Perennials are a favorite among many gardeners because they are planted once and enjoyed for years. For the uninitiated, some well-known examples of perennial flowers are roses, hydrangeas, begonias, carnations, clematis, crocus, and narcissus. Many kinds of bulbs are also perennials. To keep your perennials returning for years and years is the best case scenario, but that doesn’t always happen though. That’s because proper steps weren’t taken to ensure the health and longevity of the plants.
What can you do to ensure your perennial flowers (or plants) stay alive for as long as possible? Follow these simple tips for growing perennials successfully, so next year (and all the following years) your landscape will be filled with colorful flower blooms on healthy plants.
Feed the Soil
Perennials are greedy plants that need a lot of water and food during the growing season. Get them off to a good start, plus save time and future work, by feeding the soil before planting the perennials.
Till the soil to a depth of at least 18 inches. Apply 2 – 4 inches of organic compost on top of the tilled soil and broadcast 1 cup of slow-release granulated fertilizer per 4 foot square section of garden and lightly till once again. This will create a nutrient-rich medium for the perennial flower to grow in and provide enough food to keep them growing strong all season.
In the ensuing years, keep the soil fertile by applying a 2-4 inch layer of organic compost on top of the soil each fall when plants go into dormancy. Each spring, apply a side dressing of slow-release granulated fertilizer and a fresh layer of mulch.
Lots of Water
Perennials are extremely thirsty during their first growing season, so never let the soil dry out. Provide lots of water for the plants and add a 2-4 inch layer of mulch around the plants to help retain soil moisture and prevent the growth of weeds. Here are some watering principles.
Deadheading and Cutting Back
Removing the dead, dried blooms from plants is called ‘deadheading’. It encourages the plant to produce more blooms instead of using its energy to make seeds. Cutting back a perennial by one-half in mid-summer and giving it a dose of water soluble plant food will keep the plant growing vigorously and producing flowers until the frost comes.
Ground-covers can be clipped and shaped as desired to encourage a second round of blooms. Always feed and water the perennials each time they are cut back.
Over-crowded flower beds or poorly producing plants need to be divided so plants can have more space to grow. Lack of space resulting in root competition will weaken all the plants in the bed and some will not survive the winter. To divide perennials, dig up the entire flower clumps and slice in half or quarters with a sharp spade. Re-plant one clump where it originally was located, and then re-plant the remaining clumps elsewhere.
Spring blooming perennials should be divided in late summer after blooming is completed. Summer blooming perennials should be divided in spring or fall and fall blooming perennials should be divided in spring.
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