Are you looking to convert a portion of your property into a perennial garden?
Would you like to know the best time to plant your choice of perennial plants for the best results?
When to plant perennials? Generally, you can plant perennials anytime during the growing season and right up before the ground freezes. However, since perennials are a broad classification of plants, not all varieties concur with this wide planting window. Your safest bet is to plant early in springtime or the fall.
To put things to light, let’s discuss what perennial plants are, their different classifications, and their drawbacks and benefits.
What Is a Perennial?
Perennial plants, or just perennials, encompasses all the plants that can live for more than two years in their natural habitats.
In contrast to annual and biennial plants, perennial plants can persist and propagate for a very long time.
Examples of perennial plants include trees, shrubs, vegetative groundcover, and herbaceous plants.
Types of Perennial Plants
Perennial plants are a very broad topic.
Some perennials can only survive for up to three years, while others can thrive almost indefinitely.
We can classify perennial plants further into several different types depending on various characteristics.
Deciduous Perennials Vs. Evergreens
Deciduous perennials are plants that lose their leaves before winter begins.
These plants diminish into one hardy organ during this season, usually a trunk or an underground structure.
The remaining structure survives the cold season by entering a dormant state and regrows its foliage when temperatures become warm again.
On the other hand, evergreens do not lose their foliage and maintain their leaves during winter.
While evergreens largely refer to trees, beautiful flowering shrubs are also under the same category.
Woody Vs. Herbaceous
As the term suggests, any woody perennial can grow woody tissue, or bark, to cover its stems and roots.
Plants with this property can grow more permanently since the bark is a hard, structural formation that can reinforce stem and root growth.
All trees, shrubs, and many types of vines fall under this category.
Conversely, the lack of woody formation characterizes all herbaceous perennials.
These plants lack the sturdy aboveground formation and resort to underground hibernating structures instead.
Benefits of Planting Perennials
Perennials are the best plants for planning a more permanent garden display because they thrive for many years.
Perhaps the most natural advantage perennials have is that they keep coming back year after year.
Trees and shrubs form a garden’s skeletal system, while herbaceous perennials provide much color and muscle.
Unlike annual plants, perennials do not require replanting every year, and they are typically more resilient, requiring minimal labor and maintenance.
Furthermore, perennials are more likely to tolerate dry spells because of their deep root systems.
These deep and extensive root systems are also more beneficial against soil erosion.
Disadvantages of Planting Perennials
Unlike annual plants, perennial plants have a limited flowering season, and their flowers are less ornate in appearance.
Furthermore, while annuals adapt well in different regions, perennials are typically restricted to a particular environment or climate.
However, given proper maintenance, many perennials remain with foliage throughout the growing season.
When To Plant Perennials
Generally, the best time to plant perennials is when the ground is naturally moist.
Such optimum soil condition occurs after the ground freezes and thaws for the last time and before it freezes again.
During winter, a wet patch of soil is prone to turning into a frost heave, which means any newly planted plants won’t establish roots.
While perennials can grow when planted in the summer, they require plenty of labor and maintenance.
Spring-Blooming Vs. Summer-Blooming
Let’s face it – the most coveted perennials are those that have colorful blooms.
However, varying perennial blooms have an inherent blooming season.
Plants that produce stunning blooms in the summer should be in the ground by springtime.
On the other hand, the colorful swaths that appear after the ice thaws in spring come from perennials planted in the previous fall.
Hence, planting in spring does not usually involve plants propagated in a spring garden.
If you plant spring blooms in springtime, they won’t produce flowers until the next year.
Similarly, if you plant summer blooms in the fall, their flowers will only appear in the next summer.
Planting Perennials in Springtime
Springtime is by far the most suitable time to plant perennial blooming plants.
For starters, your local garden center will most likely have a wider selection of perennial plants during this time.
It does not matter if the plants you choose are summer-blooming or spring-blooming.
As soon as the ground is no longer frozen, you can plant more resilient perennials in the early spring.
Since the soil is beginning to warm up, it will encourage your plants to establish roots and start the growth of foliage.
By the time the heat of summer strikes, your plants will already be well-established.
Planting Perennials in the Fall
Fall planting is your best approach to encourage the spring blooming of garden bulbs.
Nevertheless, it is also possible to plant summer-blooming perennials this late in the year.
During this time, the soil is still warm enough for the plants to establish their root system and gather enough nutrients before winter.
The problem with fall planting is that your local garden center will not have plenty of options in stock.
Moreover, most of them would probably be in bad shape for being in containers for too long.
However, prices will be far lower at this point.
Since potted plants won’t survive the cold, retailers will need to dispose of them with prices heavily marked down before the winter kicks in.
Purchase the ones that still have some foliage, as they are more likely to promote root growth before going dormant.
These plants will produce new foliage when winter is over and look no different from your other plants.
Container-Grown Vs. Bare-Rooted
Your local nursery or garden center will likely have perennials in pots unless you purchase bulbs.
Since you will be amending the soil before you plant, planting conditions should be better than in the original potting mix the plants came with.
Generally speaking, container-grown plants can go into the ground at any time as long as the soil is not waterlogged or frozen.
Likewise, the soil should remain moist after planting, especially if you transfer them to the ground in summer.
In contrast, bare-rooted perennials are usually only available by mail order.
These plants come directly from the soil of a supplier’s garden, which means they will have a stressful time adapting to different planting conditions.
As such, bare-rooted plants require replanting at the optimum conditions, at least similar to those in the source garden.
How To Plant Perennials
When planting perennials, consider how bigger they can grow in the ground than in their original containers.
Once you’re sure you have enough planting space for them to grow, follow these steps:
Step 1: Prepare the Soil
Before you plant, your planting bed or holes should be in great shape.
Add compost while tilling an entire planting bed or shovel the fertilizer into individual planting holes.
Ideally, a planting hole should be twice as wide as a plant’s root ball.
It ensures that the roots push out and farther into the surrounding soil with ease for better moisture and nutrient absorption.
Also, avoid digging a deeper planting hole than the pot a plant came in.
If the planting holes are too deep, your perennials could sink every time you water them.
Step 2: Remove the Container
Sometimes, removing plants from the pot can be tricky.
It is possible to drop a plant and break stems if you do not handle it with extra care.
To start, cut off the roots poking out the drainage holes, so the entire root ball slides out effortlessly.
Insert your fingers across the stems and over the crown, then tip the container.
Also, give the sides of the pot a gentle nudge and squeeze to push the root ball out.
Dislodge some of the plant’s original potting mix while you’re at it.
Step 3: Plant
Put the plant into the hole with its crown at the same level as the ground.
If your planting hole is too deep, remove the plant, add some soil, and put the plant back in.
When in doubt, it is better to have the crown slightly higher than the ground rather than deeper.
Next, backfill the planting hole and tap around the crown to slightly press the earth and support the plant.
Step 4: Water
Moisten the surrounding soil instead of pouring water over the crown.
Doing so ensures that the plant is less likely to sink and the roots move farther outward.
Observe as the water drains down and inspect the planting depth if you need to make more adjustments.
Step 5: Add Mulch
Finally, add mulch around the crowns of your plants and over the entire planting bed.
Remember to leave space between the mulch and the crowns to avoid crown rot.
The mulch will retain moisture in the soil and prevent weeds from competing with the perennials for water and nutrients.
Perennial plants can cover large patches of your garden with stunning displays of different colors.
To give them the optimal conditions for growth, plant them in the spring or the fall.
If you must plant in the summer, avoid planting when the sun is high to reduce heat stress while they adapt to the new environment.
Also, don’t forget to keep the soil moist, so water them regularly.