What is a Perennial?
By definition, perennials are soft-stemmed plants that come back in the spring year after year. They differ from shrubs and tress in that they do not have woody stems. Popular perennials are Hostas, Coneflowers, Irises, Bleedinghearts & Daylilies, to name a few. Perennials are a favourite among many Gardeners; they can be lower maintenance than annuals and take less time to care for!

There is a perennial to suit every style, garden size, condition and climate: sun or shade, sand or clay, dry or moist, rock garden or cottage garden.

Perennial Sage (Salvia)

 

Planting

Once you have chosen your healthy plants, make a plan to plant them as soon as possible, though they can be held in their containers for a short period of time if you keep them well watered. To prepare the site before planting, make sure to weed the area thoroughly, and add soil amendments according to the plant label’s specific requirements. Most soil will benefit from additions of organic material such as compost or manure- spread a 2-4″ layer and mix it into the existing soil.

When is best to plant?

Perennials grown in containers can be planted successfully at anytime: spring, summer or fall.

SPRING is a cool and moist season that is perfect to promote healthy root growth so plants can strengthen for the summer heat.
SUMMER planting can be successful too as long as you water regularly when it is hot and dry.
AUTUMN can be a great time to plant in most areas as the soil is cool and moist once more. Getting fall-planted perennials or bulbs in the ground at least 6 weeks before the ground freezes is important.

Lakota Fire Coneflower (Echinacea)

Planting & Maintenance

Once you remove the plant from it’s pot, look closely at it’s roots. With your fingers, rough up the roots a bit before planting- this will loosen them from the ‘pot shape’ they have grown into and will force them to take strongly to your prepared soil.
Follow any specific planting instruction on the plant’s label (depth of planting, space, sunlight etc.)
Mulching is a key step to keep the plants’ roots moist and to suppress the growth of weeds. Shredded bark, wood chips, compost and straw are all good options for mulch. Be sure to taper the mulch around the base of the plant so not to bury it.
Water your plants right after planting, and follow a regular watering schedule. in wetter seasons in spring and fall, weekly watering may be sufficient. In the summer, when it is especially dry, they may need more frequent watering.
Fertilizing may not be necessary if your soil is somewhat decent, so do not overdo it! There are fertilizers to promote more blooms as well as more general purpose types (like 5-10-5). Ask your Ritchie’s Expert!

Weeding, staking tall stalks, deadheading (removing spent blooms), and pruning are all maintenance tasks to be followed throughout the season.

You will enjoy your perennials for years if you show a little care throughout the growing seasons!

Colourful Lupines, photo courtesy of Heritage Perennials.

 

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