Starting With Perennials

Easy Beginner’s Guide to Planting and Growing Perennial Flowers

Just beginning to grow perennial flowers? Starting your first perennial flower garden? Follow this basic guide to planting and growing perennial flowers.

Flower gardeners enjoy growing perennials for many reasons. Perennial flowers are rewarding: they return year after year to provide a dependable display in the garden. Once established, well chosen perennials should be relatively easy to care for. And with careful selection and placement, they can provide exceptional color combinations. Beginning with perennials can seem intimidating, but it shouldn’t be. Let this basic guide to beginning with perennials help you get started with designing and planting your perennial flower garden.

Low Maintenance Perennials or No Maintenance Perennials

Although a perennial garden can sometimes be considered low maintenance by using only plants selected for that purpose, perennials are not no-care plants. Newly planted perennials need to be monitored, watered and weeded. Ongoing care includes topdressing with compost, fertilizing if indicated by soil tests, mulching, and periodic inspection to make sure nothing unusual is amiss. Some may require routine staking every year, deadheading (removal of spent blooms), and special winter protection.

Perennials Need Periodic Division

Once established, most perennials perform nicely for three to five years. Eventually, most need to be rejuvenated by digging them up and dividing them, or replaced with a vigorous, young plant.

Right Plant, Right Place

In my experience, the secret to a successful perennial garden with the minimum of work on the gardener’s part is careful plant selection based on the principal of Right Plant, Right Place.

Analyze your planting site and select plants that are well suited to it. By working with the growing conditions provided by nature, rather than fighting them or trying to alter them substantially, you will have a much easier time of it. Experienced perennial gardeners know that struggling plants always look poorly; healthy plants always look good!

Learning About Perennials: Local Information Sources

Successful perennial gardeners learn through trial and error, observing how their own plants perform, visiting gardens with similar growing conditions and microclimates to their own, and researching their plant choices.

When you read about perennials or see them on television, be aware of the geographic frame of reference. A gardener from the cold Northeast may have different recommendations from a gardener in the mild wintered Pacific Northwest who will have different recommendations from a gardener based in Atlanta or Texas with equally mild winters but very different (i.e. hot and humid) summers.

Your local nursery with well trained staff and a strong perennials specialty department can be a super resource. Try to visit on a weekday when they are less busy and can spend more time helping you and answering your questions.

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