Many new gardeners become frustrated when they plant the bright colorful annuals from the local Big Box store and the next year they don’t come back. Annuals generally never come back! The Newbie Gardener many times feel like they have a black thumb and will never try gardening again, not understanding it’s not their fault the plant didn’t come back. The annual plant has lived its life cycle but there are many other plants that do come back year after year and are easy to grow in your planting zone. Perennials! To keep them straight with annuals, biennials and permanent, perennial they kind of sound the same.
Remember annuals bloom and bloom and bloom, even more if deadheaded, because they are trying to dominate with lots of seeds. Biennials take two years, pushing out the first and shooting up the second, making lots of seeds on the second year. And perennials take their time…… pushing out year after year.
If they are lucky enough to live near a river, violent rushing water could rip the plant apart sending it down river to grow in a new spot or maybe a grazing animal will pull a part up with small roots, walk around a bit, then that part falls to the ground where the animal steps on it, planting the part in a muddy hole.
You get the idea; there are undoubtedly more reliable ways to world domination, but it could happen. Meanwhile, the plant consistently produces flowers and seeds. Perennials, however, have a smaller window of flowering.
A few weeks is the usual flowering time for most perennials because they spend more energy growing out and securing light, water, nutrients and space from fading annuals. They are here for the long haul and plan on procreating without the risk of giving up space like annuals do. It’s a tortoise and hare kind of thing.
to begin: dividing & sharing
The best way to begin gardening perennials, as a newbie, is to get to know the flowers in your neighborhood. See which ones come back every year, take photos of the ones you like and take them to your local nursery or send them to me. Yes, I’d be happy to take a stab at identifying it.
This also can get you free plants. While you are out “ooing and ahhing” your neighbor’s yards and plantings, many of them will happily give you perennial plant starts. Why would those neighbors/friends be willing to share? Usually, it’s because as plant lovers, they love to see beauty in their neighborhood. Also, many perennials can and need to be divided every 3-10 years depending how fast they are taking up space, which is another good reason your neighbor/friends may give you some starts.
What about if you already have some on hand? Yes, you can divide perennials from the ground or right out of a new pot if they are very crowded. After you break them apart; quickly plant them and water well. This works really good in the fall with spring bloomers. You can damage blooms when dividing them so you may want to wait till the blooms fade. Plants that bloom in the fall, early spring is best time to divide them.
You can also read up on perennial plants. Find out your zone from the USDA map and purchase plants on line, garden centers or nurseries.
Some of my top perennial
for zones 4-7
- Shasta Daisies
- Echinacea (Coneflower)
- Perovskia (Russian Sage)
- Speedwell Veronica
- Yarrow (stay away from white it can be aggressive)
- Campanula (bell flower)
- Lambs ears
- Basket of gold alyssum
A gardener should always understand their plant’s needs, but with perennials it is more important. You should know about those needs like, water, light, soil and fertilizer because the plants will only come back year after year if those are met. The internet and your local garden center are great resources for that information.
Finding perennials in multi packs can be like finding gold, but a great way to save money. End of season sales or clearances are another way. Many garden centers and especially Big Box ones, will clearance perennials after the blooms have faded, because flashier plants are coming and they need the sales space.
At a glance annuals, biennials & perennials
Did you miss the posts on Annuals & Biennials …… well here they are and some other gardening post to save you time and money.
Start getting to know your local plant venues and neighbors; add beauty and nuttiness to your life it will warm your soul to dig in the earth. 😉