Perennial Myths

Perennial Myths


Perennials sound like a dream come true, and, indeed, gardening with perennials can be very rewarding. However, before you dig in, let’s dispel some myths.

Myth #1. Perennial beds require no maintenance.

Reality: Perennial plants DO require nurturing. Perennials need fertilizing, watering, pruning, dividing, weeding, and mulching, just like other garden plants. A neglected perennial bed will soon be overtaken by aggressive weeds, crowding and weakening the perennials.

Myth #2. Perennials bloom all summer.

Reality: Unlike many familiar annual flowers, most perennial plants have a distinct bloom period. And even those touted as ever-blooming usually have a period of heavy bloom, followed by sporadic blooming the rest of the season. Flowering takes a lot of energy for a plant, and perennials must conserve energy and channel it to their roots so they can overwinter successfully. Annual flowers, like petunias or impatiens, flower heavily all summer -- they don’t need to conserve energy the way perennials do. To have continuous color in a perennial garden, you’ll need a variety of plants that bloom at different times.

Myth #3. Perennials live forever.

Reality: Some perennials have a limited life span, even under perfect growing conditions. These are often described as short-lived perennials, and include columbine, hollyhock, and lupines. Fortunately, many short-lived perennials also self sow, meaning they readily drop seeds from which new plants grow. Other perennials, such as coneflower and bee balm, are very long-lived, and will readily multiply and spread.

All garden plants require a certain amount of routine maintenance, from weeding and mulching to watering and fertilizing, and perennials are no exception. All plants have four basic needs: water, air, light, and mineral nutrients. As a gardener, your job is to ensure that these needs are being met, and most maintenance chores revolve around one or more of these basic needs. We’ll be looking at these basic needs as we move step-by-step through the process of designing and maintaining your garden.

Now let’s talk about a subject that can be confusing to new gardeners: hardiness ratings.

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Lupines come in a rainbow of colors and will readily multiply.

A Symphony of Color

Annual plants provide a continuous, predictable supply of color all summer long: a bed of white impatiens remains a bed of white impatiens. 

Because of the varying bloom times of different perennials, however, a perennial garden changes throughout the growing season.

Spring brings the early-flowering delphiniums and pink peonies, summer, the orange daylily and yellow rudbeckia, and fall, the purple aster and brick-red sedum. 

A well-planned perennial garden provides a symphony of color and form that plays throughout the entire growing season.


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