Planting Perennials

Perennials are plants that live three or more years with some species growing much longer.  The foliage of most perennials die back during winter while the roots remain alive to produce new growth and blooms year after year. Care during the first year is critical to success with perennials.  Once established many varieties will require minimal care.

  • Full sun is essential for most flowering perennials. However, some perennials will tolerate partial sun or shade.  Be sure to read your plant tags to get them in the right location.
  • Good drainage is very important. If drainage is a problem, consider raised beds and incorporating peat moss into the soil. A raised bed 6 to 8” high is ideal.  If clay is a problem, add sand to the soil.
  • To avoid the additional work of grass and weed removal from a new garden bed start prepping the area the previous fall. This can be done by double digging, lasagna gardening or by sheet composting.
  • In spring, rototill new beds to a depth of 6 to 8” while thoroughly mixing in compost, manure, peat moss, shredded leaves or other organic matter. Rake the area smooth and let ground settle a few days before planting. Keep walking in the bed to a minimum so soil is not re-compacted.
  • Established beds may be top dressed with composted material or mulch. Slow release or water soluble fertilizer should be applied in spring as new growth emerges.

Perennial gardens require an investment of time, money, and effort.  Below are a few tips to help maximize the return you receive from your perennials. By following these tips and the instructions listed above, you will have beautiful perennial beds that will offer you years and years of enjoyment.

  • Plan plantings carefully. Consider plant characteristics such as height, color and bloom time and growth habit.  Use each plant in the best location possible to keep your garden interesting throughout the season. Massing colors provides a vibrant display even from a distance.
  • Prepare the soil carefully.  Remember, this planting will be in place for several years.  You won’t have this opportunity again for a while.
  • Care for your plants.  Perennials can take some neglect, but they must get off to a good start. Remember, they are well worth the effort.  Water during dry spells the first year, after that, most perennials are drought tolerant.
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