Perennials are nature’s gift, continuously giving lush greenery and grasses with bursts of spring and summer color. They provide the building blocks to any landscape. That doesn’t mean they don’t require tender love and care. Even hardy varieties can benefit from extra attention, especially in the winter and summer seasons.
1. Fertilize Properly
Feed your perennials an all-purpose food unless it’s a variety that requires a special blend of nutrients. Mix and apply the fertilizer according to the package instructions. You might be tempted to overfeed your plants but resist the temptation. This will be counterproductive and result in unhealthy plants.
Some perennials prefer two feedings, resulting in one in the spring and another after the first bloom applied to the roots. It’s important to know your plants and their requirements well.
2. Divide and Relocate
Perennials tend to spread wide and overcrowd/invade other spaces. This can mean less nutrients for other plants. To keep them healthy, you should divide planting areas and either give them away, discard, or relocate healthy plants.
This upkeep doesn’t require a yearly commitment. Every three to five years will be sufficient for most perennials. A handful will only require it every 10 years. When it’s time, you can divide them in the early spring or in the fall after blooming finishes. However, bearded irises and Hosta varieties are better split in the summer
After your blossoms die, pluck them off. This allows your perennials to reroute their resources to other areas of the plant to produce new blossoms. It’s a painstaking long process, but the rewards are healthy plants and longer blooming periods.
Some perennials don’t require extensive deadheading or the reward of doing so is minimal. These plants typically have short bloom windows.
4. Meet Watering Needs
Your perennials might be the hardiest plants in your garden. However, even drought resistant varieties require water to promote optimal health.
Organizing your flowers and plants by their watering needs can make keeping track a snap. This is especially true if you have plants prone to powdery mildew, which are more sensitive to watering times and prefer morning and afternoon. The extra sunlight and warmth help keep water-based diseases at bay.
Drip irrigation or soaking are both good methods for delivering water, but in most cases, how you water isn’t important. However, delicate perennials and those not resistant to disease will do better with soaking as opposed to sprinklers that leave behind extra moisture on the leaves and stem. This promotes the growth of water-based diseases.
5. Winter Cutting
You’ll need to consider whether to cut back your perennials. Cutting is optional. Evergreen and semi-evergreen varieties don’t require it until after winter. When to start cutting will depend on your seasons and the ground temperatures, but after the blooming season ends and before the ground freezes is optimal.
Whether or not you cut, you should apply a 2-3-inch layer of mulch once the ground freezes or for warmer climates, you’ve passed a few frosts. This protective barrier will provide your soil with nutrients, protect your plant’s roots, and it minimizes weed growth come springtime. However, don’t cover the perennials themselves.
If you grow in pots, use a protective foam or gardening fabric instead of mulch. You should consider transplanting or moving your pots indoors too. A deep prolonged freeze will kill your perennial’s root system.
6. Introduce Support and Training Tools Early
Trailing vines of lush greenery and flowers add a touch to any garden-scape. If your perennials will require a supportive device, you should add it as soon as possible. This allows the plant’s roots to grow around the stake, which only adds more support. Waiting until later puts your plant’s root system at risk, which means you might kill or weaken your perennial.
Unsure about support? Research your perennial variety as best as you can. If you wind up needing a device, consider an option that doesn’t stake into the ground. This will ensure healthy, undisturbed roots.
Tending to your perennials provides the building blocks for your garden’s aesthetics and health. While some tips might appear basic, often it’s the little things that make the largest impact. The same applies to perennials in both care and the value they add to your garden every year they return.