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When reading about plants I've heard that plants only produce for a few years, then die. Why can't they produce for as long as they're healthy?

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  • Plants come in various lifespans: Annuals, Biennials, Perennials. So, this depends on the species. May 27, 2016 at 3:08
  • @FiascoLabs where I'm from the plants that survive are either trees, or perennials. May 27, 2016 at 4:02
  • I've pondered this question myself, and postulate - at least in the case of nightshades - that this probably has to do with the increasing difficulty pushing nutrients to the growing part of the plants. (In the case of Eggplants, they tend to keep growing longer and longer, but production drops off as they age)
    – davidgo
    May 27, 2016 at 4:41
  • Also, some plants do produce for pretty close to forever - for example the original Hass avocado tree lived 76 years until it dies of root rot.
    – davidgo
    May 27, 2016 at 4:42
  • Fruit trees can produce for 10 years or more depending on which fruit or variety it is. Can you edit your question and be more specific about what perennial food crops you were thinking of?
    – Bulrush
    May 27, 2016 at 11:13

2 Answers 2

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Nothing lasts forever.The term perennial simply means a plant that will last for more than 2 years. That can mean 3 years that can mean 50 years or more. As the plants age they can lose their ability to produce the same quantity or quality of fruit.

Perennials don't live forever. They do eventually die or lose their ability to produce. For example asparagus is said to only produce for about 20 years. Lavender will survive for about 15 years.

In addition to their expected life span, other issues such as pests and disease can be a problem. These issues can build up over the course of many seasons. For various reasons it's suggested that strawberries be removed and new ones replanted every 4 years for example.

You might get a more meaningful answer if you indicate specific plants you're interested in.

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  • Why do people say something doesn't last long when it lasts forever growing? May 27, 2016 at 14:26
  • To be able to put my answer in better context.. may I ask how old you are? Is this for a school project? May 27, 2016 at 15:01
  • 32, and just getting into gardening. May 27, 2016 at 15:15
  • @blackthumb I updated my answer to provide some more details. I believe your confusion may be a result of thinking perennials mean the plants will last forever. That's not the case as I mentioned in my answer. It just means they'll live longer than 2 years. Or more specifically they have a reproductive cycle that isn't complete or repeats itself past 1 or 2 years. May 27, 2016 at 15:35
  • @blackthumb Think of pets: a dog can get ten or fifteen years old, then it dies of old age. A hamster lives for two to three years, a large parrot fifty to a hundred years. The same is true for plants - a few hundred years is no problem for some kinds of trees, strawberries won't last a fraction of that time.
    – Stephie
    May 27, 2016 at 15:49
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It's called evolution. Different plants have different strategies to help replicate their genome across the planet. Annuals, or bi-annuals have found it best to flower in the first or second year. So, you'll see cabbages etc change their shape dramatically as they become tall and flowery so that they can disperse their seeds as far as possible. Once they have fulfilled their purpose, there's no biological need to persist and compete with their offspring, so they die.

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  • I was thinking more about about perennial food crops. May 27, 2016 at 2:23
  • If you'd only like answers relating to perennial food crops, rather than flowers, would you mind editing your comment into the body of your question? That way the comment won't get lost, and people won't miss an important part of the purpose of the question. Thanks! May 27, 2016 at 2:39
  • if you feel the question is better asked/explained another way, always feel free to edit it. May 27, 2016 at 4:00

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