A Complete Guide to Planting Perennials

A Complete Guide to Planting Perennials

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With the immensely wide range of colors, sizes, and forms available, Perennial plants are the small-scale (and a few large-scale) landscaping options that bring bursts of color all growing season, extreme hardiness and adaptation to heat and cold, and vital nectar and pollen to beneficial insects all over the entire US!

Regardless of the niche location you need to fill with an easy-care plant, there’s no doubt a Perennial perfect for it! No matter where you live or how much room you have available - there’s a low-maintenance and nearly fuss-free Perennial for you!

Planting perennials is easier due to their size than shrubs and trees, but do require just a bit of extra care than planting annuals. When planting, many factors must be taken into consideration to ensure long plant life and year after year of growth and bloom.

Selecting the Right Perennial Plants

Planting any Perennial, Tree, or Shrub in the right location (or rather selecting the right plant for that location) is first and foremost the most important part of having a long-lived, easy-care, planting perennials in full sun and healthy plant!

The first factor to take into consideration is the location. Head over to our growing zone map and find yours, this is the first step in narrowing down the perfect Perennials for your area. To check which plants can survive in each region, you can enter your zip code to see your USDA Plant Hardiness Zone. Read the Plant Highlight Facts on each product page before deciding which perennials will work best for each location of the garden.

Then, have a walk through your garden or watch the sun, see how long your location for your Perennial is in the full sun, or how much part sun it may have.

From there, you can further toggle the mature width of the plants you’ve narrowed down after measuring your space to make sure you have adequate room for their mature size. Overcrowding leads to many issues including poor growth due to nutrient and moisture competition and can lead to leaves having poor air circulation and powdery mildew problems. Too small and the plants will look out of place and your bed looks unfinished and sparse.

Finding the mature height of your Perennial helps know where in the bed to place it. The tallest and largest Perennials should be planted in the middle of circular beds, planting arrangementsdiverse perennial flower bed that will be viewed from all angles, or in the back of rows and border gardens. While the smallest plants should be on the edges and outskirts. Midsized plants can be mixed and matched anywhere in between.

Soil type may also be a factor, dig about a foot down in your location and see if the water pools, if it's soggy or sandy, rocky or very sandy and dry. You can always add topsoil and compost, to an area to improve its soil quality and increase the drainage, but also to create a bit of interest by raising up the area a bit. Usually, 18-24 inches higher does the trick. 

Most Perennials are in that mid-range of well-drained soil. For xeric and hot/dry climates, choose drought-tolerant Perennials

You can find drainage quality by pouring a bucket of water into that hole you’ve dug and seeing how fast it drains away. You might want to do it a few times in a row if it’s been dry in your area for a while. 

  • If it drains immediately away fast, you may have very arid, sandy, xeric, or rocky soil.
  • If it drains well and soaks in after a few minutes, you should have pretty good drainage
  • If it sticks around a while and is pooling still after an hour, or has a lot of clay, then you have poor drainage that can negatively affect most Perennials that aren’t adapted to this type of condition. Find plants suited for clay soil or love higher moisture locations.

The last step for selecting a Perennial is to know when you want it to bloom. This way you can plan out a garden with flowers and color (for fragrance, for cutting gardens, or for butterfly gardens) throughout each different part of the growing season.

Then the hard part is choosing just one of the many options that will still pop up for you! You can toggle between colors, and if the plants are Native Perennials, or find Perennials that can resist deer and rabbits. Maybe you are in a hurry for color? Check out these Quick-Growing Perennial options too!

Best of all, you can find the perfect perennial for winter interest, seeds for birds, or plenty of pollen and nectar for your butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds too! Don’t forget to check out Perennial Ornamental Grasses for easy-care winter interest and fine-textured landscape movement.

Planting Perennials

Now comes the fun part! Planting your garden! Now that you’ve selected and ordered your Perennials and had Nature Hills ship them to your doorstep at the proper planting time, you’resenior woman holding flowers in a garden ready to get them ready to plant!

Depending on the time of year, especially early spring and late fall, perennials may arrive looking… well… dead. But rest assured they are not! That pot of dirt with some stubble during these times of the year is just how Perennials look (and will look in your landscape too) during their dormant season. 

Depending upon when your order delivers, be careful that fresh new growth in early spring may be susceptible to frost if your area is still seeing cold temperatures.

Preparing and Planting New Perennials

  1. Unbox and inspect your new plants. Remove any dead or broken leaves (don’t worry, they’ll grow new oneselderly woman planting a perennial garden really fast!) and get them into a shaded, protected location while you prepare their site.
  2. Overnight or up to an hour before planting, set your Perennial pots (pot and all) into some water in a bucket or pail and submerge them to fully hydrate the entire root ball. Remove them and let them drain in the shade. Never leave potted plants in the full sun at arrival.
  3. Carefully remove them from their nursery pots, sometimes squeezing the sides gently, or poking up through their drainage holes helps dislodge them. Inspect those roots and try to keep the soil ball as together as possible. Container-grown Perennials can easily produce many roots in the pots so take a bit of time to loosen the soil and spread the circling roots out even pruning off some if needed.
  4. Sit them into the planting hole and ensure the top of their soil is level with the ground around them (the hole can be larger than its width no problem) and fill the hole withmulching perennials - hostas the plant in it, with water. If it drains fast, do it again. It is very important not to plant your new perennial too deep so be sure to check that it is no deeper than it was growing in the pot.
  5. Sprinkle in Nature Hills Root Booster for life-long beneficial fungus symbiotic support!
  6. Then backfill with soil and pat them in firmly. Water in again to remove air spaces and help the soil settle. Repeat until it's nice and level and no longer drains fast or settles.
  7. Top with 3-4 inches of arborist mulch and or compost.

That’s it! You’ve planted your Perennial! Now continue with the rest, spacing them apart their mature width, and check back each day! Our horticultural staff recommends using the ‘finger test’watering new soil after planting method for daily water checks at the start. That’s where you literally poke a finger into the soil a few knuckles deep and see if it feels moist or feels dry. If it's dry - water. If it's moist - check back that afternoon or the next day. It is crucial to test often at the start until the plant starts making new roots in your soil when it can start finding water on its own and become less dependent on you for water.

You’ll want to keep new installations moderately but consistently moist through their first growing season - whether that is through their first summer for spring-planted perennials, or through all of autumn and then their first summer for fall-planted Perennials

Have you ever heard the garden saying regarding establishing perennials: “The first year they sleep, the second year they creep,planting perennial - lavender and the third year they leap”? Newly planted perennials may produce smaller or fewer blooms than typical flowering in their first growing season, due to the necessity of strengthening the root system for the coming winter. 

Sometimes, while heartbreaking, it may be best for the health of your new Perennial to nip off any buds that first year so all the energy goes to the roots and root establishment. A few blooms won’t hurt it though, just give it the TLC needed to support them every step of the way!

Perennials in Pots

Many perennials can thrive in containers and planters, so even if you don’t have a landscape! Your porch, patio, balcony, or even rooftop garden can still enjoy the varied sights and smells of Perennials! Select reblooming perennials for your containers for more impact!

  • Ensure you have a container large enough to support the size and moisture needs of your plant's mature height and width.
  • Use a moisture-holding planting medium or soil and top with 3-4 inches of mulch.
  • Ensure your pot or container has very good drainage holes.
  • Place full-sun perennials and mixed plant pots where they can get a bit of relief from the sun in the afternoons.
  • Weigh down or secure pots on decks and windy porches.
  • Water daily, sometimes twice daily in the heat of summer. Ensuring you’ve completely saturated the entire root ball. Very dry plants can sometimes have all the water run down the sides before they can soak in and look limp by the afternoon. You may consider submerging these into buckets of water to fully rehydrate at least once a week during the worst of the summer heat.
  • Move potted perennials to a protected location for the winter to keep the elevated roots from freezing, sometimes even moving them into a garage or shed for extra protection. (don’t let them completely dry out, and don’t let them warm up too much. You can also bury the pot into the ground and top it with mulch or clean leaf litter to provide extra winter protection and insulation. Or just dig up your potted Perennial and replant it into the ground for the fall and winter.

Fall Perennial Prep

As mentioned, Perennials do go dormant after the first frost or cold snap, while others just take a break during the winter even if you live where the snow doesn’t fly. Once the foliage of yourpruning peonies Perennial begins to yellow at the end of the growing season, you can either lop it off just a few inches above the ground or leave some of the stems up for winter interest and bird food.

Remove any yellowed or dead leaves by pruning them back to a few inches in the fall. Including any that had leaf spots, mildew or disease problems of any kind. Cut them down to the ground after the frost has killed off the tops of the plants, bag them up, and remove them from your yard for best sanitation practices.

One type of Perennial that does need to be trimmed down in early fall each year are Peonies, which can get mildew and botrytis. Cut every Peony stem to the ground and bag them up for removal. 

pruning a daylily

This can eliminate the carryover of the problems that might re-infect the plants the following spring. Another is Daylily foliage. Gently pull away or prune to the ground to avoid issues next year. Cover the tops of these perennial plants with a 3-4 inch pile of mulch and/or clean shredded leaves.

Leaving the stems and seed pods intact over the winter helps wildlife and your landscape a lot! Any branches and seed pods that remain will catch and hold the snow in an ornamental way if left until spring.

Leaf litter and dormant plants provide:

  • Winter interest
  • Seeds for birds & winter protection/cover/shelter
  • Hollow stems are nests for solitary bees and beneficial insects dried coneflower seedheads
  • Egg cases and cocoons of over-wintering pollinators & beneficial bugs
  • Cover and food for songbirds
  • Free insulation in the form of fallen leaves & leaf mulch
  • The tops of the Perennials catch the snow to insulate their crowns
  • Great composting material
  • Winter outdoor container décor and indoor dried botanical arrangements

Perennial Presentation!

beautiful blooming perennial garden

So now that the planting season is upon us, get your order in for your favorite new Perennials at Nature Hills Nursery before they sell out! Quantities are limited and we sell out of fan favorites and garden standards fast.

Add color and sparkle to your landscape with the dizzying array of Perennial plant options that will beautify your yard and garden this year!

Happy Planting!

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