Flowering perennials are a good-news, bad-news sort of thing when it comes to your flower beds. Most of the news about these attractive, inexpensive and easy-to-grow, self-sowing flowers falls into the “good” category. More good news: the “bad” side of the equation can be tamed with a little advance planning.
Flowering perennials are perfect for filling space in your garden. If you’re sowing them directly into the soil, they’ll come up in a crowd that gives a nice, natural contrast with the annuals we set out as single plants. Many will take to light shade and some including yellow Corydalis and Sitka columbine grow well even in medium shade. Perennials are also great for extending flower bed color late into the season. And their care, once established, is minimal. Some are perfect for xeriscape gardening.
At Planet Natural we offer a wide selection of heirloom flower seeds that are sure to brighten any landscape. From amazing asters to unusual zinnias, we’ve got the one-of-a kind flowers you’re looking for. Best of all, we ship them FREE! Need advice? Visit our flower growing guides for tips and information on specific varieties.
So what’s the bad news about planting perennials? Many, as self-seeders, can spread in you garden, taking over spots where you intended annuals and other plants. We’ve even had Shasta daisies spread into our lawn. Once established, they’re hard to remove due to to the persistence and clustering capabilities of their roots.
Some perennials are so prone to spread that one man’s beautiful flower is another’s invasive species. Not surprisingly, some of the most desirable perennial flowers, including asters, bell flowers and lily-of-the-valley (another good shade grower), are also those prone to taking over a large part of your garden if given the chance.
To prevent this, deadhead the flowers at the edges of your perennial bed all through the season. Pull or scratch out with a hoe any volunteers you find where they’re not wanted in the spring. Take root cuttings for new starts from the edge of the planting. Or bury a barrier several inches deep around the perimeter of the bed to prevent root spread.
You can start your perennial bed in all the usual ways. Take root cuttings as mentioned above for new starts you’ll put out in the spring. You can start the plants from seed indoors six to 12 weeks ahead of spring planting outside (be sure to provide ample light to keep plants from getting leggy). Or you can just sow them in the ground.
Now you’re neighbor might tell you that direct-planting of perennials is a difficult thing to do. That’s a sign they may have planted the seed in the fall and expected flowers to show up in the spring. It doesn’t always happen that way.
Many perennials need warm weather to germinate. Spring planting, after the last frost, gives them that. Planting in the fall often means seeds don’t germinate. Those that do don’t advance far enough to make it through winter.
With perennials, patience is rewarded. Don’t expect your spring-planted perennials to blossom the first year, especially those that blossom early in the season. Give them a year to establish themselves. Protect them well over the winter and let them take off the following spring. With a little patience, you can be knee-deep in blossoms.
What to plant? Sheila over at Redhead Garden, recommends the hardy and intriguing Balloon flower, the soft-leaved lambs ear, and everyone’s favorite Sweet William. We’ve always liked verbenas, especially those species like “valley lavender” that are cold hardy, coreopsis, and four o’clocks. We’ve enjoyed replacing lawns with perennial prairie flowers. Wildflower mixes will also bring color to your landscape and are formulated to, among other things, attract pollinators and be drought resistant.
Here’s a selection of easy growing perennials from Oregon State University. Diane of Diane’s Seeds, a small Utah-based grower of heirloom and other seeds, has a nice article and pretty long list of self-sowing flowers over at her site. As always, talk to your local master gardener or someone knowledgeable in your area about which flowers grow best in your area. Then, get started!