Welcome to the World of Perennials!
Perennials are a bit like people. Each plant has it's own talent whether it be a flower, or contrasting foliage and they become the focus of the garden for a specific time during our season...kind of like their 15 seconds of fame!
What Defines a Perennial?
Purple Coneflower (Echinacea)
- Perennials are soft-stemmed plants (not hard woody branches) that come back every year (unlike annuals that complete their life cycle in one season - not winter hardy)
- they die down to the ground in the fall (although dried stalks may remain) only to start growing up again in the spring
- perennials have a specific bloom time and the trick is to arrange the perennials so that you have succession of bloom in your garden
- this makes your garden more interesting; it is never static but always changing
What Plant to Choose?
- perennials prefer specific growing conditions so the easiest way is to look at your space, then choose your perennials
- Things to think about: light conditions, soil conditions, space (width and height) available, time commitment
- What colours do you like? Colours are personal choices. Some people like colours to match or contrast their house...others like their gardens to have only one or two colours. There is no right or wrong...it's your garden!
- start to put the colours into combinations. Remember your eye will always be drawn to the highest contrast. For example; purple with chartreuse green, yellow and blue, or try something different like orange (2012 colour of the year) and hot pink
- since perennial plants don't flower all summer, take a look at the foliage, some have interesting colours or textures
- when purchasing a plant, think of where the plant is going. It is best to group plants together to get the maximum enjoyment of the flowers. Plant is groups of odd numbers. Remember one plant is a focal plant, three is a nice grouping while 5 and 7 is more massing and is enjoyed from a distanceSuccession of Bloom
- it's hard to believe that most perennials only bloom for 2-4 weeks each year, some in spring, some in fall with many blooming throughout the summer
- the key is to have a plant starting to flower as another plant is finishing
- when visiting the garden centre, avoid buying all your plants that are in bloom that day, talk to our staff for recommendations for what would grow (and flower) the best in your conditions
- read the tags to make sure you are getting the right plant for the space
- be sure to visit our display gardens to get a sense of how the perennials work together in different combinations
- our website tracks the different blooms through the seasons so even the 'armchair gardeners' can appreciate the changing colours of our display gardens!
Planting Your Garden
- prepare your garden by removing existing sod or weeds and improve soil quality by adding triple blend soil and organic matter like compost
- grasp the base of the plant securely, turn the pot upside down, and gently slide out the moistened rootball
- if the roots appear thickly entangled or tightly wound around the base of the soil ball, loosen them gently with your fingers
- place in the planting hole and pack triple blend soil tightly around roots and water well every two to three days for 1 month
- use bonemeal or Parkwood Transplanter 5-15-5 at planting time to encourage production of new roots
- mulch the garden to help keep the roots moist ensuring that the mulch doesn't touch the plant stems
Keeping Your Garden Looking Beautiful
- remove the weeds especially with new plantings
- remove the spent blooms (deadheading) to encourage more flowering
- prune back perennials if they start to look ragged after flowering
- stake any tall perennials and tie the stems as they grow
- keep an eye for any pests and diseases and treat them as soon as discovered
- divide the perennials when the middle starts to thin in the early spring or late fall (about 3-4 years)...see Gardening Tip below
Cut the Perennials back in the Fall or Spring?
- this is really a personal opinion
- before you cut back the perennials in the fall, consider leaving some up for winter interest, especially grasses or plants with interesting seedheads
- some perennials such as coral bells don't need to be cut back, just a little tidying up in the spring
Keep it Fun!
- plants grow and will perform better one year than another depending on the weather
- it is helpful to keep notes to remember when it was planted and how it does from year to year
- if a perennial does well in your garden, consider purchasing more and add more groupings around the garden
- be sure to add spring flowering bulbs to maximize the colour through your garden. This year has been exceptional...when have we seen tulips blooming at the beginning of June before!?! (Don't forget...bulbs arrive at Dufferin Garden Centre for Labour Day Weekend)
- sometimes perennials can be overwhelming, not to fear...we can help! Our staff is here to answer any questions.
Looking for plant ideas? Check out our photo galleries
to see what's in bloom at the Dufferin Garden Centre.Additional Planting InformationThe Benefits of Mulch
Do you know another gardener who might enjoy this article?