A Guide to Perennial Flowers

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What You Need to Know

  1. Perennials are flowers that bloom multiple times over a number of years.
  2. Most perennials bloom for a short time in summer before reemerging in spring.
  3. Perennials are generally very low maintenance flowers.
  4. As you know when they’ll bloom throughout the year, it’s easy to work them into your plans for your garden.
  5. There are perennials that bloom in early, mid and late season. You can find bloom dates before buying.
  6. Always check the soil conditions perennials require to ensure they’ll thrive in your garden.
  7. Most perennials need to be planted at the same depth they were at in the pot.

Being at the mercy of the seasons is part of the parcel of gardening and provides the activity with some of its joys and also its frustrations. But imagine if you had the power to control exactly when your flowers come into bloom year after year. With perennials you can do just that. They’ll grow and bloom in the summer, wilt and die in the winter, but then re-emerge in the spring.

Whilst other flowers have an ephemeral beauty, being with us only until the weather turns against them, Perennials are altogether more hardy. When the cold comes, they retreat beneath the soil, revert to a rootstock and wait for the right time to rise again. They are essentially the zombies of the plant world (although considerably prettier and a lot less scary.)

As a gardener, this opens up a number of exciting opportunities for you. Perennials require little maintenance after they’re planted, which will end up saving you inordinate amounts time, effort and money.

So how do these re-animating flowers work exactly? Perennials have a shorter blooming season than most plants. They’ll display their eye-catching colour for two or three weeks before retreating for another season. Using this information, you can set up your garden almost like a timed fireworks show, continually changing the landscape of your garden by strategically planning what areas come into bloom and when.

Choosing Perennials

But what perennials should you get? Obviously, to a large extent that decision comes down to personal preference and the overall scheme you have in mind for your garden. As you have the advantage of knowing when they’ll be blooming each year you can easily pick colours that will complement each other for the times of year you want them to make their appearance.

If you go to any garden store or online retailer, you’ll have a choice of perennials that flower early, mid-season or late. As well as their season and colour, you’ll also want to check the height, size and ideal soil conditions for each perennial before you buy. You don’t want to end up buying a plant that’s not at all suited to the climate in your region.

Planting Perennials

It’s best to plant perennials in Spring, though it can be done in Autumn too. It’s important not to put them into waterlogged ground or to over-water them immediately after planting them. If possible plant on a cloudy, damp day.

Bear in mind that the majority of perennials need to be planted at the same depth they were at whilst in the pot. Once they’re planted cover the surface of the soil with mulch to help prevent competition from weeds.

What You Need to Know

  • If you need a little more inspiration, take a look at this terrific database presented by Heritage Perennials.
  • Suttons Seeds have a wide variety of perennial plants on their website, along with a flowering time guide that shows exactly which months every plant will come into bloom.
  • Want some more floral inspiration? Why not visit the next Chelsea Flower Show.

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