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Perennials- Garden Backbone

The Many Advantages of Planting Perennials

Perennial is a Latin word meaning "through the year," Perennial plants live throughout the year and return the next. These plants typically grow and bloom in the spring and summer, die back in the fall and winter, and return the following year to complete the process again. Perennials can be short-lived and only last for about two years or long-lived like trees.

How Perennials Work

Perennial plants have adapted unique structures, allowing them to survive through changing climates and return for the next growing season. Some of these structures include bulbs, tubers, and rhizomes. These structures protect the plant and act as a food source during times of drought or dormancy, and then when optimal conditions have returned, they provide the foundation for regrowth.

Benefits of Perennial Plants

The main benefit of perennials is that they don't have to be replanted yearly like annuals and biennials. Most flowering perennials have short bloom periods, so maintenance and pruning are less tedious than some annuals. When planted carefully and strategically, flower beds with perennials can have blooms all season long if one's blooming period ends as another begins.

Types of Perennials

Flowering Perennials

Flowering perennials produce flowers at some point in their blooming season. Examples of these are poppies, hibiscus, peonies, and daylilies. Many perennial fruits and vegetables also produce flowers, like strawberries, grapes, and eggplants.

Non-Flowering Perennials

Non-flowering perennials are primarily trees and shrubs. Evergreen plants typically fall into this category too. Some examples of non-flowering perennials are ferns, conifers, and shrubs, like the various types of boxwood hedges. Ferns can be used as flower bed fillers.

Both types of perennials can either be shade perennials or sun perennials. Shade perennials like ferns, hostas, and Virginia Blue Bells all need less sun exposure than most other plants to thrive. True shade perennials should have the least amount of sun exposure possible. Some species are classified as sun/shade; these plants can tolerate about 2 to 4 hours of direct sunlight daily. Sun perennials like reblooming daylilies, hibiscus, and perennial tulips all require at least 4 to 6 hours of direct sunlight daily.

How to Plant your Perennial Garden

  • Choose appropriate plants for your garden- shade or sun perennials depending on the amount of sun exposure, and types of plants depending on what you need-ground cover, background fillers, or flowering plants.
  • Prepare the soil. Make sure it has good drainage and is high-quality soil.
  • Plant your seeds or bulbs at appropriate times according to the recommendations for the specific plant and the planting zone in which you live.
  • Water properly to promote good deep-root development.
  • Fertilize regularly.
  • After perennials have bloomed, "deadhead" or remove the spent buds to promote regrowth.
  • To generate larger blooms, remove smaller buds so energy can be concentrated on the larger buds.
  • In the fall, remove dead leaves and foliage. Apply winter mulch to protect the roots or bulbs so that your plants will return next year!