Growing Perennials

Growing perennials is a rewarding gardening experience, as they continue to come up and provide beautiful color year after year. This is a guide about growing perennials.

deadheading lilies.
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Man watering perennial bed with a watering can

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:

  • While seeds are germinating and during the seedling stage.
  • Immediately after transplanting.
  • When planted on slopes and in south-facing beds.
  • During extended periods of heat and drought.
  • In the late fall, just prior to freeze up.


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!)

Creating a Maintenance Schedule

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.

Weekly Tasks

Take a few minutes each day to walk outside and enjoy your flower beds. Once each week, take along a bucket with a hand trowel, scissors, and a pair of pruning shears and spend a few minutes taking care of some routine tasks:
  • Remove dead flowers.
  • Pull weeds.
  • Remove bad bugs and treat for any diseases that have appeared during the past week.
  • Stake any flowers that look as though they need support.
  • Water as necessary.

Monthly Tasks

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.

  • Reassess your watering as the weather changes. Give your flower beds more water during hot weather, less during cool weather.
  • Cut each perennial back by about a third when it stops blooming to shape plant's growth and encourage a second flush of flowers.
  • Apply fertilizer as scheduled.
  • Add more mulch as necessary.
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Perennials For BeginnersIf you're new to planting flowers, you might want to plant perennials. They'll bloom every year without you having to replant them. So make the most of your planting time and dollars.

By T.H.

Shasta Daisy And Self Seeding Annuals

An easy perennial to grow and enjoy is the Shasta Daisy. I bought a small plant in a pot at Walmart a couple years ago for about $3.00. It blooms from late spring way into summer. Mine is budding right now and should be blooming in a matter of a few days. It just keeps growing bigger, so can be divided. I believe I can divide mine this fall into 4 new smaller plants. Once it starts to bloom, just remove the spent blossoms when they are no longer pretty.

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.

By Harlean from Arkansas

Ask Neighbors And Know Your Zone

Buy and get for free the perennials you see and like from neighbors and friends who are splitting up perennials from their flowerbeds. They can tell you how it grows for them and the water conditions the plant likes and the amount of sun the plant needs each day. You will also get a perennial that will be hardy for your area.

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.

By valleyrimgirl


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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.

Designing with perennials

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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

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I think it depends on what zone of the US you live in. Try a website that sells flowers and there will be a link that shows the zone number of your state.

I live in Houston, TX USA and I think I'm zone 9 or 10 - I never can remember, but the site should show you what will thrive in your particular zone. Good luck!

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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

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Hello, I live in the US, but your post caught my eye because the name of your town is my maiden name. lol Also, I have a very similar area in the front of my house. YOur situation is somewhat different than mine however, my shady housefront is in a rural wooded area. Somehow I feel your shaded front area is either city or suburban. For this reason, I wouldnt plant any woodland plants there ,but lean more heavily toward the rugged shade plants that you might find. YOu may even want to see what is native to your country. Also, the bricks you mentioned may create a little microclimate in your yard. Any brink, macadem, or concrete absorbs heat and creates an effect that is almost like a little oven. So look at this area and try to notice what you have. Does the street get lots of sun? These are the types of questions you might need to ask yourself.

If you want to plant annuals, I suggest pansies as they do well for me. Pansies appear to be quite hardy. They even grow in some snow. Also, there are begonias, coleus, and impatients.

I prefer to plant perennials. For your situation, I think ajuga is a good shorter plant. It gets a bad rap. But your area is contained and it will work for you. It have lovely leaves that are sorta evergreen and they turn burgundy in the fall.

In the spring it get lovely purple flowers. I also grow lamium. I have Beacon Silver which has silver colored leaves that seem to glow in the dark. They show up nicely in the shade. In the spring Beacon Silver gets pink flowers that are quite showy imho. Lamium imho isnt quite as tough as ajuga, but like I said it grows here. Lamium is another groundcover short plant.

You will need some medium tall plants for the middle area of your garden. I use lady's mantle for htat. The flowers are chartreuse and tiny. But the leaves are very showy. Water beads up on them. They look like a lady's stole or mantle. If they get ragged looking, you can cut them off and they grow back quickly. This is a reblooming perennial so it blooms all summer. Again, its tough.

Its almost impossible to get anything to bloom in full shade. There are different types of shade. So again, I think the most important thing you can do is observe the area you have to see what is happening there.

I hesitate to mention daylilies because I'm afraid its too dark there for them. But you might want to plant them on the partly shady area. I prefer the newer reblooming varieites. The one I'm thinking of is called Happy Returns and is yellow. imho yellow is a good color for shade as it stands out and looks sunny.

Frankly, I'd look for anything that has a silvery or yellowish leaf. I think foliage may be your friend. Check online to see what hostas might have that characteristic. Hostas can be tough enough for your situtaion. I think the ones with yellowish leaves need more sun than the green, white, or silver so plant accordingly.

I cant think right now of a tall plant that you might be able to use. Foxglove is bi annual. My mind envisions it in a woodland setting, however. But you can try it. YOu might be able to grow liatris which is spikey. I think your area is too dark for liatris though.

I'd plant the area full with no spaces between the plants. If you plan for it to all grow together, it will look lush and full. I think that in itself might make it showy as you want. I know how you feel because I have full shade created by an overhang in the front of my house. So mine is not only very dark and faces North, but its dry as well. lol... I am sure if you search for plants with variegated foliage you'll be quite surprised at what you can achieve. foliage might be your best friend.

warmest regards,

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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.

Front Yard Perennials

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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.

Perennial Flowers in Yard

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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

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I have a long narrow garden beside my house. It gets sun in the morning and mostly shade in the afternoon. I am looking for perennials to put in it. Any suggestions?

Hardiness Zone: 7a

Peggy from Springboro, OH


Hostas really love the shade and come in many varieties. Bleeding hearts like semi shade and seem to do very well. (see photo attached)
If you live near a wooded area (as I do) the ferns are just coming up, and now is a good time to dig up ferns and transplant them in a shaded area. I have several varieties, some get up to 3 feet tall.
Most gardeners love to share there plants by giving "clippings" spring is the perfect time, ask a friend or neighbor if they mind sharing. Usually a clump of new growth the size of your palm/hand is big enough to get started. Have fun and good luck (04/14/2008)

By Annie


Help Choosing Perennials

One of my personal favorites is the Astilbe. Forget-me-nots, liriope, and lilies are others to consider. Have fun with your garden. (04/14/2008)

By shopping_addiction_woman

Help Choosing Perennials

Try for whole garden ideas. They have everything planned and you can get some really good ideas. (04/14/2008)

By Glenn'sMom

Help Choosing Perennials

I've had great success with bleeding hearts and lilies of the valley in those conditions. The lilies took several years to get established but then they spread and produced thousands -- and they smell divine! (04/15/2008)

By perfume and powder

Help Choosing Perennials

Bleeding Heart, Lily of the Valley, Hostas, Begonia, Impatients, Peony, Pansies, Lambs Ear, Columbine, Bugbane, Cyclamine, Day lilies, Foxglove, Jacob's Ladder, Bee Balm,
Stargazer Lilies. (05/02/2008)

By Mythi

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Home and Garden Gardening Growing PerennialsAugust 23, 2012
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