Perennials

‘First year sleeps, second year creeps, and third year leaps.’ No, this is not a Nursery Rhyme, but an old English saying describing Perennials, and it's quite accurate.

Latin, for the word ‘perpetual’, Perennials might not last forever, but are a very long lasting plant and compared to other kinds of plants, can be thought of as Perpetual. They get this distinction because they are plants that live for more than two years

 

Why Perennials?

In choosing your garden plants, you have basically three major growing categories of plants to choose from.  Perennial, Annuals and Bi-annuals.

  • Annuals bloom once and die at the end of the first year they are planted. 
  • Bi-annuals generally last two years.  Some only have blooms the second year after they are planted and then they are gone. 
  • Perennials are a long lasting plant and if you take care of them, they should last for many years.

Woody plants such as trees and shrubs are considered perennials.  Evergreens are also perennials and have that great quality of retaining green foliage all year round.

  • In warmer climates, perennials grow all year round
  • In climates with distinct seasons, perennials grow and bloom during the warm part of the year, then their foliage dyes back in the winter, but the root system stays alive through the winter.  The plants will again grow in the next warm season, either from existing stems that survive above the ground or from totally new growth from the root system.
  • In some parts of the world, the seasons are determined by moisture where the growing season is the wet season and the dry season is when the plants go dormant.

Because perennials have root systems that stay alive below the ground, they are good at surviving wildfires and also less susceptible to the extremes of cold temperatures in the winter months.

Different perennials will also bloom at different times of the year.  You can have plants that bloom in spring, plants that bloom in the summer and others that will bloom in the late summer and fall months.  If you plan ahead, you can take advantage of this fact and have new blooms in your garden throughout the growing season.

 

Most Popular

There are just too many Perennials to try and give you a list here since there are hundreds, if not thousands to choose from.  In fact, almost every year there there are new varieties that become available because of the breeding programs that nurseries and gardeners have to create new ones.  So keep your eyes open for these new perennials that can give your garden that extra eye-catching pizzazz.

Just to give you a few to consider for your garden, here are 10 very popular Perennials:

  1. Crape Myrtle
  2. Silk Tree or Mimosa Tree
  3. Rose of Sharon
  4. Moonflower
  5. Purple Heart or Purple Queen
  6. Trumpet Vine or Trumpet Creeper
  7. Bleeding Heart
  8. Lantana
  9. Purple Coneflower
  10. Four O'clock or Marvel of Peru

 

Buying Considerations

When buying Perennials seeds are an option.  Planting your Perennials from seed is a cheap and easy way to start a garden.  Although it will take generally take one or two years (depending on the particular plant) for a seed to reach the point where it puts forth blooms.  Check the information available for each kind of seed that you purchase and find out what months of the year, for your part of the country, that they should be planted.

Buying plants is more expensive than seeds but it gives you the option of seeing your plant before you take it out the door, plus this way you can get instant blooms.   When you visit a nursery or local store that has a plant center, ask the sales help or ask for a catalog to see what perennials they have available or can order for you.  Some stores will carry the same plants every year, while others will get different kinds each year.

Another good source for buying perennials (seeds or flowers) is on the internet.  You'll find hundreds, if not thousands of stores with a good variety.  Look for the online stores that have pictures of each of their flowers.  A picture is worth a thousands words when it comes to flowers.

Also be aware that all perennials flowers don't grow to the same height.  They vary from a low of about 6" to the really tall ones that can top out at 3 or 4 feet after a few years of growth.  So check this out before you purchase them in their infant stage.  Obviously, height should enter into your garden layout.  You'll want to have the taller plants in the back and the shorter ones in the front.  This way you'll be able to see and enjoy them all.

 

Ornamental Grasses

Something you can use to create really nice accents in your garden is the  Decorative or Ornamental Grasses.  You set them out in small clumps and in a couple of years you can have a patch of grass over a foot in diameter and 5 feet high.  The added prize that you get with the ornamental grasses is that in the fall or late summer they turn a golden light brown and get beautiful plums or heads on them.   A great complement to your fall flowers.

 

Care

Taking care of your Perennials is not hard,

The main thing is to keep them watered.  When they are first transplanted, they will need more water than ones that are established and are a couple of years old. Water new plants and transplants every day for about 3 or 4 days, then every other day for two weeks. After that, you can water them when you water your other plants, but keep an eye on them and if they look a little wilted, then give them a little extra.

Most mature Perennials will start to die off from the center outward, like a doughnut shape.  When this happens it’s time to divide them. 

Pruning dead flower heads will encourage more blooms.  If you have really tall plants, you'll probably want to stake them up to avoid damaged stems.


Perennials are a lovely way to maintain a green, and flowering garden throughout the year.  With some pre-planning and a little bit of regular care, you'll be sure to get compliments from your friends and neighbors.

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