you're a new gardener planning your first perennial bed, or an experienced
gardener hoping to improve your existing plantings, we can help make
your garden a success. First,
lets dispel a common myth: You dont need to be an expert
gardener to grow perennials. Many types of perennials are easy to
grow and provide years of pleasure with minimal upkeep.
begin by answering a few common questions about perennials.
does the term perennial mean?
Plants are classified as either annual, biennial, or
perennial. Annual plants live for only one growing season,
during which they produce seeds and then die. Familiar annual plants
include impatiens, zinnias, and sunflowers. Biennial plants,
such as some types of foxglove, live for two growing seasons before
setting seed and dying. The term perennial is reserved for
plants that live for more than two years; examples include daylilies,
hosta, and peonies.
Technically speaking, trees and shrubs are perennial
plants--they live for more than two years. But in common usage the
term perennial refers to herbaceous perennials: non-woody
plants that die back to the ground each fall, then regrow in spring.
grow perennials instead of annuals like petunias
you grow lots of annual flowers, you are familiar with the chores
necessary to maintain the plantings: You purchase flower seedlings
(or start your own), plant them in spring, and nurture them throughout
the growing season. Then, when the season's over and the plants die,
you pull them out. Next spring, the cycle begins anew.
remain in the ground year after year. Once established, most perennials
need minimal upkeep in the form of watering and fertilizing, since
their roots are more far-ranging than those of annual plants. Many
perennials spread readily, filling out garden spaces and providing
more and more color each year.
my perennials flower all summer, like my annuals?
perennial plants have a distinct bloom period, lasting anywhere from
a week to a month or more. Plant descriptions usually include an approximate
bloom time, such as "early summer" or "autumn."
A few will describe certain plants as continuous bloomers, but even
these usually have a period of peak bloom.
At first, this
may seem like a drawback, since each plant won't flower all summer.
However, properly planned, a perennial garden will have flowers all
season long--they just won't be the same flowers all the time. Perennial
gardens change with the seasons. You can enjoy delicate columbines
in the spring, flamboyant peonies in early summer, stately delphiniums
in midsummer, and cheerful black-eyed Susans in late summer right
into autumn--all in the same flower bed. One of the greatest joys
of perennial gardening is watching the plantings change with the seasons.
Steps to Success
Choose the right site. If
you are creating a new bed, try to choose a site that gets partial
to full sun. Although there are perennials that will withstand deep
shade, you'll have a much larger selection of plants to choose from
if the site receives some sun.
Choose the right plants. Evaluate
your site, noting sun exposure and soil type, and choose plants based
on these assessments. Make sure the plants you want are adapted to
your growing region--check the USDA Zone rating.
Prepare the soil. Since
your perennials will be occupying the same space for years, it's important
to prepare the soil. Most perennials like a moderately rich, loose,
loamy soil, with plenty of organic matter.
Plant properly. Follow
the planting instructions that come with your new plants. Water plants
well after planting.
Provide some extra TLC the first season.
a good idea to mulch beds after planting with a thick layer of organic
mulch. However, don't pile mulch right up agains plants--keep it a
few inches from the base of the plants. Be diligent about watering
the new plantings, if nature doesn't provide. A deep watering once
a week is better than a daily sprinkle.
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Five Hardy, Easy-Care Perennials
balm is a sun-loving, spreading perennial that comes in red, pink,
or white flowers that butterflies love.
are the ideal shade perennials. The leaves can be green, yellow or
variegated and many varieties produce colorful flower spikes.
'Stella De Oro'
perennial is tough as nails. It can tolerate a wide variety of growing
conditions. 'Stella de Oro' will produce flower spikes from midsummer
sun-loving, late summer bloomer produces flowers until frost on disease-resistant
is a full sun loving, low growing perennial that will spread and flower
for weeks in summer.