Sooner or later, every gardener falls in love with a few select perennials. Perennials are flowering plants that live many years, but die back during their dormant season which is usually winter. When planted under the right conditions, perennials grow and prosper for years, often with little attention. Each perennial has a peak season of bloom, usually lasting from one to three months. After the blooms fade, the foliage remains so the plant can renew its energy stores for repeating the show again next year. The tops of most perennials are killed back by frost, but they do return in the spring.
A good time to add new perennials to the garden is in late winter or early spring as soon as the soil can be worked. This is when the plants are just emerging from their winter rest. Frequently, perennials purchased in pots early in the season appear to be almost dead because they are still dormant. The appearance of new green growth is usually accompanied by the development of new roots. Ideally, the plants should be situated in your garden before these new roots develop.
A little later in spring, many perennials have begun to grow in their pots. It is much easier to select such plants because you can see what you are buying. Just be careful to safeguard tender new roots and buds when handling actively growing plants.
If you live where the ground does not freeze in winter, the ideal time to plant most perennials is in the fall. This gives the plants a chance to take root before their tops begin growing in the spring. Plants purchased in pots in the fall are likely to be well developed enough to give you a good view of what you are buying.
Perennial Planting Tips
Prepare planting sites for new perennials with care because these plants often remain in the garden for many years. Amend the soil with organic matter and check your soil’s pH to be sure it is not too acid or alkaline. If so, correct the pH before planting. When setting out new perennials, carefully spread out the roots in the planting hole. Water immediately after planting.
- In most climates, perennials benefit from mulch in summer which helps control weeds while keeping the soil moist. Pine needles, shredded bark, and decayed leaves are popular mulches for perennials.
- Plan for a long bloom time by choosing perennials that flower at different times of the year. For example, summer phlox might follow spring peonies. Then use chrysanthemums for splashes of color in the fall.
- Perennials need good drainage. Very few can tolerate soggy soil. Be sure to set plants in a location that drains well.