When and How to Plant Perennials

Keep perennials beautiful year after year by following these expert planting tips.

planting siberian squill

planting siberian squill

planting siberian squill on flower bed

Photo by: Denis and Yulia Pogostins

Denis and Yulia Pogostins

Get your garden off to a good start by planting your perennials at the right time and handling them the right way. One guiding philosophy: Perennial plants are all about the roots. Keeping the roots strong and healthy is the number one consideration when planting perennials. It’s those roots that will keep the plants coming up year after year. Here’s what you need to know about planting perennials to give them what they need to grow up and be beautiful.

Fall or Spring?

Knowing when to plant perennials is essential. Spring is generally the best time to plant, for obvious reasons. The soil is warming, the sun is shining, the days are lengthening and the rain if falling. Spring is also a good time to divide existing perennials that have gotten bigger and better and plant the smaller pieces in other locations.  
 
Fall is a good planting time for perennials that bloom in the spring or summer. Fall planting gives them time to grow strong roots to prepare for the big flower show the following year. Another plus to fall planting: Nurseries are cutting prices on perennials at the end of the season, so you can save a lot of money. 

Do not plant in the summer. It’s too hot, the days are too long and rain is unreliable in many climates. There’s too much stress for a new plant to thrive. And winter? No. Just, no. 

How Do I Plant?

New plants come in three forms. Knowing how to plant perennials correctly depends on which form you’re planting.

Container-grown perennial plants are the ones you buy at a nursery or plant center, already growing in a pot. They’re the easiest to transplant successfully. Dig a hole twice as wide as the container but no deeper. Pull the plant out of the pot, gently loosen the roots and place in the hole. Fill the hole with soil mixed with compost and water well. Fertilize a week after planting.

Bare-root perennial plants are less expensive than the container-grown ones, but they’re a little trickier. They are just as billed: a clump of plant roots. They’re not for beginners. Soak them in water before planting them in the ground. Add compost to the soil at time of planting and pamper them till they sprout leaves.

Seeds are the least expensive way to start a garden of perennial plants. Growing from seed takes more skill and patience than transplanting container-grown perennial plants. Perennials are slow growing, so if you sow seeds directly in the ground after the last frost you won’t have adult plants till late in the season. Best to start them in the winter, indoors, in small pots and pamper them until they are large enough to transplant outdoors.

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