Even though plants have been around for hundreds of millions of years, some perennial species only began to appear about 20 million years ago. The oldest living perennials are members of the iris family. These plants flower in early spring and early summer and have large leaves with narrow, toothed edges. In the wild, iris grow in meadows and along streams.
Some perennials like yarrow, delphinium, and foxgloves look very exotic and old-fashioned. Others such as lavender, foxgloves, and peonies are very modern.
Perennials are attractive because they flower continuously from spring to fall. Semi-evergreen perennials, such as azaleas and rhododendrons, keep their leaves in winter, but only for part of the year. Evergreen perennials, including Boston ivy, box, yew, holly, and rhododendron, keep their leaves all year.
They are easy to grow and come in a wide range of sizes and colors. They are particularly good at attracting bees and other insects, and birds feed on them. Also, most perennials are native to North America, so their natural habitats are protected.
Perennials are easy to grow from seed, cuttings, or division. There are two main methods: dividing existing plants and sowing seed between rows, in pots, or special seed trays.
Gardening with Perennials
The most successful perennial planting requires choosing the right plant for the right place. Assess your site including soil type, how moisture-retentive it is, the amount of sun or shade the area gets, and how exposed it is to the wind. There are perennial plants for absolutely every situation. Matchmaking their growing preferences to your site means they should thrive for many years. For a long-lasting show, choose plants that bloom at different times of the year and blend them with shrubs, ornamental grasses, and perennials.
Best Time to Plant Perennials
Planting hardy perennials in the autumn is perfect since the soil is still warm and the plants can create a robust root system in time for spring. It's better to grow plants that aren't reliably hardy during this season so they have plenty of time to establish before the winter arrives.
Hardy perennials can be planted in the winter in moderate climates unless the ground is frozen or waterlogged. It's preferable to wait until after the last frost in cool locations, however many perennials can handle a little frost.
Annuals are preferable to perennials since they return year after year, making them more cost-effective to plant and maintain. Most don't care about the type of soil; however, they do prefer well-drained, moist, and productive soil. Planting near trees, bushes, or other perennials will result in water and nutrient competition.
Perennials: How to Plant
Prepare the ground properly by adding enough well-rotted organic matter or a soil conditioner to the soil. Large stones should be removed, as should any weeds, especially perennial weed roots. Dig a hole somewhat larger than the root ball if the plant is large. The most crucial thing is to ensure that there is no pot present, that the earth surrounding it is hard, and that there is no air pocket at the bottom.
The 12 Best Perennials to Cultivate
Here's our pick of the top 12 perennials to cultivate and how to care for them.
- Oriental poppy, Papaver Orientale
Perennial flowers are an excellent choice for the back of the border, the edges of lawns, and naturalized areas. Oriental poppies bear enormous, showy blooms in spring and early summer, followed by decorative seed heads. Colors include pink, red, coral, and white, mostly with contrasting black centers.
- Spurge, Euphorbia
If you want a garden that doesn't need to be replanted every year, Euphorbias are a good choice. Euphorbias are plants that last for months. They can be found in different colors and they make a nice decoration. Euphorbias give long-lasting interest with a combination of attractive, architectural foliage and bold heads of ‘flowers’ in colors such as lime, yellow and orange-red.
- Cranesbill, Geranium
Geraniums are superb for border fronts, raised beds, and underplanting larger plants. Most flower in summer and the flowering period varies hugely. ‘Rozanne’ is an outstanding variety that blooms for many months. Hardy herbaceous geraniums mustn't be confused with frost-tender pelargoniums, widely used for summer pots. Although many species survive in the darkness, the majority prefer the sun.
- Daylilies, Hemerocallis
- Ice plant, Hylotelephium Spectabile
- Primroses, Primula
- Bee balm, Monarda
The bee balm plant forms good-sized clumps of sturdy stems topped with showy red or pink flowers in summer. These bold perennial forms good-sized clumps of sturdy stems topped with showy red or pink flowers in summer. Bee balm bears showy red or pink flowers. Pollinating insects seem to love their blooms.
- Elephant’s ears, Bergenia
Caring Tips for Perennials
When temperatures rise in late spring, you should fertilize and mulch your perennials.
Perennial flowers tend to grow tall and require support at the beginning of the growing season.
Keep the surrounding ground free of weeds during the spring and summer months.
Remove dead and faded blooms to extend the blossoming season and keep plants looking nice.
Cut down fleshy-leaved perennials as soon as they die back in the autumn; otherwise, the leaves will become damp and decay.
- Keep evergreen perennials clean by removing dead or tatty leaves and faded flower stems regularly