The term perennial applies to plants that live for more than two years. Unlike annuals, which need to be replanted every spring and then subsequently pulled out at the end of the season, the roots on perennial plants are capable of surviving the harshest of winters and re-sprouting the next spring. People often choose to grow perennials because they are easily maintained, dependable performers while contributing a variety of colors, textures and shapes. Options can seem endless when selecting perennial plants, especially when considering your garden’s design and layout. To take some of the guesswork out of your gardening project, consider the following tips.
Selecting Your Plants
You’ll first want to consider your location. Is your garden’s soil sandy, or does it have the consistency of heavy clay? Does it benefit from full sun, or is it partially shaded? To ensure that your plants’ roots will survive the winter, check the USDA Hardiness Zone Map, which can provide you with a list of the plants that do well within your zone.
Aim for a visually pleasing balance in color. You can choose to organize your garden around one predominant color, or you might decide to work from a color palate, such as pastels. Don’t forget that perennials have different bloom seasons. If you’re working toward cultivating a colorful garden throughout the entire grow season, select several plants from each bloom season. Group a few different varieties of perennials together that will bloom in tandem for optimum appeal.
When making your purchases, try to select the biggest and most mature perennials so that it will fill out quickly and begin blooming quickly. Keep plant roots moist and place in your garden as soon as possible so that it will quickly take hold and move out of its dormant state.
Maintaining your Perennials
Watering and Fertilizing
In some cases, perennial gardens do not require too much watering. However, if you experience a particularly dry summer and your plants don’t receive adequate moisture, efficient watering practices are vital. Newer and better watering options include soaker hoses and other drip irrigation systems which bring water directly to plant roots, ensuring that little water evaporates.
Most perennials do not require more than one spring application of a high-phosphorus fertilizer that is low in nitrogen. From then on, a yearly application of manure or compost will be enough to help with soil texture and water retention.
Pinching and Deadheading
Pinching is a grooming method that causes plants to grow more compact and produce more blooms by removing the dominant bud, which would normally receive the most nutrients. Pinching delays flowering a bit but is beneficial because it gives the side buds access to enough food as they grow. Using the thumb and forefinger, pinch back the growing tips once or twice in late spring.
Some perennial plants hold on to their dead flowers; in order to maintain your garden’s beauty and encourage reblooming, remove these flowers.
If your perennials are growing well in your soil, they will most likely need to be divided every few years or when they aren’t yielding as many flowers. Dividing can also allow you to share part of your plant with a friend by splitting it into two. Remember to do your research before dividing. Some perennial plants, such as peonies and poppies, don’t enjoy having their roots disturbed and shouldn’t be divided.