Outdoor plants fall into a number of different categories. Broad categories include trees, shrubs, flowering plants, non-flowering plants and succulents, for example. While many of these plants can be grown indoors, they thrive outdoors with natural sun and shade, nutrient-rich earth and ample water.
Annual plants, named for the Latin word "annus", only live for a single year, and have flowers that last only for a single season. Their flowers bloom for a period of three or four months, new seeds are created, and then the plants die out within the year. Examples of annual plants include asters, bachelor button, balsam, basil, cosmos, dianthus, marigold, petunias, phlox and salvias.
Perennial plants are named for the Latin word "perennis", which means many years. Perennials last for several seasons or years and continue to flower throughout the year rather than during a single season. Perennial plants do not require annual replanting in a garden like annual varieties do. Examples of perennial plants include anthuriums, bleeding heart, geraniums, gerberas, roses and water lilies.
Biennial plants are essentially short-living perennials that require two years of growth before they reach fruition, but after their initial bloom they die off like annual plants do. Biennials are named for the Latin word "biennis," which means two years. Biennial plant examples include Echium wildpretti, foxglove and Sweet William. Many vegetables are also biennials, but are harvested before the plant produces flowers.
Shrubs are similar to trees, but are smaller, woody plants that keep their branches low to the ground. There are two basic types of shrubs and trees: flowering varieties and ornamental varieties. Flowering shrubs flower from season to season and include hibiscus, ixora, lantana and mosanda. Ornamental shrubs like aralia, juniperus, crotons and eranthemum do not flower but do feature evergreen foliage and an ornamental appearance.
Trees fall into multiple categories, including flowering, fruit, ornamental and shade varieties. Trees can be evergreen or deciduous in nature, which means that their leaves are lost during the autumn and winter seasons. Examples of flowering and ornamental trees include flowering dogwood, jacaranda, magnolia and hydrangea paniculata. Shade trees include ficus, weeping willow, oak, maple and cedar varieties.
Bulb flowers are distinctive from other flowering plants because they require a specific stem and root structure to grow, rather than traditional seeds. Bulb flowering plants have both active and resting, or dormant, periods. The plant grows, flowers, then returns to the resting period where there is no apparent growth. The bulb and plant structure is still alive, though very little of the plant is typically visible. Examples of bulb plants include bluebells, daffodils, tulips, dahlia and lilies. Some vegetable plants also rely on bulbs, including potatoes and onions.