To keep your perennial flowers healthy and looking their best all season long, you need to get in the habit of scheduling some routine maintenance. Here are some strategies for upkeep that require minimal effort, allowing you to spend more time enjoying your garden, and less time working in it.
Applying mulch is the single most effective way to save time and money in the garden. A few inches of organic mulch suppresses weeds, conserves water, helps maintains an even soil temperature, and adds a valuable layer of organic matter to the soil. Early in the season, choose organic mulch like chopped leaves, straw, pine needles, grass clippings, or shredded bark. Apply a few inches of mulch around plants leaving about an inch of space around the stem of each plant. If your mulch begins to break down and starts to look thin during the season, add a little more.
Make the phrase "more water, less often" your mantra for watering your perennial garden. Shallow watering makes for shallow roots, and when the soil surface dries out, so do the roots. Instead, allow water to soak deep into the soil. This encourages roots to grow deeper, which reduces the need for frequent watering. It's also helpful to build a rim of soil around plants to create a saucer-like depression that holds water. Perennials need watering most during the following times and in the following situations:
Keep the need for fertilizing to a minimum by starting with healthy soil. Beyond that, a light fertilization program is usually more than enough to carry perennials through the growing season. Use a high phosphorus organic fertilizer (e.g. 5-10-5) at 4 to 6 week intervals (or according to package directions) to promote healthy stems and flowers. Always water after applying fertilizer to clean fertilizer from the foliage and reduce the risk of burn. There are two basic types of fertilizers: granular fertilizers and water-soluble fertilizers. Granular fertilizers are usually slow-releasing - they feed plants slowly over a long period to time. Water-soluble fertilizers produce quicker results by rapidly releasing all of their nutrients. Either type is fine, but a granular fertilizer will require fewer applications (less maintenance!)
The easiest way get garden chores done in a timely fashion is to set up a schedule. A simple wall calendar will work well for managing your "to-do" lists and it's also a nice way to record what is happening in your garden (e.g. last frosts, first flowers, bird species, etc.) Don't worry about sticking to a rigid schedule. Nature is dynamic and forgiving. If you have to leave town for a week or two, your garden chores will happily wait until you get back.
In addition to your weekly gardening chores, a few jobs need attention once a month. You can work these tasks into your weekly routine, or allow yourself a little extra time once a month.
Many annuals will reseed themselves back, and come back every year. Some examples are Four 'o clocks. They will grow to about 3-4 feet high, and bloom all summer up to frost. You can collect the seeds and plant in other locations, also, but what drops to the ground will grow the next year. They come in various colors. I have "hot pink", but have seen them also in yellow and white. Portulaca is another self seeding annual. It also goes by the name Rose Moss. They spread out to fill in the bed and bloom all summer up to frost. Flower colors may vary, reds and yellows. Yet another is Periwinkle. They are usually white or pink. They are small plants and when they reproduce in the spring, may come in very thick and you can then thin and plant in other locations.
We live in a zone 3 here in southern Manitoba. I hate it when I go to the local Canadian Tire, Walmart, or Home Depot and they are selling zone 5 plants to unsuspecting customers. A new gardener would think that they, themselves, did something wrong when they planted it or watered it wrong, when the perennial does not come up next year, just as I did when I started to garden with perennials years ago. So, know your zone and ask about the perennial before you spend the money on it. How easy it is to grow, is it an invasive perennial, does it require a lot of water or sun, etc.
Not only do some retailers sell plants not hardy to your growing zone, many sell plants that for a number of reasons are not suited for your area. Two that come to mind are strawberries and figs. When you see these plants for sale, be sure to check with your local AG agent to determine which varieties do best in your area.
With all of their colors, shapes, and textures, it's hard to imagine designing a garden without perennials. Here are some helpful suggestions for planning perennial beds and borders to help you get the most of these versatile plants.
We removed the turf from the postage stamps size areas of our lawn next to the house, and put in lots of stone and ground covers. Over the last few years, we have added many perennials along the odd wind chime and bubbler fountain. People driving by almost always look at our yard, especially in the summertime.
Looks so nice! you inspire me. I bought my house two years ago, no landscaping, and I feel inadequate for the task, but I can do postage stamp spaces one at a time!
I so much envy you. I just moved into a rental duplex that has a fairly large back yard. No shrubs, plants, or trees of any kind and I've trying to figure out what to do with it because I don't plan on moving for a long, long time. I want shade out there but if I plant a tree I'll be dead by the time it's large enough. LOL I'm 67. Does anyone have any other ideas? I'll plant some flowers but there are a lot of things that are poisonous to my puppy.
oh those flowers are sooo pretty, made me realize that "yes" this WInter isn't going to last forever..we're under a winter storm watch and suppose to get 6-8 inches of snow ,,here in Indiana..what a "bright " spot in my day you have made..thanks for sharing..
beauty in living..:))))))
To TRXBetty, Re; Your rental duplex sounds like a nice place in the backyard to put a gazebo or umbrellas and chairs for shade to drink lemonade under, maybe place some stepping stones going to the gazebo,; plant some climbing roses on a fence or arbor, mints like chocolate mint, spearmint, and other herbs and plants or shrubs that are safe for your puppy, a birdbath, a butterfly bath and water dish for your puppy, there are many varieties of plants for your area that you'd enjoy I think, we are never too old to enjoy living a little and besides you are still a spring chicken at 67, so plot and plan your way to a nice backyard retreat - do it a little at a time, you still have many years left to enjoy it I suspect.
Technically speaking, a perennial plant is a plant that has a life cycle lasting longer than 2 years. But for most gardeners, perennials are more like old friends. When given the proper care, we can look forward to seeing them return to the garden year after year.
My husband and I have a lot of flower gardens in the summer. I have around 250 day lilies that I have collected, and am still collecting more. As the leaves are falling, we take a leaf blower and pick them up, which chops them. Then, since they are light, we use these as mulch around our day lilies and other plants to winterize them. They protect the roots of the plants and it is cheaper and not as heavy as mulch.
I also have two tulip beds with about 400 tulips in them and we do the same thing. Our other perennials, which are hardy, do not need mulching.
By Lil from Beaver Falls, PA
Sounds beutiful, would love to see some pictures of your beds!!
I was thinking about using my mower,with a bag to pick up the leaves, mulch and put around my plants for winter, but was concerned about the little bit of grass clippings. Would they survive and leave me with a ton of weeds/grass in my flower beds???
I won't let my husband put the grass into the flower beds or gardens as that means more weeds for me. I do not put chemicals in my gardens or yards. He thought he was being helpful, I said see how helpful you are next spring in pulling the weeds out! I don't bed my gardens in the fall, in fact do more of a clean up in them, removing what I want out for the next spring, pitchfork over the soil and make sure to run the garden hose before the last freezes.
I have two large, brick flower beds. What can I plant that will come up every year. I plant every year about Mothers Day! The cost is just too much anymore. I love pretty colors and no work. After twenty years of planting I need help. Thank you for any help!
Hardiness Zone: 5a
NanaDebby from Indianapolis, IN
I live in central Missouri and I absolutely LOVE my Hardy Mums. I have a number of colors and I tend to split them up -- that is transplant a bit of the root to another location in the yard -- every spring. They look dead at end of winter, but the tops just need to be trimmed off. They will be bright green all summer and bloom in the Fall. They require almost no attention at all here in Missouri once they have taken root. I get a whole yard full out of a few plants after a couple of years of splitting them up.
If you want something that flowers continuously, try buying some "Flower Carpet Roses". I picked some up at the end of a season a few years ago, and they have gone crazy. They bloom all summer and into the fall (I had blooms until October and I'm from Michigan). They are very colorful and don't require much upkeep. I picked up more, but the ones that bloom the most are the pink and the coral. I get so many compliments on these roses!
If you want more information about Flower Carpet Roses, you can check out various websites.
I've copied the information from one website below. I've always picked them up at a local garden store, but you can also order online.
Flower Carpet Roses
For all those gardeners who love roses but have better things to do than spray, prune and fuss, Flower Carpet Roses were created. These low growing landscape roses bloom and bloom and bloom, providing brilliant swaths of color from late spring through fall. They are also some of the most disease resistant rose available anywhere.
Flower Carpet Roses offer lasting color, from bright accents in a section of the landscape, to a long curving border of horticultural technicolor. Equally at home in traditional borders, foundation plantings, along driveways and paths, and even in marginal embanked areas, these easy-care Carpet roses are the solution to dozens of landscaping scenarios. Choose your favorite color and add these beauties to your yard with full confidence that they'll look teriffic all season long. And for many, many seasons to come.
Please note: for reasons that nobody can explain Flower Carpet rose plants tend to vary in size by color each year. Some years the coral will be the largest plants and pink will be smaller, some years the yellow plants will be especially big and the red and white ones smaller. Please don't let this be the deciding factor for rose bushes you'll enjoy for years. All sizes grow quickly and the smaller ones will catch up in just the first season.
Daylillies, daffodils, iris, tall orange lillies, Stargazer lillies, zinnia (grown from seeds), tall sedums (fall color and butterflies), threadleaf coreopsis, shasta daisies, goldstrum rudbekia.
As you can tell I LOVE flowers and especially perennials. The above mentioned flowers are very easy to grow and will last for years. The zinnias are annuals, and you will have to replant from seeds each year, but the seeds are cheap. Be sure to prepare your soil well. Here in Kentucky we have alot of clay that dries like concrete in the summer. I go to the mulch place and get shredded bark (not cedar). I want something that will rot and feed my soil. I use that as a mulch, and then when it decays, I mix it into the soil and add more on top. It's much cheaper and better that buying bags of compost.
I have a raised, bricked flower bed running a partial length of our house. It is 15' long and 1.5' wide and sits in partial to full shade. It faces the street, so I'd like to plant something eye-catching, that might provide continuous color. I'm okay with planting a few annuals to add to the look, but would really like some suggestions for perennials to anchor this area. Thanks so much for your help!
Hardiness Zone: 4b
KMHL from Sutton, NE
I would contact a master gardener in your area or maybe your local university's extension program. Native plants to your area are going to do better than stuff that originally grew somewhere else. Another thing you could do is to walk around your neighborhood, looking for ideas.
We just bought a bunch of perennials at a Native plant sale that was set up by our city's Parks and Rec department. We have high hopes that they will spread and be low maintenance.
One other idea I had from your description would be Bearded Iris. I have some in my front flowerbed and it just keeps coming up, year after year. I supplement with some pansies or other colorful annuals and it looks awesome!
While you're choosing perennials, fill it up with nastirtiums. You can plant your perennials right into them, but in the meantime you get so much bang for the buck with those.
One word: HOSTA! Go to hostalibrary.org and look around and find some favorites. and then go to Jim's hosta or Naylor Creek nursery, or any of the other biggies who deal in hosta and you can have a ball designing your area and you will never have to plant again. There are huge hosta, showy hosta, different colored hosta, ruffled, you name and there's a hosta like it. They love shade and are hardy and practically care free. And they can really put on a show for your street side.
Susan in Omaha
Japanese Painted Ferns