Yesterday, we shared tips for landscaping with perennials. A week or so ago, we began with listing out some great sun & shade perennials for your garden. And today, in the last of this series, we are discussing how to care for your perennials long term. Let's dig in (corny pun intended)!
Deadheading, pinching, cutting back- these different terms all refer to pruning perennials. Many perennials benefit from deadheading- or cutting back spent blooms. Perennials such as Shasta Daisy & Coneflower (shown below) will bloom more if they are regularly deadheaded. You simply cut off the spent blooms in this case & the plant will begin to use energy to re-bloom.
There are examples of pruning in which you are actually pinching off buds that are forming earlier than what we in the South might call traditional. For example, Mums & Sedum 'Autumn Joy'. These two gorgeous perennials are sold in large numbers in the Fall because of their blooms at that time... but, did you know? These two perennials actually naturally bloom in the Summer in our zone. Around July 4th (an easy time for me to remember), I check out my planted Mums & Sedum to see if they are budding. Many times they are, & I pinch those buds back about an inch or two which delays their bloom time then until Fall, when I want them to bloom. This is a trick that every Nursery in our area will do to ensure Fall blooms for those plants. Those perennials do not typically re-bloom- you have your flush of blooms & it is done for the year- so it is important to pinch them back when you see buds forming in Summer if you'd like them to bloom in Autumn.
Another time you will need to cut back perennials is when they are getting too floppy for your liking. Russian Sage is an example of a perennial prone to flopping. You can stake perennials up if they are drooping or you can choose to cut them back. They may lose their bloom but in most cases they will re-bloom again just at a shorter height. Cut them back several inches if necessary; in most cases, perennials respond well to being pruned. Perennials that do not like being cut back include Hosta, Iris, Columbine, Delphinium, Coral Bell, Astilbe, Foxglove, Daylily, & Dianthus.
(Above photo: Coneflower)
In early Spring, when your perennials are beginning to come back from Winter, it is important to fertilize them. You may also fertilize in early/mid Summer. Do not fertilize in Fall as perennials are going dormant for Winter. To help you read the fertilizer bags correctly, remember this saying: "up, down, & all around." The first number in the series of three on fertilizer bags helps with bloom production, the second helps roots, & the third is an all around booster. An all-purpose fertilizer will have the same three numbers on it ( for example 10-10-10). There are many types of fertilizer on the market today & we are always happy to assist you with picking a great one for your plant.
Newly planted perennials should be deeply watered every few days in Spring, Summer, & Fall when we are not getting adequate rainfall. This helps ensure deep roots that are healthy & strong. Always water well after fertilizing to ensure your fertilizer goes down deep into the ground & is soaked up by the roots.
(Above photo: Foxglove)
Dividing/ Multiplying Perennials
When certain perennials have been established for a few years, they usually become large enough that you can divide them. Pick a cooler day in early Spring & dig up your existing perennials. You can gently split the tubers & separate them to create new plants. Be sure to water well & baby them for awhile after you've dug them up. Examples of perennials you can do this with are Hosta, Foxglove, Sedum, & Daylilies.
These tips will help your plants stay healthy & grow for you over time. Please share any comments or questions below, & if you have tips to add, we would all love to hear them! Share your thoughts below & have a wonderful weekend!