What are Perennials?
Perennials as opposed to annuals, are long-lived plants, that once planted will return year and year and delight with their resilience. Herbaceous perennials die back fully to the ground each year and then resprout from the base of the plant. Despite the visible, above-ground portion of the plant dying, the underground root structure remains very much alive, and it is form this that plants are able to regrow.
Perennials are Low Maintenance
Luckily for us gardener’s perennials require far less care than annuals. Why? Because the extensive root systems of perennials do not only guarantee their longevity, but it also allows plants to be more independent and fend for themselves. Plants are more drought resistant and do not require regular watering once established. Deeper root systems mean plants can extend their reach deep into the soil, searching for moisture and then store moisture more efficiently. Be sure to keep perennials well- watered until they become established, generally this means the first year but it can include the second year, based on the weather.
Perennials also do not require the regular fertilizer input as annuals do. Annuals invest all their energy into blooms and it takes a lot of fertilizer to achieve optimum bloom output. Perennials do not invest all their energy into blooms as they also use energy for root and plant growth, and very importantly overwintering. Perennials are therefore not as fertilizer intensive. Applying a good quality compost, or adding some organic, slow-release fertilizer when planting is sufficient.
Do you want Continuous Bloom?
Because perennials do not bloom from spring to autumn, achieving a continuous bloom throughout the seasons requires a little forward planning. Simply choose a selection of plants with different bloom times (early-mid-late) to ensure color and interest in your garden. In fact, perennials provide a whole new layer of interest as blooms, colors and plants keep changing throughout the growing season. If you are new to gardening with perennials or feel a little unsure, one of our qualified staff members will be happy to advise you. And be aware that some perennials are indeed very long bloomers; i.e. Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia).
What is the ‘New’ Fall Cleanup?
Traditionally perennials have been faithfully cut to the ground each autumn, leaving beds tidy and ready for winter. Lately more and more people are waiting until spring to cut their plants, but why? We now understand that many of our beloved butterflies actually overwinter in the hollow stems of perennials and in amongst leaf litter at the base of plants. Removing all this plant material wipes out next year’s generation of butterflies and many other beneficial insects. By changing something so simple as
carrying out our ‘fall’ cleanup in early spring, we can ensure the survival of butterflies, ladybugs, fireflies, predatory lacewings and more. An ideal time for cleanup is when new growth is emerging from perennials, simply be sure to cut several inches above the new growth to avoid any damage.
Advantages of a Spring Cleanup
- Provides extra winter protection for the crowns of perennial plants
- Thermal insulation minimizes freeze and thaw of plants
- Reduces upheaval of new plantings
- Reduces soil runoff and erosion
- Ensures the survival of many species of native butterflies, ladybugs, fireflies and more
Dividing and Transplanting
Some perennials, once fully matured, respond well to periodic division, including Iris, Daylily, Hosta, Sedum, Penstemon, Phlox, Rudbeckia and Yarrow. Division helps keep plants in a juvenile state and thereby avoids woodiness and a decrease in flowers. As a general rule if your perennials are performing well, there is no need for division unless plants are becoming too large. Division is also a great method for propagating perennials and gaining more plants for yourself or friends and family.
At Pesche’s we have an entire area dedicated to shade perennials, so all those gardeners with a lack of of sun in their gardens, now too can choose from a fantastic range of plants! Gardening in a shady
location does not mean gardeners are restricted to a few foliage plants and flowers are a mere dream. If well planned, even a shade garden can boast continuous color and interest throughout the seasons. One of our qualified members of staff will be happy to help select the ideal plants that meet your conditions and preferences.