To persist (without immigration) in habitats with unpredictable environmental conditions, annuals must produce seeds each year or have a seed bank. Thus, we predicted that compared to perennials, annuals have a wider germination temperature range (GTR, the difference in temperature between the week with the highest and the week with the lowest germination during the natural germination season). We determined the GTR via germination phenology data for 350 herbaceous species in 59 families from the eastern USA: summer annuals (SA), 63; winter annuals (WA), 83; monocarpic perennials (MP), 28; and polycarpic perennials (PP), 176. There was no significant phylogenetic signal for the GTR. The width of the GTR during the first spring germination season was 9.6, 8.7 and 8.8°C for MP, PP and SA, respectively, and during the first autumn germination season 12.8, 11.8 and 12.4°C for MP, PP and WA, respectively. Annuals did not have a wider GTR than perennials in either the spring or the autumn germination season. Our data suggest that selection for early germination in either spring or autumn has resulted in only small differences in the GTR. We predict that global warming will have little or no effect on reshaping the germination phenology of herbaceous species of temperate eastern North America.