The Life Cycle of a Plant: Explore a Basic Graphic and a Detailed Explanation

Most kids find that the life cycle of a plant is easiest to understand with a simple graphic. We created an easy guide to the life cycle of a plant specifically for kids.

This explanation of the life cycle of a plant is specific to flowering plants – which includes almost all plants! The life cycle of ferns and mosses is a bit different, but otherwise, the general life cycle of a plant stays the same.

Let’s get our terms straight before we look at the graphic:

  • Flowering Plants – we’re not just talking about garden flowers. Pine trees, grasses, and poison ivy are all flowering plants! Even though we don’t give our loved ones bouquets of grass, it’s still got flowers. Most plants are technically flowering plants.
  • Flowers are a plant’s reproductive parts. They produce pollen and/or grow into fruits. Some plants have “male” parts that just disperse pollen and “female” parts that accept pollen and grow into fruits. Other flowers do both jobs. 
  • Pollen – the stuff that makes you sneeze every spring, is part of a plant’s life cycle too! Pollen is how “male” plants get their DNA into “female” plant parts, fertilizing them and allowing them to produce seeds. 
  • Seeds are embryonic plants. They are made up of a ripened female flower after being pollinated. They also contain some amount of energy to help the baby plant grow – kind of like the energy-laden yolk of a chicken egg. 
  • Fruits are the seed-bearing structure of a plant. When I say fruit, you probably think of apples and oranges. You probably don’t think of acorns or whole sunflower seeds as fruit – but they are! Take the shell off of an acorn or a sunflower seed, and you’re looking at the seed itself.

Now that we’ve got our terms straight, let’s look at the basic life cycle of a plant.

life cycle of a plant

To expand on this a bit, here’s the basic stepwise life cycle of a plant.

  1. A seed sprouts using the energy stored within it.
  2. The seedling grows into an adult plant. It grows leaves to catch sunlight and collects nutrients from the soil.
  3. The plant produces a flower. 
  4. The flower produces pollen, which travels through the air or is carried by a pollinator like a bee. Some flowers contain both male and female parts and can self-pollinate, but most plants rely on the wind or pollinators to reproduce.
    • This reliance on pollinators is why many flowers are bright and smelly – that’s how they attract bees and butterflies!
  5. The pollen reaches another flower and fertilizes the ovules in that flower.
  6. The fertilized ovule swells into a seed within the protective structure of a fruit.
  7. The fruit falls, is eaten, or blows away.
    • Plants have all sorts of creative ways to help their seeds travel far and wide. Burs that stick to your pants, the white fluff of dandelions, and tasty apples are all ways for the plant to move its offspring to new soil.
      • Tasty fruits like acorns and oranges rely on animals to move them around through poo or dropped morsels.
  8. The seed eventually makes its way to the soil, where the cycle starts again.

The life cycle of a plant takes different amounts of time for different plants. Annual plants like violets take just a year to complete their life cycle. Biennials, like mullein, take two years. They spend the first year growing, then produce flowers and seeds the next year. Perennials like pine trees live for several years and generally produce flowers and seeds every year. Finally, monocarpic plants live for many years but only produce seeds once.

The basic life cycle of a plant is pretty simple: from seed to plant to flower to fruit to seed. However, it gets complicated quickly!

Some plants have other methods of reproducing. The banana plant, for example, can also clone itself. “Daughter” shoots grow from the “mother” stalk around the roots. This basic plant life cycle is just the beginning – but it’s enough for most of us.

Did you learn something about the life cycle of a plant? Be sure to share this so other people can learn!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *