Now that spring has sprung, it’s the ideal time to plant your perennials.
You can take advantage of everything that spring flowers love most: soil that is thawed out and warming up, longer daylight hours, moist ground, regular rains and plenty of sunshine. Down below the ground, root systems flourish, soaking up water and nutrients to fuel growth. And up above, foliage, stems and flowers explode into color.
The most common way to plant perennials is buying small plants in containers. These plants are already growing and give you flexibility on selection and planting all season long.
Or you can buy bare root or packaged plants sold dormant by mail order or at garden centers. These are for spring planting only. If you get these at a time you can’t plant right away, keep the plants cool and the roots moist. You can store them for several weeks this way, thus assuring their survival prior to planting.
Successful perennial gardens start with thorough and thoughtful bed preparation. Some of the key points include: eliminating perennial weeds before turning the soil; insuring a well-drained soil that can retain enough moisture for good plant growth; providing for sufficient organic matter in the soil; and adding fertilizer as needed.
Let new plants adjust to life outdoors for a few days or a week by storing them in a sheltered spot. Leave the plants outside just a few hours, and slowly increase the time until they’re outdoors full time. If there’s a threat of a late frost, bring perennials indoors or cover them. You can cover them with single layer of newspaper to reduce the light intensity and wind exposure.
Choose a cool, cloudy, or damp day to plant, or plant in late afternoon. Plant in good soil, create a basin of soil or mulch around each plant, and give a good, soaking watering. Make sure that the water drains out where you want it to go.
Here are some tips on how to handle perennials:
- Be gentle. Don’t handle the plants roughly or you may damage them.
- Help the roots take hold. Either tease apart the roots a bit or lightly score the sides with a sharp knife, which inspires new root growth. Then you can place the perennial in its hole.
- Make sure the soil is ready. Don’t plant them in waterlogged ground, or drench them right after planting. Too much water can stop oxygen from getting to the roots, and the plants will drown or rot.
After you have your plants in the ground, cover around the stems with mulch. This will stop weeds from taking over and stealing nutrients from your perennials. It will also hold in soil moisture and protecting your plants from drying out quickly.
In cold-winter areas, mulch protects plant roots from helps prevent frost-heaving, which can literally push plants out of the ground by the natural expansion and contraction of the soil as it cools off and heats up. In hot-summer areas, it can help keep plant roots cooler all season long.
If you follow these helpful hints (and – cough cough – use the right tools to get your garden beds ready) and you can look forward to flourishing spring perennials adding beauty to your home and neighborhood.
And if you make the neighbors just a little bit jealous… well, that’s okay too!