Perennials are plants you can depend on year after year to bring life to your garden. Perennial foliage does die back in the fall, but their roots will carry them through the winter and enable them to come back out in the spring. You will find references to perennial plants, perennial flowers, or perennial shrubs and grasses. Many gardeners have become so attached to their perennials that they are handed down through family members to be transplanted when the family moves to another location.
Perennials are grown for their decorative foliage as well as their colorful blooms. They are traditionally grown in borders, cottage gardens, mass plantings, as ground covers and for cutting. The English have been famous through the years for their beautiful perennial borders.
You can plant them with bulbs in the spring garden, under shrubs and trees, along the edge of a pond or in a shade garden. You can plant them at the base of other plants, such as vines, to help keep the roots cool. Plant them at the edge of a rose beds or mix them in where you might need a splash of color. You will find perennials available to fill just about every location and need in your garden.
Uses of Perennials
- In herbaceous borders against fences, walls, or hedges
- In mixed perennial and shrub borders
- In shade, rock or water gardens,
- In mass plantings
- As ground covers
- To edge rose gardens
- To hide yellowing bulb foliage
- To fill in bare spots between shrubs
- To fill in around young shrubs, tying the mass together
- To brighten dark corners
- In your cutting garden
- In pots and planters
Temperature Requirements for Growing Perennials
You will find that perennials are sensitive to cold and warm temperatures. Make sure you try to find perennials that are hardy to your planting zone. If you happen to have very hot summers, you should purchase ones that are heat-tolerant, such as Gaura lindheimeri and Gaillardia grandiflora (blanket flower). With many perennials, you will find that the warmer it gets, the shorter the bloom period is. When making your selection you should consider these things:
- First and last date of frost
- The coldest expected winter temperature
- The highest expected summer temperature
Sun and Shade Perennials
Most perennials will prefer a nice, sunny location. There are some perennials that will grow in light shade. Astilbe, Aquilegia (columbine), and Hemerocallis (daylily) are perennials that will fit into this group of perennials.
Soil and Water Needs
You will find that most perennials require a soil that is rich in humus, is well-drained, but moist soil. Soil should have a good balance of clay, sand and silt. The soil must drain well, but keep the moisture. A slightly acid soil with a pH of 5.5-6.6 will suit most perennials.
Water is important for most perennials during the growing season. If your summers have hot winds and causes drought conditions, be sure to monitor your soil very carefully. When the top 2” of soil have dried out and rain is not on the horizon, it’s time to water. When you plant new perennials, always water them thoroughly. It is advisable to not use sprinklers, as they will damage the flowers and wet the leaves, causing mildew in more humid microclimates. If your ground is not frozen, you should continue to water them in the winter if they get dry.
*Tip- to control some perennials, such as Phlox, you can spray them with a Wilt Pruf during the growing season.
For more information on perennials read: Planning a Perennial Border.
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