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What is a Perennial?

September 1, 2009

For beginning gardeners, the plant world can seem fraught with confusing, and often hard to pronounce, terminology. Fortunately, and I think most plants would agree with me, it isn't necessary to commit a large number of gardening terms to memory in order to successfully grow something. That said, your chances of growing plants successfully increase when you know a little something about their life cycle. Here's what you need to understand about ìperennials.î

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What Exactly Is A Perennial?

Perennials are those plants that spring up in the garden faithfully year after year by way of roots, rhizomes, bulbs, corms, or tubers. They live for at least three or more growing seasons. This means that trees and shrubs are technically perennials. Growing perennials requires a bit of patience, because when grown from seed they take about three years to really get going in the garden. As the saying goes, the first year they sleep (put their energy into becoming established), the second they creep (this is usually when they flower for the first time), and the third they leap (really take off and grow large enough to divide).

Examples of perennials include bleeding heart, purple coneflower (echinacea), aster, irises, tulips, peonies, and hosta.

Types of Perennials

The Low Maintenance Myth

Many gardeners dream of a maintenance-free garden filled with nothing but masses and waves of colorful perennial flowers. Unfortunately, most will never realize this dream, because having a maintenance-free perennial garden is a myth. A garden filled with perennials can require just as much maintenance, sometimes more, than a garden of annuals. To look their best, plants in perennial gardens need to be protected from insects and disease, fed and watered, weeded and sometimes deadheaded, and many need to be divided every 3-5 years to prevent over-crowding.

Pros and Cons of Growing

Advantages Of Growing Perennials:

Disadvantages of Growing Perennials:

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