Perennials Offer Ever-changing Garden Views - Indiana Yard and Garden - Purdue Consumer Horticulture

Perennials Offer Ever-changing Garden Views

One of the most exciting and challenging things about a perennial flower display is that the star of the show is always changing. Because most perennial flower species tend to have a limited season of bloom, it takes a little extra effort to be sure there is always something of interest throughout the season.

Many gardeners find it useful to plan their garden on paper first, then amend the plan over time. You might start by making a list of plants that are personal favorites, the ones you just have to have in your garden. Make notes about the expected height of the plants, as well as the season and color of bloom. You’ll want to make note of their cultural requirements, such as sunshine and moisture, and group together plants of similar needs. Invest in a couple of reference books, at least one with good color photos, to help you in your planning. Cooperative Extension Service bulletins can be helpful in finding out what works well in your area.

Like a symphony, each of the plants in your perennial collection will have its turn at playing the headliner, but then will fade back to provide a harmonious background. Some perennials provide beauty through striking foliage or texture.

Though perennials usually return to the stage year after year, they may need a little “tune-up” to continue performing at their best. Some species are notorious spreaders, aiming to take over the entire garden. You’ll need to do a little digging to keep these plants in line &emdash; an excellent opportunity to share a bit of your garden with friends and family! Some plants will need to be rejuvenated by dividing them every few years or so in order to keep them blooming. Dig up the plants, separate with a sharp knife or shovel, and replant where needed. Tall, narrow flower stalks or large blossoms on slender stalks may be enhanced for viewing by staking or supporting in a frame. Many garden centers and catalogs sell accessories that help these flowers stay upright.

And of course, what would gardening be if we didn’t have weeds to fight? It can be difficult to tell the weeds from the flowers, especially as new growth begins in the spring. Even the flowers we plant can become weeds themselves when their seed sprouts in unexpected places. Keeping good records, such as a simple map, of what you’ve planted where will help you decide what needs pulling. But keep in mind that as plants spread and mature, they may not stay just exactly where they were planted.

Just like the furniture in your house, the plants in your flower bed can be rearranged if you find that this particular plant is a bit too tall, or this one just doesn’t show off its beauty hidden in the back. If you find your garden has “blank spots,” you can always add a few more plants later to create future impact. The best times to transplant are in early spring as new growth begins, or in late summer/early fall as summer’s heat fades and fall rains are more plentiful.

To help you get started, the following brief list of species is organized by blooming time.


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