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Planting Perennials

Photo by Rosemary B. Intingaro

Here’s another post in the series about “Getting your Hands Dirty”… planting perennials.  

Since the perennial planting season is upon us (usually sometime around May 1, you may start your engines.  

As you may already know, perennials are plants that come back year after year and annuals are plants that only bloom for the one summer.

Many garden centers have perennials available right now; many enable you to order your plants online and and pick them up curbside, so you don’t have to get out of your car.  (One of the few perks of the quarantine!) Thus saving all your energy for gardening.

Choose the perennials you want to use based on the amount of sun or shade the plant should get.

Also think about color when choosing perennials: Birds are attracted to red and orange flowers; whereas butterflies are attracted to pinks, purples, and white flowers. That’s why most plants native to New England have flowers in these colors.

Here are some common perennials to get you started that are easy to maintain:

Photo by Rosemary B. Intingaro
Source: Shelby Raymond {{FAL}} Category:plantsCategory:flowers

Black Eyed Susan grow about 2 feet tall and thrive in full sun. These cheerful yellow daisy-like flowers enjoy consistently moist soil and are particularly disease resistant and have few insect enemies.

Photo by Rosemary B. Intingaro

Bearded Iris require 6-8 hours of sunlight a day and like a well-drained soil.  Various varieties grow to various heights (ask your garden center for details) and they come in a wide variety of colors. They can be planted in late summer.  Do not mulch, because mulch retains moisture and will rot the plant. Don’t over water.

Salvia, also called perennial sage, requires full sun and like moist soil although they are drought resistant.  They generally grow to about 2 feet tall and come in wonderful shades of purple, red, blue, and white. They attract hummingbirds, but bunnies and deer don’t like them.

Hosta have almost unlimited shapes, sizes, and colors.  They love shade and rich, most soil and develop gorgeous flower spikes in pink, lavender and white. Two of their enemies are slugs and deer.

Planting your perennials in spring enables the plants to get settled and grow new roots before the hot, dry weather ahead.

Since perennials typically stay in the same spot for several years, be sure to prepare the soil with as much organic matter (such as composted manure, old leaves, and compost) as possible  This enables the plants to thrive by creating a good base.

As with all planting, test your design by placing your plants in the bed.  After a couple of days of “living” with your design and tweaking where necessary, begin planting

Dig a hole that is slightly larger than the pot, put a little of the organic material in the hole, and water the soil if it seems dry.

If you’re installing a lot of plants, dig the holes one at a time to prevent soil from drying out.  Remove the plant from the pot, and break up the root ball.  (If some of the roots break off, throw the pieces in the hole to add to the organic material.)

Place the plant in the hole, so its best side is showing. If you want, add a little fertilizer to the to the soil you removed to make the hole, and place some of the soil around the plant.  When the hole is half full, water the plant to settle the soil.  With your hands finish placing the soil and gently press it around the base of the plant.  

Mulch with  a 2-3 inch layer of compost.  Pull the mulch away from the plant stem slightly to avoid rot.

Pat yourself on the back and move to the next plant (or to the lemonade stand if you’re only planting a few perennials.)

Next time we’ll talk about planting annuals.  Happy planting! Stay safe/stay well.