used in traditional medicine for centuries. Examples include echinacea, ginseng, and chamomile.
  • Growth Habits: Stand upright without support. Usually spread along the ground, rooting at intervals. Examples include creeping thyme and certain varieties of sedum.
Herbaceous Plant Type