How to Care for Perennial Flowers

Perennial Plants Care Guide

Perennial Garden Flowers

Pollinator Garden Mix by White Flower Farm

www.whiteflowerfarm.com

Perennial flowers are the way to go! They return year after year, bringing color to the garden. Once established, they require little maintenance. Here are perennial plant care tips!

When to Plant Perennials

Perennial flowers are best planted in the spring or the fall. When selecting perennials, be sure to consider your planting zone and whether your garden is shady or sunny. Also think about when the perennials bloom so that you can select plants that keep the color blooming throughout the growing season. See a perennial garden design.

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How to Plant Perennials

When you buy perennial plants, it’s really the roots that you’re planting; this is what allows the plants to return year after year. Normally, perennials are bought two different ways: 

  • Container-grown perennials (a small plant already rooted in soil and growing): Dig a hole that’s a little wider (but no deeper) than the container. Gently loosen the roots before removing from soil. Backfill hole with soil and press around plant until firm. Water well.
  • Bare-root perennials (just the roots are sent to you, packed in peat moss or something similar): Soak the roots in water, before planting them in the ground.

Plant perennials in loose, well-drained, loamy soil to which compost has been added. Water well afterwards and add 2 to 3 inches of mulch around the plants.

Group together plants that have similar water requirements.

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Perennial Plant Care

  • Water deeply, especially during the first growing season. If planting in the fall, water perennials regularly until frost. (See local frost dates.)

  • The soil should never be overly dry or wet. Avoid getting water on the foliage to avoid disease. Fertilize with low-nitrogen, high-phosphorus fertilizer to encourage more blooms and less foliage. Most perennials do not need heavy fertilization. A single application in spring (after the soil has warmed) is usually sufficient.

  • Mulch around plants to keep weeds to a minimum and retain moisture.

  • Create a neat, clean edge between your lawn and flower bed. Use an edging tool or install permanent edging.

  • Remove spent flowers (deadhead) to prevent plants from using their energy on seed production and to stimulate reblooming. Coreopsis, phlox, veronica, and delphinium are rebloomers.

  • Put plant supports in place early in the season, before plants get too big, so as not to disturb their roots. Put supports close to the plant and gently tie the stem to the support. For clump-forming plants—like peonies—use a hoop. 

  • To keep perennials performing beautifully, divide the biggest plants every 3 to 4 years when they are not in bloom. Spring and fall are the best times for most perennials. Just gently dig up the root ball, divide into smaller clumps, and replant for more perennials!

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Winter Care of Perennials

  • If your ground freezes, cover all your perennials with a protective mulch of compost or dry peat moss.

  • Leave mulch on your perennial beds while the ground is frozen until you have several nights in a row with above-freezing temperatures. As you remove the mulch, add it to your compost pile.

For regions where temperatures can dip especially low, here’s a technique that allows the tougher perennials, such as alpines, to overwinter right in their pots:

  • First, we cover the pots with Microfoam, a ½-inch-thick white foam blanket with plastic backing on both sides.

  • Then we scatter a thick layer (about 6 inches [15 cm]) of loose peat moss onto the blanket and put another layer of clear plastic on top. Microfoam is a commercial product not generally available to home gardeners, but by substituting several layers of white spun fabric such as Remay, available at most garden centers, you can create the same effect.

Most containers don’t have enough soil volume to insulate perennial roots from freezing when winter temperatures drop. Two or three weeks prior to freeze-up, transplant into the garden any perennials growing in all but large containers.

See our free growing guides for popular perennial flowers!

Reader Comments

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What about Hydrangeas Cut

What about Hydrangeas Cut back or no ???

Rosemary.

I have a Rosemary plant in a large pot that I have had for years. It has spent winters facing north and now, facing south. Last year we had a horribly cold, freezing now and ice winter.

My Rosemary has never been damaged. It is about 4 feet long in the pot and covered with flowers. I planted one in the ground right beside it last spring and same goes for it! Very healthy! The one in pit gets water when I happen to think about it.

winterizing my plants. help please

I just planted several perennial mum's and am not wanting them to die what should I do about the frost and the winter time?

It’s important that the soil

It’s important that the soil around the mums is well draining. If not, water will freeze to ice around the roots and kill the plants. After a couple of frosts cut the stems back to 3 to 4 inches. Add mulch around the plants after the ground is frozen. Leaves or straw work well.

Hi, I have a question or two.

Hi, I have a question or two. . . I have Roses that were ordered and sent. I left them in the package and put them in the fridge because the package said perishable. But I want to know when I can plant them. . . I heard that it is good to plant them after the full or new moon. The Full moon was on May 4th and the New moon is May 18th. Please help. Is it too late for me to plant them? I also want to know about my tomato plants which I have planted in pots. . . I think one is drowning. . . I think it should go into the ground, it is about 10 in. tall or so. I don't want it to die. The other two are doing O.K. I think they should be planted in the ground too. Help. Thank you.

Hi Teresa, Plant the roses

Hi Teresa,
Plant the roses after May 18 when the Moon is waxing (when it is between new and full). Plant the tomatoes in the ground if outdoor temps. are warm enough and you don't have any cold nights.

When should I plant perennial

When should I plant perennial Delphinium in Charleston, S. C.?

Hi Shirley, Plant the

Hi Shirley,
Plant the delphiniums i early spring when the soil has warmed up a bit. See our delphinium page for more advice.
http://www.almanac.com/plant/d...
 

I'm planning on planting 400

I'm planning on planting 400 tulips in SE Wisconsin, zone 5A this November 8 and 9. I realize prime season was 3 weeks ago. The forecast is calling for 27 nt, 38 during day. What are risks associated with planting this close to heavy frost/freezing? If it's too late, how can they be stored for next season?

Thank you,

You can plant the tulips as

You can plant the tulips as long as you can dig in the soil. The ground is not going to freeze for some time. They will be fine during the cold winter months and will start growing as soon as the weather warms up a bit in the spring. 400 bulbs!! Wow!