Pretty Perennials

Pretty Perennials

Perennials make exceptional plantings for gardens, as they’ll typically come back every year, many times with very little maintenance.

Perennials like daffodils, hyacinths and tulips are the harbingers of spring, peeking out of the soil just as the season finally gets warmer. Summer’s crop of lilies and other showy blooms can line your deck or fence line nicely. Mums, false aster, Gaillardia (long-blooming blanket flower), and others may bloom well into the fall, giving you color until the frost takes its first bite, and sometimes beyond. Even when the winter’s chill crushes down, you can still rest easy knowing your perennials will be back to greet you the following year.

Choosing Perennials for Your Garden

“Gardeners choose their plants for all sorts of reasons,” says Vicky Leister of Pharo Garden Centre in Bethlehem. “Some for their length of bloom, others are looking to attract wildlife, such as birds and butterflies. Sometimes your choice by is limited by certain conditions in your garden.

Some aspects which are fairly easily altered are soil fertility, drainage or air circulation. A more difficult problem is light, too much or too little. There is a perfect perennial for every site, whether it is beating sun, stubborn shade or boggy corners.”

“Some of the most popular perennials at our garden center are coneflowers, garden Phlox, Daisies and like varieties, Daylillies, Black eyed Susans, and Salvias,” says Leister. “There are really great annual salvias, as well. Hummingbirds love them.”

Perennial Care Tips

Perennials are typically quite forgiving. Gardeners of all experience levels will likely enjoy the low levels of maintenance required to keep perennials in great shape. These plants should only be watered when they need water, with soil monitoring giving some insight.

Planting your perennials in the right part of your yard is important to ensure the plants receive the right amount of sunlight for their needs, as some prefer full sun while others my like partial or full shade.

“There is no hard and fast prediction of life span,” Leister says. “Too many factors influence longevity. Even the hardiest and healthiest plant can succumb to cold, too much or too little water, animals feasting on roots or tops, fungus, people or animals trampling and breaking vital parts, burning tissues with chemical fertilizers or insect sprays, and the list goes on. In a perfect world, perennials have the potential to live long lives.”

Gardeners of all experience levels will likely enjoy the low levels of maintenance required to keep perennials in great shape.

Most perennials fare best when planted directly in the ground, but it is possible to grow perennials in pots if you must, particularly if you plan to winter-over a plant that is not typically hardy in your zone. If you do opt to grow a perennial plant in a pot, be sure not to let it dry out during the winter, giving a little water here and there as needed. You may wish to bring the pot into your garage and monitor the soil’s moisture, or keep it in a part of your yard where it is protected. Once frozen, you want the perennial to stay frozen until it is time to slowly and gently thaw, preventing damage to root hairs and other ill effects.

“If a perennial is potted, the roots must be given additional protection from winter cold, (the roots being perched above the ground with only a limited quantity of potting mix surrounding them),” Leister says. “When planted in the ground, the soil provides continuous moisture and protection from constant freezing and thawing. If something is hardy to a particular zone, it may be that it’s not as hardy in a pot.”

Have a Little Fun

As you plan out your gardens and which perennials to include, keep in mind what you are hoping to achieve. You can coordinate different color schemes or work to simply achieve a long display of color all season long thanks to different blooms coming and going. When your perennials are spent after a couple of weeks of bloom time, you can still enjoy the green foliage throughout the rest of the
growing season.

Leister recommends keeping texture in mind as well as color. You can introduce finely textured plants as well as coarsely textured plants into your gardens for a dimensional effect that is pleasing to the eye. If you know what to look for, you might also be able to spot some seedpods toward the end of the season.

“Mostly, plants make their own hybrids by natural cross pollination,” she says. “It often takes an experienced eye to recognize a new plant or even more, one that has attributes worth preserving. By all means, give it a try. That is what gardening is all about, learning and having fun doing it.”

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