Biennial Or Annual Caraway: How Long Does Caraway Live

Biennial Or Annual Caraway: How Long Does Caraway Live

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By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer

Caraway (Carum carvi) is an attractive herb with feathery leaves, umbels of tiny white flowers and a warm, sweet aroma. This hardy member of the carrot family, suitable for USDA plant hardiness zones 3 through 7, is easy to grow as long as you can provide a sunny location and well-drained soil. If you’re thinking about growing caraway, you may be wondering, is caraway biennial or annual?

Technically, caraway is considered a biennial, but it some climates, it can be grown as an annual. What’s the difference between annual and biennial caraway, and how long does caraway live? Read on to learn more.

Biennial Caraway Plants

Caraway is primarily a biennial. The first year, the plant develops a rosette of leaves and may grow tall enough to resemble a small, feathery, bush-like plant. Caraway generally doesn’t produce flowers the first year (unless you grow it as an annual. See more about growing annual caraway plants below).

The second year, caraway plants usually develop stalks measuring 2 to 3 feet (60-91 cm.) in height, topped by pink or white, seed-producing flowers. After the plant sets seeds, its job is finished and it dies.

How Long Does Caraway Live?

This is where things get tricky. Caraway plants usually produces blooms in late spring or summer of the second year, then set seeds. However, plants with small roots at the beginning of the second season may not set seeds until the third year – or sometimes even the fourth year.

About Annual Caraway Plants

If you live in a temperate climate with a long growing season and plenty of sunlight, you can grow annual caraway plants. In this case, seeds are planted in winter. Caraway self-seeds easily, so you may have a continual supply of caraway plants.

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What Is a Biennial Flower or Plant?

The distinction between annual and perennial plants is generally understood by most gardeners. Annual plants complete their entire life cycle in a single year, going from seed to plant to flower and back to seed, then dying off. Perennials, on the other hand, are plants that go from seed to seed within one season but which do not die at the end of the season. Even this distinction is not quite as straightforward as it seems, though, because sometimes a plant that is perennial in warmer climates may be grown as an annual in colder climates where winter kills them off.

By some definitions, a perennial is a plant that you can expect to live at least three years, or in some cases much longer. As mentioned, though, not all perennial plants are hardy enough to withstand extreme temperatures, so some perennial plants may not survive the winter in colder climates. That’s where the USDA plant hardiness zones factor in.

There are a few different kinds, including annuals, perennials, and biennials. For the classic biennial, in its first growing season, the plant produces only foliage. In its second year, it will flower and set seed, often early in the season.

What Is a Biennial Plant?

In between annuals (plants that flower and die within one season) and perennials (plants that live longer than two years) is another plant category known as biennials, which are short-lived perennials that usually take two growing seasons to complete their life cycle. Shallots are an example of a biennial plant.

Parsley, for example, is a biennial herb that often over-winters, even in colder climates. Although it’s nice to see last year’s parsley sending out new growth in the spring, don’t expect to be harvesting leaves from the plant. It very quickly sends up a flower stalk and goes to seed. At that point, leafy growth slows and the flavor and tenderness of the leaves are diminished.



Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs Water regularly do not overwater

Sun Exposure:


Foliage Color:




USDA Zone 3a: to -39.9 °C (-40 °F)

USDA Zone 3b: to -37.2 °C (-35 °F)

USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 °C (-30 °F)

USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 °C (-25 °F)

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 °C (-20 °F)

USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 °C (-15 °F)

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 °C (-10 °F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 °C (-5 °F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 °C (0 °F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 °C (5 °F)

Where to Grow:


Bloom Color:

Bloom Characteristics:

Bloom Size:

Bloom Time:

Other details:

May be a noxious weed or invasive

Soil pH requirements:

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:

From seed direct sow outdoors in fall

From seed direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:

Bag seedheads to capture ripening seed

Allow seedheads to dry on plants remove and collect seeds


This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Gardeners' Notes:

On Jun 27, 2009, justluthien from Toledo, OH wrote:

I planted the seeds last year, but nothing came up, so I forgot about it. This year, I noticed a bunch of ferny-looking seedlings in the herb garden in a yet-to-be planted spot, and figured it was dill, so I left it alone. (Its leaves look an awfully lot like dill. ) I soon realized it wasn't when the real thing sprouted, but left it alone to see what it turned out to be. Finally, when the seedheads sprouted, I recognized it as caraway.

Needs here in the midwest:
Being semi-disabled, I don't do a lot of heavy digging in any of my prepared beds. In the early spring, I used my fork to aerate the soil and break up any major clods, smoothed it out with a rake, then added 2-4" of aged manure from my local nursery ($1.39 for 40#). When the soil warmed up, I planted m. read more y seeds and seedlings, watered for the first month whenever the soil began to dry out (it waters A LOT here in the spring!), weeded, and that was about it.
Since then, I haven't done anything special other than weed and water as needed - I didn't even stake them - and I have seven plants that have yielded over one cup of seeds. I'll definitely do this one again next year, but because it's a biannual, I'll start it from seed again and discard this year's plants.

The only problem I've had is figuring out how to separate the seeds from the tiny stemlet that often stays attached. Any solutions from those who've had this same problem?

Tip: These seeds are much more pungent than the store-bought varieties, so cooks and bakers should use less than the recipe calls for, taste, then add more if needed.

The seeds of this annual or biennial have been used for 5,000 years for flavoring and for their carminative effect.

The seeds are also aromatic and can be used in potpourris.

On Aug 30, 2001, smiln32 from Oklahoma City, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

Grows 1-2ft tall. It has a delicate, grooved and hollow stem with numerous, fern-like, finely divided aromatic leaves 6-10in long. The flowers are minute, white, in compound umbels. Blooms May-July. Caraway's seeds are ribbed, oblong and slightly curved.

Winterkill can be a problem with caraway in colder climates.

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