Perennial is a Latin word meaning "through year" and perennial plants are ones that live throughout the year and return the next. These plants typically grow and bloom in the spring and summer, die back in the fall and winter, and return the next year to complete the process again. Perennials can be short-lived and only last for about two years, or long-lived like trees.
How Perennials Work
Perennial plants have adapted special structures which allow them to survive through changing climates and return again for the next growing season. Some of these structures include bulbs, tubers, and rhizomes. These structures protect the plant and act as a food source during times of drought or dormancy and then when optimal conditions have returned, they provide the foundation for regrowth.
Benefits of Perennial Plants
The main benefit of perennials is the fact that they don't have to be replanted every year like annuals and biennials. Most flowering perennials have short bloom periods so the required maintenance and pruning is not as tedious as some annuals. When planted carefully and strategically, flower beds with perennials can have blooms all season long if one's blooming period ends as another begins.
Types of Perennials
Flowering perennials are plants that produce flowers at some point in their blooming season. Examples of these are poppies, hibiscus, peonies and daylilies. Many perennial fruits and vegetables also produce flowers like strawberries, grapes, and eggplants.
Non-flowering perennials are mostly trees and shrubs. Evergreen plants typically fall into this category too. Some examples of non-flowering perennials are ferns, conifers, and shrubs like the various types of boxwood hedges. Ferns can used as flower bed fillers.
Both types of perennials can either be shade perennials or sun perennials. Shade perennials like ferns, hostas, and Virginia Blue Bells all need less sun exposure than most other plants in order to thrive. True shade perennials should have the least amount of sun exposure as possible. There are some species that are classified as sun/shade and these plants can tolerate about 2 to 4 hours of direct sunlight a day. Sun perennials like reblooming daylilies, hibiscus, perennial tulips all require at least 4 to 6 hours of direct sunlight daily.
How to Plant your Perennial Garden
- Choose appropriate plants for your garden- shade or sun perennials depending on amount of sun exposure, and types of plants depending on what you need-ground cover, background fillers, or flowering plants.
- Prepare the soil. Make sure it has good drainage and is a high quality soil.
- Plant your seeds or bulbs at appropriate times according to the recommendations for the specific plant and for the planting zone in which you live.
- Water properly to promote good deep root development.
- Fertilize regularly.
- After perennials have bloomed, "deadhead" or remove the spent buds in order to promote regrowth.
- To generate larger blooms, remove smaller buds so energy can be concentrated on the larger buds.
- In the fall, remove dead leaves and foliage. Apply winter mulch to protect the roots or bulbs so that your plants will return next year!
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