How To Plant Perennials
How to Plant Perennials
When learning , it’s important to remember that
establishing the plant in the ground its first year is most critical to
its long-term growth and development.
Perennials have the ability to weather
some abuse and neglect in the garden once the root system has established
itself in the soil and adapted to the surrounding environment.
Initially, however, they require a bit more maintenance and care in order to
The soil must be properly prepared to minimize transplant shock, the roots
should be loosened to encourage spreading outwards into the soil and water must
be provided in the correct amounts.
The critical period for perennials,
shrubs and trees is immediately after planting.
Soil preparation is an
important part of helping your plant get the best start in your yard.
Step #1 How to plant perennials
Select the appropriate location.
What are the lighting requirements
for the plants you have chosen? If they require full sun, you will need to
ensure that the location that you’ve chosen will receive at least 6 hours of
direct sunlight per day.
Without the required amount of sun, your plants will not
perform at their best, and may have difficulty flowering or producing healthy
The same is true for plants that
require shady locations, such as hosta. Plant these plants in full sun, and the
foliage color will drain and the leaves may become scorched from the sunlight.
The worst case scenario is that a
plant that is incorrectly placed will die. Obviously, selecting the appropriate
location is critical to your plant’s long term health.
Step #2 How to plant perennials
Clear the area.
Remove any old mulch, weeds, debris,
stones, etc. from the area you wish to plant. Rake it clean so that you are
only dealing with the soil underneath. Weeds should be disturbed as little as
possible when being removed, as they can scatter seeds which will germinate more weeds for you in the future. Using a pre-emergent herbicide after planting may
reduce the problems with weeds, as will placing down a healthy layer of mulch.
Step #3 How to plant perennials
Dampen the soil.
Tilling soil that is bone dry can be
difficult. The area being tilled in this picture received rain a few days
prior, so no extra steps to dampen the soil needed to be taken. You want the
soil “damp” as opposed to “moist” Ideally, it should have the moisture content
of a new package of potting soil.
Step #4 How to plant perennials
Till the soil.
The soil you are preparing should be
loose and easy to work with. This will help the young root system embed deeply
in its new home. Air and rich organic nutrients should be turned into the soil
at a depth of several inches. Any debris that has been brought to the surface
of the soil, such as roots and stones, should be removed.
Step #5 How to plant perennials
Add compost material.
Composted manure (make sure that its
“composted”) is a good organic ingredient to add to soil before planting
perennials. If you regularly collect compost material in your yard, it is
beneficial to add that as well. Compost can be purchased from your local garden
center. Adding these organic components to the soil will help build up the
nutrient matter and feed your newly planted perennials. Once all ingredients
have been worked into the ground, rake the soil smooth.
Step #6 How to plant perennials
Dig holes to specified depths and widths.
Larger plants purchased through a garden catalog or
from your local garden centers will specify planting instructions, which
includes how deep and how wide to make the hole before placing the plant in the
ground. These instructions are particularly important when planting trees and bushes.
Smaller plants will have a “tag” which identifies the amount of sun this plant requires, its height, and the mature width of the plant.
This tag is from an annual plant, but gives you a good idea of the type of information you’ll find on any tag. Be sure to plant lower growing plants in the front of the garden, with taller varieties in the back. Regardless of what it looks like when you purchase it, the description tells you exactly how high and wide it will get.
Be sure to provide as much spacing between plants as is recommended on the tag. Perennials that are planted too close together will eventually get crowded once they are mature. Crowded plants are the perfect breeding ground for disease.
If you are ordering your plants online, keep in mind that your plants may appear to be “dead” when they arrive. These plants are actually dormant and their roots are well-established. They
only need to be placed in the ground and tended to in order to come alive!
I know many people who have great success with ordering plants online,
and I personally have had good luck with bulbs, perennials, trees and
shrubs through garden catalogs and online companies. Two such
recommended companies are Jung Seed and Stark Brothers.
While the plants may look pathetic when you receive them (they’ll
often come as bare root) they will often grow faster and healthier than
those purchased at garden centers. Remember, the larger the plant is at
planting time, the more “transplant shock” must be endured.
Step #7 How to plant perennials
Loosen the root system and water the hole.
Once the plants are removed from
their pots, the root system should be loosened or partially cut through,
depending on how “root bound” it is. You can try loosening it with your
fingers, however if that does not work, take a knife or cutting shears and cut
the roots about 2/3 of the way up the root ball on at least 2, and up to all 4 sides, loosening the root
system before placing in the ground. Refer to the discussion on How to Plant Flowers for pictures of plants that are root bound.
Also, be sure to fill the hole with water
before placing the plant inside. Then, water again with the hole half way
filled up with soil, and again once it is completely filled up with soil. Be
sure to somewhat firmly pack the soil around the root of the plant.
Step #8 How to plant perennials
Mulch the area.
Prior to laying down mulch, place
several layers of newspaper over the soil. This will help prevent weed growth,
and the newspapers will naturally decompose, adding to the organic material in
the ground. If you prefer, you can lay down landscaping fabric, however this
material can be problematic in the future when you have a desire to remove it,
as it will not decompose over time.
Place several inches of mulch around
the plant, being careful to prevent the mulch from coming in direct contact
with the trunk of the tree or base of the shrub or plant. Mulch that restricts
the air flow around the base of a young plant could lead to mold and rot.
Be sure to provide ongoing water to
your new garden additions. A couple of times a week is generally sufficient,
with slow tapering off of your watering schedule over the first 6 weeks. After
the first couple of weeks, allow the plant to dry off between waterings. This
will encourage the roots to dig deeper into the soil to find water, and will
serve to develop a healthy root system.
Be careful not to over water! Young
plants can die from over watering just as easily as under watering.
I am VERY careful with newly developed plants for the first month, and cautious with them throughout the
remainder of their first season. Once they’ve made it through the first year,
perennials are not quite as fragile and can handle receiving less attention.
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