Is the Bearded Iris your favorite flower? Are you over the moon about Peonies? If you are then you might be considered passionate about perennials! And why not? These plants return year after year to share their beautiful flowers and stunning foliage with gardeners. Whether you’re a novice gardener or know your way around a flower border we’ve got some tips on how to grow perennials that we’re sure you can use!
Create Your Design
You can’t plant the perfect perennial garden without a plan! After all, this is going to impact what types of perennials you’re going to plant. For example, is the planting area going to be in full sun or shade? What is the soil like? Is it wet or dry? Do you need to remove sod or is the spot ready to plant? There is information to be gathered and decisions to be made.
After gathering this information it is a good idea to take that picture of the perfect flower garden that is in your head and put it down on paper. Do you desire a formal look that would involve plantings in straight lines or are your preferences more informal? If a more casual look is what you are after than curves and mass plantings may be something you would want to consider.
Finally, have you ever thought about a theme for your garden? When you read a gardening book or magazine does the look of an English Cottage Garden take your breath away? Maybe the location of your garden is in a particularly hot and dry location. If that is the case you might think of giving xeriscaping or a rock garden a try. Whatever your vision is you’ll want to have a plan.
Why Plant In Spring
When it comes to perennials, every gardener I’ve met has had a planting preference. Some gardeners prefer to plant in the fall when the emphasis is on encouraging plants to grow strong roots. Some gardeners follow a mantra of planting spring and early summer flowering perennials in the fall and late summer and fall flowering perennials in the spring. The truth is that regardless of whether it is spring or fall it’s the perfect time to plant perennials!
Spring is a great time to plant perennials for several reasons. First, the days are longer and the temperatures steadily rise. What this does is warm up the soil which encourages perennials that have been “asleep” to wake up and for new growth to begin. Second, spring brings with it regular rainfall which encourages roots to absorb nutrients which fuels a plant’s growth that was jumpstarted by the aforementioned warmth.
Digging the Hole
You’ve got your design in hand and chosen your perennials; now it’s time to plant! There is nothing better than digging in the dirt and feeling it directly under your fingernails! Of course, wearing a pair of gloves is ok too. While it seems pretty straight forward digging a hole can vary depending upon the type of perennial you are planting. Aside from starting plants from seed there are generally two ways you can obtain perennials and each type has its own planting nuances:
- Potted Plants - For those of us who need instant gratification a potted plant is a way to go. These are typically purchased at a garden center or home improvement store and are generally at a mature size which will allow them to flower the first season that they are planted. The hole you dig should be 2 to 3 times as wide as the pot and at a depth that will allow the crown of the plant, the spot where the plant meets the soil, to be at ground level or slightly above it. The wide hole allows for robust root growth and planting the crown of the plant at soil level prevents the plant from rotting.
- Bare-Root Plants - These perennials are often purchased online or through mail-order retailers. They are less expensive than potted plants and if you are a patient gardener it will give you equally good results. The hole you dig doesn’t have to be as wide and the depth will be at a level that will allow the roots to be spread out. Inside of the hole, you can mound soil in a fashion that allows the plant and roots to sit at ground level and you can then push the soil back into the hole.
The tag or instructions that come with the plant will include information on how big the plant will be when it grows to full maturity. It will also describe how much space to leave between plants. If you plant the perennials closer than the suggested spacing the border will fill in quicker. However, it can also cause you to have to split them sooner and might also reduce air circulation between the plants which can promote diseases.
Other Planting Tips
Here are some additional tips for planting perennials:
- If possible, try to plant on a cool, cloudy day. This will shield the new transplants from the strength of the sun.
- Planting in the late afternoon will give the new plants a cool night to get accustomed to their new home before the heat of the next day.
- Once the perennials have become established a good layer of mulch will help them stay evenly watered.
- When planting perennials place the low-growing ones in the front and the taller ones in the back.