How to Extend the Life of Perennials

Most beginning gardeners assume that a perennial plant will come up year after year without much effort on their part. For some types of plants, this is absolutely the truth, but for most, a little TLC will go a long ways to keep the plant healthy and blooming year after year.

Planting the Plants in the Right Location


Don’t plant a shade perennial in the sun, and vice versa.

Before you choose what perennials to plant, pay attention to which areas of your yard get sun, and how long it lasts. Then you can go to your local garden center, or order from a catalogue with confidence.

Perennials stay healthier if they are divided regularly.

Different species should be divided at different times. As a good rule of thumb, divide plants that bloom before June in the early fall. If the plants bloom after June, divide in the early spring. Peonies and Lilies should always be divided in the fall.

When planting perennials from pots purchased from the garden centre, or ones you’ve divided, there are steps to take to help ensure your plant’s survival.

Perennials will come either in pots, with bare roots, or balled-and-burlapped. If you just divided a plant, obviously you’ll just have a shovel full of plant and excess dirt.

Each of these types of plants requires a similar planting method.

First you will need to dig the hole to the proper depth.

Unlike seedlings, you don’t want to bury and established plant too deep. Dig a hole that will allow the plant to sit about 1 inch higher than the ground. The roots will sink a little as the plant establishes itself, and it can suffocate if the crown disappears below the dirt. Once the hole is a suitable depth, insert the plant and start to backfill the hole with the dirt you dug out.

Be gentle, but be sure to firmly pack the soil around the plant to avoid air pockets. Water the plant well when the hole is half full, and again when it is completely full.

Protect Your Plant

Girl with seedlings

Try to keep weed competition at a minimum while your perennial establishes itself. If it gets chocked out by the weeds, it may not survive. Mulch is a good option for keeping the weeds down and the plant moist.

Winterizing Your Plant

Image Source:

Image Source:

Ideally select plants that are well suited to your climate, though don’t be afraid to experiment with varieties not normally grown in your area. Proper winterizing will help your plant last throughout the winter, and come up beautifully the next spring.

The most important thing to do in the winter is to prevent the plant from temperature extremes. Mulch is the best way to do this. After a few hard frosts, when the plant has gone dormant, cover it with mulch. You can use leaves you rake off your yard, hay, straw, or other mulch materials available in your area. Dry straw is the best mulch material. Don’t scrimp on it. For best results, lay plastic over the straw, and weigh it down with rocks, boards, tires, or other suitable items.

When you choose your mulch material, especially if you’re not going to use plastic, remember that portions of this mulch are going to rot down and become part of your garden. This is a good thing because it will add organic material to your soil. It’s just important to remember this fact so you can choose a mulch that will help your soil, not hurt it. Remember that if you use hay, or straw that still has seeds in it, that you could create a weed problem for the following season.

Proper planting, weeding and winter protection will help your perennials last for many years and keep your garden beautiful.