The Q&A Archives: Suggestions for Perennials

Question: My wife an I are switching from Annuals to Perennials. Want to learn, plant and enjoy year round color around the house. Need an overall plan. Need suggestions on how to get this done. Help!

Answer: Perennials can be planted once and will provide many years of performance in your garden. The main criteria for best growth include good soil, the right plant for the right sunshine exposure, regular watering and grooming. Before planting, amend the garden bed by spreading 3-4 inches of compost or other organic matter over the top and digging it in to a depth of 8-10 inches. Organic matter will loosen the soil, help it hold moisture yet drain well, and provide nutrients and the organic matter decomposes. After you've prepared the bed, choose perennials that thrive in the sun or shade your flower bed provides. Here are a few suggestions for your new perennial bed: Coreopsis "Moonbeam," "Zagreb," "Early Sunrise". Coreopsis gives you huge bang for your buck in the garden. They are prolific bloomers that need little more than regular deadheading to be happy. Place them in full sun and average soil. In fact, they don't like soil that is too fertile, as they will become floppy over time. Coreopsis should be divided every three years or so to keep them vigorous. Daylily (Hemerocallis) "Stella D'Oro," "Pardon Me". Certain varieties of daylily are longer bloomers than others. The common orange daylily that you see everywhere, while beautiful, is not the best choice if you want continuous color. Choose one of the above varieties, and give it average soil in a location with full sun to part shade. Remove the spent flowers and stalks to keep the plant looking tidy. Butterfly Bush (Buddleia) "Pink Delight," "Adonis Blue," "Peacock," "Black Knight," "Guinevere". Buddleias, commonly called butterfly bush, are wonderful accents to a garden. They are absolutely gorgeous in bloom; their plumes of pink, purple, blue, or white flowers attracting butterflies all summer long. They are very easy to care for, fast growing, and fragrant. Place them in full sun and semi-moist soil. Simply remove the spent blooms to keep it flowering from July until frost. To prune, cut the plant either all the way down to the ground, or back to green wood in March. Cutting it back helps develop tons of blooms for the coming season. Lavender (Lavandula) "Hidcote," "Munstead," "Grosso". Put these beauties in full sun, in soil that stays relatively dry. After they bloom, cut the flower stalks off (save them, either for potpourri, sachets, or dried arrangements. Even the stems have that gorgeous scent!) and you will soon enjoy a second, smaller bloom. The blooms last a long time. If necessary, you can prune lavender in early spring, just as new growth starts. Just be sure not to cut into old, woody stems because new growth (and blooms) don't grow from old wood. Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) "Goldsturm," "Goldilocks," "Indian Summer". Rudbeckia are everything a plant should be: cheerful, drought-tolerant, and care free. Russian Sage (Perovskia) "Little Spire," "Blue Spire," "Longin". Russian Sage sports tall spikes of delicate, lavender-blue flowers above lacy, grayish-green foliage. Russian Sage is fragrant. Plant them in full sun in fairly dry soil. Yarrow (Achillea) "Gold Plate," "Summerwine," "Coronation Gold". Yarrow can grow up to 40" tall and up to two feet wide. Give them full sun and average soil. Yarrow is very drought-tolerant. Once the flowers start to fade, cut the stems back to lateral buds to encourage more blooms. You can leave the stalks over the winter for seasonal interest, and cut the stalks down all the way to the clump of basal foliage in the spring. Yarrow also makes great cut and dried flowers. Coneflower (Echinacea)Magnus," "White Swan," "Big Sky Sunrise". The best way to get prolonged bloom in your Echinacea is to remove the spent blooms. Smaller flowers will follow. I usually deadhead mine once, and then I leave the remaining flowers and seed heads all winter for seasonal interest as well as food for the birds. Shasta Daisy (Leucanthemum) "Becky," "Alaska," "Silver Spoons". Shastas are tough, require hardly any care, and are drought tolerant. Plant these cheerful flowers in full sun to partial shade in well-drained soil. Shastas also make great cut flowers. Pincushion Flower (Scabiosa) "Butterfly Blue," "Pink Mist," "Deepwaters". These are wonderful not only for their long bloom period, but also for the fact that butterflies love them. Scabiosa gets up to two feet tall and wide. The Keep them deadheaded to prolong bloom. As an added bonus, the foliage is evergreen. Leave the foliage through the winter, just cut back the flower stems. Hope these suggestions are helpful.

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