Gardening with Perennials – Here’s How to do it Right

Gardening with Perennials – Here’s How to do it Right

Have you ever thought about planting some perennials in your yard or garden? Once you plant them, perennials come back bigger and better every single year without much work from you. It’s like getting free flowers!

In this post, we want to share everything we’ve learned about growing gorgeous perennials after years in my own garden.

Choosing the Best Perennial Plants

The first step to perennial success is picking plants that will thrive in your yard. Here are some key things to think about:

Climate and Hardiness Zone

Make sure to choose perennials that can handle your area’s coldest winter temps. Check the plant tag for the recommended USDA hardiness zone and only buy ones suited for your zone or colder. Trust me, you don’t want any heartbroken replacements!

Sun Exposure

Pay attention to how much sun different parts of your yard get. Some areas might be shady while others bake in full sun all day. Pick perennials labeled for the conditions in each spot, whether it’s full sun, part sun, part shade or full shade.

Mature Size

Check the tag to see how tall and wide each perennial will ultimately grow. Give them enough space to reach their full size without crowding. Things get ugly when plants are stuffed in too tight!

Bloom Time

For nonstop color from spring through fall, get some early bloomers, some mid-season bloomers, and some late bloomers. Extend the season even more by mixing in plants with nice foliage after flowering.

Color Palette

Decide on a color scheme and find perennials to match. Sticking to just a few colors creates a cohesive look. Or go bold with bright, contrasting hues!

Growth Habit

Mix in different shapes like spiky verticals, mounding forms, and spreading carpets. This gives your garden depth and visual interest.

Local Inspiration

Check out public gardens, nurseries or your neighbor’s yard to see what thrives in your area. Stick to tried and true varieties that you know will succeed.

Preparing the Soil

One key to perennial success is planting in rich, well-drained soil. Here’s how to get your beds ready:

Test and Amend Soil

Send a soil sample to your local extension office to find out the pH and nutrient content. They’ll recommend amendments to create ideal growing conditions. Fix up that soil!

Dig Deep

Loosen up the ground by digging or tilling 12-18 inches down. This makes room for perennial roots to grow strong. Mix in a few inches of compost too for nutrients.

Edge Clearly

Define your bed with a clean, sharp edge – use a shovel to trench or install edging. This keeps the area looking tidy as your garden grows.

Remove Weeds

Get rid of every last weed before planting – roots and all. Pull them by hand or spray organic herbicide. Weeds steal water, nutrients and sunlight from your perennials.

Designing an Attractive Perennial Garden

Perennials offer so much variety and versatility! Here are some tips for designing a stunning bed or border:

Space Generously

Give your plants room to grow. Follow the spacing guidelines on the tag. Overcrowding causes weak, floppy plants and fewer flowers.

Layer Heights

Create depth by planting taller varieties in back and shorter ones up front where they can be seen. It’s like a floral theater in your yard!

Repeat Plants

Group the same perennials in batches of 3, 5 or 7 for a bold look. Repeating plants adds rhythm and harmony.

Transition Colors

Arrange your perennials so the colors blend seamlessly from one plant to the next. Repeating colors throughout ties it all together.

Add Focal Points

Add eye-catching specimens like bright tropical plants, colorful dwarf shrubs or garden art. This gives viewers a visual anchor.

Include Supporting Players

Fill in with texture from ferns, vines, ornamental grasses and herbs. Their interesting shapes enhance your flowers.

Caring for Perennials Through the Seasons

A bit of seasonal care keeps your perennials looking their best year after year:


  • Cut back any dead growth left from winter so fresh growth can emerge
  • Pull early weeds and give plants a light fertilizing to wake them up
  • Prune back fall bloomers and any overgrown shrubs
  • Watch for pests like aphids and treat fast before damage spreads


  • Water deeply during dry spells and extreme heat to keep plants hydrated
  • Stake tall perennials like delphinium so they don’t flop over from heavy blooms
  • Pinch back leggy growth for fuller, bushier plants with more flowers
  • Deadhead spent blooms to encourage more flowering


  • Leave healthy plants up for winter interest. Cut back diseased growth to keep issues in check.
  • Plant spring bulbs like tulips among your perennials for an early spring show
  • Sow seeds for biennials like foxglove that will bloom next year
  • Add fresh mulch around plants to protect from winter cold


  • Gently knock off heavy snow from fragile branches and shrubs to prevent breakage
  • Prune dormant vines like clematis since they don’t need leaves now
  • Divide overcrowded perennials on mild days to rejuvenate them

Troubleshooting Common Perennial Problems

Even with good care, issues pop up sometimes. Here’s how to fix the most common ones:

Poor Flowering

Causes: Too much shade/fertilizer, overcrowding, bad pruning, pests, diseases

Fix: Move to sun, cut back on fertilizer, give more space, prune properly, treat pests/disease

Weak Stems

Causes: Not enough sun, crowded conditions, poor air circulation, excess nitrogen

Fix: Relocate to sun, divide and space out, improve airflow, reduce fertilizer

Pest Damage

Causes: Aphids, beetles, caterpillars, spider mites, slugs, bunnies, deer

Fix: Use organic sprays, hand remove pests, apply deterrents, set up fencing


Causes: Powdery mildew, leaf spot, rust, root rot, blights, viruses

Fix: Improve air flow, use fungicides, remove infected plants, test for viruses