Perennial Plants 101

Posted by Tammy Sons on Jul 19, 2022

How to Start a Perennial Flower Garden

Starting your perennial garden is a rewarding task, but you need to know the proper way to prepare it to get the most out of it. These expert tips will not only help you develop nutrient-rich soil for your garden, but they will also help take the guesswork out of selecting your very first plants. So, let's get started.

How to Prepare Soil

Once you have decided on an area in your yard where you would like to showcase your thriving garden, use a shovel to turn the grass over; Once the sod is turned over, go through the sod pieces to separate the dirt from the grass leaving only the dirt. Save the grass pieces for organic compost.

Next, you want to dig about 12" to 18" down into the dirt. Remove the dirt from the hole and place it on the side or front of the hole. Continue digging down the length of your garden. Once you have removed the dirt, mix the right amount of compost mixture into the hole. That will help provide a nutrient-rich base for your garden as well as keep the ground from sinking.

Now, dump the fresh dirt on top of the composted dirt. Use a fork to mix the dirt thoroughly. The dirt should be moist and crumbly to the touch. If it is too complicated or clumps like clay, mix it with sand to soften it up. If it is too dry, mix peat moss into the dirt to moisten it up.

Selecting Your Plants

To begin your garden, you should first know the climate and the season of your plants, then select your plants accordingly. Begin with natural growing plants such as shade or sun perennials; they bloom year after year and are easy to maintain. Start with the focal point of your garden or the place you want to draw the eye. For example, your focal point could be a fountain, a bench, a pond, or a vibrant perennial such as the Liatris or purple rain.

Now, balance your garden with the focal point being the heaviest. Perennials such as the hosta provide a beautiful background for your garden, while easy-to-grow plants such as the perennial geranium offer an excellent ground cover. Lastly, don't forget the border to separate your garden from the lawn or other elements. An easy-to-grow plant such as thyme provides a bright, greenish-yellow border year-round.

Remember, your garden is a living, thriving thing, so sustain it with care.

Perennials Versus Annuals

When it comes time to formulate your garden, just about every gardener grapples with the idea of which type of plant they should plant and should they use annuals or perennials; How about both? Annuals and perennials are on the opposite spectrum of each other, correct indeed, but blended for their purpose; they can make a beautiful pairing in your garden.

What is an Annual Plant?

An annual plant blooms bright and showy plants all season long. However, annuals die out every year. That means they will usually have to be replanted the following year. For this reason, annuals tend to be a bit easier to maintain and cheaper to purchase than perennials. Some annuals are loving or self-nurturing, meaning they seed by themselves, which means you will have new flowers the following year without replanting them. But, they will grow in a different place because of the seeding process than where you originally planted them.

What is a Perennial Plant?

Perennials live for a decade or more. They are planted from a bulb or a seed then perennials reproduce for years to come. Bulbs are often planted in the fall, then produce beautiful, blooming plants in the spring. You also have the option of purchasing flowering plants from the nursery, which will help ensure healthy, more vibrant colors of perennials and perhaps a more extensive selection of plants.

Using Annuals and Perennials Together

Annuals are considered the "all-stars" of the garden. They have a limited time to shine, so they use their time wisely by filling it with outstanding growth and show-stopping blooms. Simultaneously, perennials are slow to bud but have a longer time to reach their potential. If the annuals don't reseed and come back the following year, the perennials are there to save the day. Use annuals in the garden during the down times when perennials are slow to bloom, and use perennials just in case the annuals don't reseed. This way, you can ensure your garden is always thriving. 

Some annuals such as Browalia and Saphire flowers, sun or shade are preferred, and some perennials such as campanula, cottage pinks, and foxgloves. Both plants make tremendous garden floral or fragrant, cut flowers for gift giving or to brighten up your home.

Before You Begin

Before you decide to begin the planting, there are a few things planter must do. For starters, planters must research what type of perennials they want to grow (bulbs, mayapple, or Virginia bluebells, mayapple, and trillium are just a few). This step is vital because each plant bloom and reseed at a different time of the year. With that being said, planters should plant at different times of the year as well. Also, planters should purchase more seeds or plants than they need, this is in case some seed doesn't grow. Last but not least, planters should plant their seed in the looser soil so they can grow.

Arrangement

The arrangement of your garden depends on many factors, height, location, size, style, and many other factors.

Height

Gardeners should plant the tallest flower in the center or the back of the garden's location; they then will go down in elevation, planting the smallest plant on the outskirts of the garden site. The plant may not reach standard height if grown in poor soil.

Width

Width is equally essential as height; .gardeners should look at labels and not place complete plants next to small plants in diameter; the plant label will have width measurements.

Spacing

This step is also essential. Placing the plant one square ft apart is the joint space. Even, should plant the perennials the way they grow in the wild. Last but not least, planters should create an entire space but not a crowded space, planting slowing growing plants and plants with a short lifespan in the same area.

How To Choose

Location

The location of your garden will determine if it's a success. Planting in hard clay soil will bring different results than planting in the sandy area.

Hardiness Zone

Your geographical location will also determine what plants you can grow. Growers in the Southern U.S and Northern U.S. will more than likely grow different plants.

Color

Colonizing your garden can be a tricky task combined with the other factors in planting a perennial garden. As a gardener, you should plant color that complements each other, and avoid one particular color or a multitude of colors.

Vigor

Plants that have scored high on the vigor scale should be avoided; these plants may spread into areas where vigorous plants grow.

In closing, there are many more factors that must be considered in perennial gardening, water, fertilization, and shade, among many more. The examples that were used earlier bulbs, Virginia bluebells, mayapple, and trillium, will require different garden areas to survive. Check plant labels when planting your garden.