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How to Choose and Grow Perennial Flowers

Perennial flowers (or flowering perennials) bloom every year; you don't need to buy new plants each year as you do with annuals. The flowers on perennials don't last all season; most bloom for two to four weeks, but the foliage can remain into late fall.

Some perennials eventually do run out of steam. Their growth gets crowded, and they don't seem to flower as well. At this time, you can dig them out and replace them, or you can divide them (perhaps discarding the tired-out center, or mother plant) and replant well-rooted bits for a fresh new start.

Most perennials are slow starters. During their first year in your garden, they tend to invest in developing a good root system. Be patient! After that's established, they grow and expand, and the flower show gets better with each passing year.

Choosing flowering perennials to grow

Lots of places offer perennials these days. The garden centers in spring and early fall are full of them. Unless the place is especially big or sophisticated, you'll find mostly common but reliable choices. If you get a taste for the more unusual perennials, or common ones in uncommon colors, turn to mail-order or Internet shopping. What's out there may astound you — thousands and thousands of fascinating and beautiful plants await!

Here are some favorites:

  • Sun perennials: Black-eyed Susan, coneflower, coreopsis, daylily, delphinium, gaura, hardy geranium, iris, penstemon, peony, phlox, pincushion flower, poppy, Russian sage, salvia, sedum, and Shasta daisy

  • Shade perennials: Astilbe, bergenia, bleeding heart, brunnera, ferns, foamflower, goatsbeard, hellebore, heuchera, hosta, Solomon's seal, spiderwort, and violet.

Save money by shopping for perennials in late summer when prices are reduced. Get the plants in the ground a good six weeks or more before the first frost, and those plants will have a head start over their spring-planted counterparts. In fall, the soil is still warm and welcoming, and drenching fall rains can help water in the new kids. Depending on the severity of your winter, cutting back any new growth and mulching when winter is just around the corner may be good ideas.

Basic care for flowering perennials

Caring for perennials varies, depending on the plant, but here are some basic guidelines:

  • Water: The water needs of perennials vary. Some are moisture-lovers, others are drought-tolerant, and many are somewhere in the middle. Do your homework when choosing plantsto determine which ones are suitable to the growing conditions in your.

    One generalization is possible, though: Nothing makes newly planted perennials feel more welcome than plentiful water does. The perennials have gone from a sheltered and confining life in a pot to the wide world of your garden, and water helps sustain the roots and encourages them to establish themselves and expand into their new home.

  • Feeding: Many perennials (like most people) enjoy being fed. They respond by growing more robustly and producing more flowers. You're fine with a general, all-purpose garden fertilizer, applied according to the label directions during the height of the growing season. Don't feed your perennials as fall approaches and growth naturally begins to slow.

The life cycle of a perennial depends on various factors, notably the type of plant and whether it's happy in your garden. But you can certainly expect to get a minimum of two years and a maximum of a decade out of the vast majority of perennials. For best results, of course, take good care of them.

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