Perennials are plants that live for many years and grow back every year without needing to be replanted. They are different from “annuals” that grow for only one season and then need to be replanted again next year. They can have beautiful flowers or interesting leaves, and they can be found in many different colors and sizes. They are great to plant in your garden or yard because they come back every year and make your place look pretty and colorful!
There are several benefits of planting perennials, some of which are:
- Less work: Once planted, perennials require less maintenance and care compared to annual plants that need to be replanted every year. This makes them a great low-maintenance option for those who want to have a beautiful garden without spending too much time and effort.
- Cost-effective: Since perennials grow back every year, they are a cost-effective option in the long run. They may have a higher initial cost than annual plants, but in the long term, they will save you from buying new plants every year.
- Environmental benefits: Perennials help in soil conservation by reducing soil erosion and improving soil structure. They also attract pollinators like bees and butterflies, which is important for healthy ecosystems.
- Colorful and attractive: Perennials come in many different textures, colors, and sizes. This makes them great for creating beautiful landscapes and adding color to your garden or yard.
- Higher yield: Plants like fruits, vegetables, and herbs that are perennial can yield a higher crop than an annual plant, and they require less effort to establish themselves once planted.
We have created a guide choosing, preparing and planting perennicals in your own garden.
Choosing the Right Perennials
When choosing perennials for your garden, there are several factors to consider, including:
- Climate: Certain perennials thrive in specific climates and regions, so it’s important to choose plants that are suited to your climate. You can research and consult with local plant nurseries to find perennials that perform well in your area.
- Soil type: Different types of perennials prefer different soil types. For example, some prefer well-drained soils that are sandy or rocky, while others grow better in moist and rich soils. It’s important to understand the type of soil you have and choose plants that are well-suited to your soil type.
- Sun exposure: Some perennials need full sun to thrive, while others prefer partial or full shade. It’s important to understand the amount of sunlight your garden gets, and choose plants accordingly.
- Watering and drainage: Some perennials need consistently moist soil, while others prefer drier conditions. Understanding the watering and drainage needs of different plants is important to ensure their proper growth and health.
- Maintenance: Some perennials require more maintenance than others, including pruning, deadheading, and dividing. It’s important to consider the level of maintenance required for different perennials and choose plants that fit with the amount of time and effort you have available to care for them.
- Pairings: Pairing plants together that have complementary colors, textures, and heights can create an aesthetically-pleasing garden. It’s important to consider different types of perennials that can be grown together in harmony to create a cohesive and beautiful garden.
Ideal Perennials for the UK
There are numerous perennials that thrive in the UK’s climate, here are some recommended perennials for gardeners in UK:
Lavender (Lavandula) – This perennial comes in a variety of colors and sizes, and is known for its fragrant flowers and foliage. It requires little maintenance and is drought tolerant.
Geranium (Geranium spp.) – Geraniums are low-growing perennials that produce a profusion of colorful blooms. They are easy to grow and prefer well-draining soil with regular watering.
Hosta (Hosta spp.) – Hostas are known for their green foliage and come in a variety of sizes and shapes. They prefer partial shade and regular watering.
Hellebore (Helleborus spp.) – Hellebores are winter-flowering perennials that come in a range of colors. They prefer well-draining soil and partial shade.
Crocosmia (Crocosmia spp.) – Crocosmia grows to about 3 feet tall and produces vibrant red and orange flowers. They prefer full sun and well-draining soil.
Penstemon (Penstemon spp.) – Penstemon perennials come in a variety of colors and sizes, and are loved for their tubular flowers. They prefer full sun and well-draining soil.
Foxglove (Digitalis spp.) – Foxgloves add a touch of natural charm to any garden. They prefer partial shade and regular watering.
Astrantia (Astrantia spp.) – Astrantia blooms from mid-summer and produces intricate, long-lasting flowers. They prefer partial shade and moist, well-drained soil.
This is just a small sample of the wealth of perennials available to gardeners in the UK. Consult with your local plant nursery or garden center to find more options that are suitable for your gardening style and preferences.
Preparing for Planting
Preparing the soil is an important aspect of planting perennials. Here are some steps to follow to prepare your soil for planting:
- Clear the area: Remove any weeds, rocks, roots, or debris from the area where you plan to plant your perennials. This will ensure that the soil is clear and ready for planting.
- Test the soil: Test the soil pH to determine if it’s acidic or alkaline. Most perennials thrive in a slightly acidic soil pH of 6.0 to 7.0. You can buy a soil testing kit from your local garden center or use a lab-based soil testing service.
- Loosen the soil: Use a garden fork or tiller to loosen the soil in the planting area to a depth of about 12 inches. Loosening the soil will help the roots of your perennials penetrate the soil more easily and get the nutrients they need.
- Amend the soil: Add soil amendments like compost, leaf mold, or well-rotted manure to the soil to improve its quality, drainage, and nutrient content. The amount of amendment needed will depend on the quality of your soil and the plant’s requirements, follow package recommendations.
- Mix the soil: Mix the soil amendments thoroughly with the soil using a garden fork, hoe, or tiller. Make sure the amendments are evenly distributed throughout the planting area.
- Level the soil: Level the soil using a rake or hoe. Ensure that the soil surface is even and adequately leveled, to avoid water pooling in one area.
Now that you’ve prepared your soil, it’s ready for planting. Be sure to follow the planting instructions for your specific perennials and water them well after planting to get them off to a good start.
Water and Drainage
Watering and drainage are two critical factors to consider when planting perennials. Here are some tips to ensure your soil is properly drained and watered:
- Soil drainage: Soil that has good drainage is important for the success of your perennials. If the soil is heavy, you can help improve drainage by adding compost or other organic amendments to the soil. If you have poor drainage, before planting, consider creating drainage channels or installing subsurface drainage.
- Watering frequency: Water your perennials deeply, but infrequently, providing 1-2 inches of water per week. This will ensure that plant roots are encouraged to grow deep into the soil, where they can draw water and nutrients needed to thrive. However, make sure that you double-check watering frequency during rain spell provided that plant doesn’t drown.
- Watering timing: It’s important to water your perennials in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid excessive evaporation and allow moisture to soak deeply into the soil.
- Method of watering: Using a drip irrigation system that slowly delivers water to the roots is an ideal method because water is delivered where it is needed without waste. Using a watering can is also suitable.
- Mulching: Adding mulch around the base of your perennials can help to retain moisture and prevent water evaporation from the soil. Refrain from adding too much mulch, it may bring in fungal disease and harm the plant.
By considering watering and drainage needs, you can ensure that your perennials get the right amount of water needed to grow healthily and beautifully.
Depth and Spacing
Planting depth and spacing are critical considerations when planting perennials. Here are some tips to ensure that you plant your perennials at the appropriate depth and spacing:
- Planting depth: The planting depth of perennials may vary depending on the type of plant and its root system. In general, plant the perennial to the same depth as it was in its original container or root ball. Ensure that the crown of the plant (where the roots meet the stems) is level with the soil surface. A rule of thumb is to plant perennials at a depth of 2-3 times the size of the root ball.
- Spacing: Proper spacing is important to give the perennial sufficient room to grow while preventing overcrowding. The spacing between perennials varies depending on the type of plant and its mature size. In general, plant perennials with enough space to achieve their expected diameter.
- Grouping plants: Grouping plants of like-kind together can also improve the overall look of the bed. Grouping taller plants together will provide a unison bed, with a grouping of short plants at their feet. Do not forget that some perennials will form clumps, make sure to leave adequate space between each clump of plants.
- Root spread: Some perennials have roots that spread far and wide and can become invasive. It is crucial to read labels and signposts provided as well as research specific perennials you would like to plant to know how much room they need to have to grow encourage them healthy.
By considering the right planting depth and spacing, you can ensure that your perennials grow healthy and create an aesthetically pleasing garden.
Mulching and Fertiliser
Mulching and fertilization can help encourage the growth and health of your perennials. Here are some mulching and fertilizer recommendations when planting perennials:
- Mulching: Mulching around the base of your perennials can help conserve soil moisture, suppress weed growth, and moderate soil temperature. Organic mulches like shredded leaves, grass clippings, or bark chips can also enrich the soil with nutrients as they decompose. Keep the mulch around the base of the plants, leaving just enough room around the crown of the plant to prevent fungal diseases.
- Fertilizing: Before planting perennials, you can amend the soil with organic matter, such as compost or rotted manure, which will help add organic matter for the plants to feed on. If your soil isn’t naturally rich, a fertilizer can help boost soil fertility. Balanced fertilizers, such as 10-10-10 or 8-8-8, can help provide the necessary nutrients to help your perennials thrive, however make sure to follow package instructions.
- Timing: Nitrogen-rich fertilizers should be applied in the spring after the ground thaws, fertilize once every three to four weeks to encourage healthy growth. Stop fertilizing by mid-summer to encourage woody growth that can survive winter months with ease.
- Organic fertilizers: You can opt for an organic fertilizer, such as fish emulsion or bone meal if you would like to stay away from chemical fertilizers. Organic fertilizers will break down slowly, providing a steady source of nutrition to plants throughout the growing season.
Remember, when it comes to fertilizing, less is more. Over-fertilizing can cause the plant to grow too fast and stress the plant. If you ever observe foliar burn or dead plants, it may be possible that you have over-fertilized.
Care and Maintenance
Watering and fertilising
The amount of water and fertiliser required for perennials can vary depending on their specific needs and growing conditions such as location, climate, and soil type.
- Watering: As a general rule of thumb, perennials need to be watered deeply at least once a week, providing around 1-2 inches of water. The soil should be moist, but not waterlogged. Consistency is key; be regular, but do not overwater. Overwatering can lead to root rot.
- Fertilization: As mentioned previously, using fertilisers, organic or chemical, care needs to be taken with brands purchased as they could differ with respect to the strength and makeup of fertilizers. Nitrogen-rich fertilizers can be applied in the spring after the ground thaws, typically once every three to four weeks. Overfertilizing could stimulate fast growth and cause stress to the plants, which could shorten their lifespan. As a guideline, over-fertilizing can mean that the plant receives a maximum of three applications over the growing season.
It is always best to follow the instructions provided by the fertiliser manufacturer and be mindful of how much you are using. If not sure, it is best to under-fertilize compared to overfertilizing and then observe how the plants react. Similarly, when watering, ensure you pay attention to how dry the soil gets and consider the plants’ needs before watering again. When you have a watering system in place, consider the weather conditions, and adjust your plan accordingly.
Pruning and deadheading are necessary maintenance practices for perennials. Here are some tips on how to properly prune and deadhead perennials:
- Pruning: Pruning is a way to remove any dead, diseased, or damaged parts of the plant, keeping it healthy and aesthetically pleasing. Here are some pointers to consider while pruning:
- Cut back the perennials to low from late autumn to early spring.
- Use nice and sterile pruning shears, pruning saws, or clippers to avoid damaging the plant.
- Start by cutting the plant back to one-third to two-thirds of its height. This will help stimulate new growth and maintain the shape of the plant.
- Cut back any dead or diseased wood or leaves, this will allow for better air circulation and light, thus preventing potential disease development. Some perennials may flower twice, and in these cases, you would cut back the plant at the base, encouraging new growth and reblooming.
- Deadheading: Deadheading is the act of removing spent flowers from a plant. This encourages the plant to continue producing new blooms throughout the season and can keep your garden looking at its best. Here are some pointers:
- Consistent deadheading will keep the plants producing more flowers and keep the plant healthy.
- Cut the spent blossoms back to where they meet the main stem, ensuring that you don’t cut new buds or growth. Remove deadheading by making an angled cut.
Different types of perennials have different pruning and deadheading requirements. Ensure to look up each plant and read up on the specific information. Practice good care techniques, and your plants will thrive and look beautiful all season long!
The best time of year to plant perennials is in the spring or fall. Planting in the spring allows the plants to establish themselves before the hot summer weather arrives. Planting in the fall allows the plants to get a head start on growth before the winter weather sets in.
Here are some additional tips for caring for perennials:
- Water deeply and infrequently. Perennials prefer to have their roots dry out between waterings. Water deeply once a week, or more often during hot, dry weather.
- Mulch around your plants. Mulch helps to retain moisture, suppress weeds, and improve the overall health of your plants.
- Deadhead spent blooms. Deadheading encourages new growth and prevents the plant from wasting energy on seed production.
- Divide your plants every 3-5 years. Dividing your plants helps to keep them healthy and vigorous.
With proper care, your perennials will thrive for many years to come.