Perennial plants are the backbone of every successful landscape and garden border. They are available in a wide range of sizes, colors and blooming seasons. Perennials grow and bloom over the spring and summer and then die back every autumn and winter, then return in the spring, bigger and better with every passing season. Typically, they grow from their root stock rather than seeding themselves as an annual plant does. These are known as herbaceous perennials. However, depending on the rigors of local climate, a plant that is a perennial in its native habitat, or in a milder garden, may be treated by a gardener as an annual and planted out every year, from seed, from cuttings or from divisions.
Some of the more popular perennial plant categories include hosta, daylily, iris, echinacea, peony, ferns, grasses, phlox, heuchera, astilbe and many more. Each genus can contain literally thousands of specific varieties. Part of the joy of gardening with perennial plants is discovering new plant introductions from family, friends and our knowledgeable staff.
SOIL PREPARATION Once you’ve chosen the right plants for the right locations, the only thing left to do is plant them. Check your soil to see if it needs any amendments. Perennials generally require loamy, well-drained soil for good growth. Organic matter such as compost, peat or dehydrated manure is beneficial to most herbaceous plants. Soil prep is important to do BEFORE you plant. It becomes very difficult once plants are established.
Loosen the soil at least 18″ deep
Till or dig in 4-6″ of organic material
Check soil pH – most plants prefer a slightly acidic soil – 6.0-6.5
WHEN TO PLANT Perennials grown in containers can be planted any time during the growing season. If planting in fall, try to plant early enough (late August – September) so the roots have a chance to get established before winter. Mulch can help conserve moisture and insulate roots during winter.
HOW TO PLANT Carefully remove container and loosen roots to encourage lateral growth. If the roots are in a dense mat, cut off the bottom inch or so. This will stimulate new growth and the plant will establish more quickly. Be sure to plant at the same soil level as it was in the container.
WATERING New plantings need to be carefully monitored for water. Checking the first 3-4″ of soil will help determine if plants need to be watered. Over-watered and dry plants produce the same “wilted” look. So be sure you are watering correctly. Ideally, watering should be done in the morning to prevent fungal growth.
FERTILIZING Proper soil preparation is the best way to feed your perennials. However, a light application of 5-10-5 is useful to give your plants a boost in spring. Another application in mid to late summer is useful if you have poor soil or the spring was exceptionally wet.
PLANT DIVISION Some perennials may never need to be divided, but most will benefit from being taken out and divided every few years. Reasons for dividing plants include decreased flowering, die-out in the center or if the plant has just grown too big for the space.