Proper care of perennials in the garden

Even though not all perennials are so long lived, in order to be called a perennial a plant must have the ability to come back for at least two consecutive years.  This longevity makes perennials a great choice for gardeners.

Even though perennials are generally very hardy, it is still important to get them off to the right start, and to provide them with the care they need to grow and thrive.

Choosing the most healthy perennials is the first step.  Most perennials are purchased in either four inch containers or one gallon containers, depending on the size and quantity purchased.  In addition, some mail order and internet sources of perennials ship their plants as bare root plants. Wherever you buy them, however, it is important to care for them properly, both before, during and after they are planted.  Doing so is the best way to ensure a garden full of beautiful plants year after year.

Most types of perennials like soil that is rich in organic matter.  Therefore, it is important to have your soil analyzed, and amended if necessary, before using it for your perennial bed.  Soils that do not contain sufficient nutrients should be enriched with compost, aged manure or other organic materials.

Even though it is best to provide most perennials with a rich organic soil, a surprising number of perennials are able to live well in poorer quality soils.  Even though they can grow in poor soil, however, they will provide better blooms if the soil is enriched.

Sunlight is also important to perennials, with many varieties doing very well in full sunlight, while other varieties do better in partial shade or filtered sunlight, especially in a hot climate.  It is important to consider the need for sunlight when planning your perennial garden.

The needs for water also differ among varieties of perennials.  While some perennials prefer large amounts of water, other varieties can get along with little water.  In addition, most varieties of perennials do best with an annual feeding.  This annual feeding can consist of either working the organic materials in the regular soil in the spring or fall or by using a good quality fertilizer.  When using fertilizer, it is best to fertilize in the springtime.  

When buying perennials, it is important to take into account how large the plant will grow at maturity, and therefore to provide enough space for the adult plants to grow.  Some perennials can grow to heights in excess of seven or eight feet so it is important to determine how large that tiny seedling will grow when you plant it.  Planting the seedlings with the adult dimensions of the plant in mind will save you lots of headaches in the future.

Since perennials come back year after year, it is important to trim and prune them properly during and after each growing season.  The process of deadheading, or removing spent flowers, is important to keeping a perennial garden blooming season after season.  Removing spent blossoms will encourage more growth and keep the plants at their healthiest.

Trimming and pruning can also make the perennial garden more attractive.  It is a good idea to cut back the stems and foliage by a third at the end of each growing season.  This trimming will provide for a round of new growth when the new season takes hold.