Gardening with perennials in the fall

GARDEN WITH PERENNIALS

June is Perennial Gardening Month, and if you’ve been wondering about how to garden with perennials, this article is for you. And really, every garden should have perennials in it — if evergreens are the backbone of the garden and annuals are the short-lived shining stars, perennials are the ever-dependent workhorses that pull everything together.

From choosing your perennials to knowing when to plant them, we’ve got all the information you need to get going.

What are perennials? While evergreens have the same form all year long, and annuals complete their life cycle in one 3-4 month season, perennials die back to the ground in the winter and return again each spring. Some perennials are short-lived up to 4 years, with others living for 15 years, and still others last a lifetime. Expect blooms for a couple weeks up to several months depending upon the type of perennial.

Which perennials are the best? This depends upon where you live. First, know your USDA Hardiness Zone, and then choose plants that are appropriate for it. It’s always a good idea to choose perennials that are either native or adapted to your area, and your County Extension Office likely has a list of those plants.

When do I plant them? Fall is the best time to plant nearly everything, but early spring is a second-best time. Always consult your County Extension Office or your trusted local garden center for the best times for your particular area, as each area or zone is different.

Where do I plant them? As with any other plant, the planting location in your garden depends upon each plant’s growing needs, so be sure to do your homework ahead of time. Some like full sun (coreopsis, many of the salvias, coneflower) but others demand shade (columbine, astilbe, Lenten rose). Pay attention to soil preferences as well, and be prepared to amend your soil with compost to give your perennials a good start.

How do I care for them? Perennials, on the average, require less water than annuals and vegetables. You’ll need to water them regularly until they are established, and then you can back off and simply water as needed. Each plant is different, though, so know its watering requirements to avoid stressing or rotting the plant. Mulch around your perennials to suppress weeds, and cut them back after your first freeze. The plant will look “dead” but no worries — the roots are still alive and well, and will generate new growth each spring.

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