Caring for Perennial Flowering Plants

Perennial flowers bloom season after season with proper care.

Perennial flowers bloom season after season with proper care.

A perennial flower is one that comes back every year. The better care you give a plant, the healthier it will be. In most climates, perennial flowers bloom in the spring and summer months and then go dormant in the fall and winter after the plant’s foliage dies back. Instead of growing from seeds, regrowth of perennials during the next blooming season comes from the roots.

Soil

Weeds rob the soil of nutrients and water, making it necessary to weed around your perennial flowers on a regular basis. You can add fresh nutrients by placing peat, sand, compost or manure on top of the existing soil. Spread the fertilizer around, working it into the soil. Use a shovel to flip the dirt underneath on top of the compost. The next step is to cover the soil you've turned over with mulch. Mulching keeps the soil surrounding flowers cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Warmer soil temperatures in cold weather help protect tender perennials with more shallow roots.

Mulching

In addition to insulating the soil, applying mulch reduces the number of weeds growing around your flowers and adds nutrients to the soil. A general rule is to layer mulch about 4 inches deep to prevent weeds from growing. Mulching also helps the soil retain moisture and prevents water from evaporating. Soil that is too dry impedes a plant’s roots from absorbing water. Perennials benefit from mulching twice each year -- once in the summer to control weeds and then again in the winter after the ground freezes. The use of straw or dried leaves as winter mulch allows air to circulate through the soil while protecting flower roots from harsh weather. Remove winter mulch in the spring once new plant growth begins. Grass clippings and composted leaves are organic materials from your own lawn that you can use as summer mulch. If you need to balance the pH level of the soil, use pine needles as mulch to add acid to the soil.

Watering

Plant flowers that need similar amounts of water together in the same area of your yard or garden. Water newly planted flowers every day for the first week. Most flowers require watering every two days during the second week and once a week after that. Frequent watering in the beginning allows plants to develop strong roots. Watering flowers in the morning minimizes evaporation. Soak the soil around the flowers so that water reaches the root system. Avoid overwatering flowers and avoid getting the leaves wet. Too much water can damage plants by causing disease and loss of foliage.

Deadheading

Deadheading flowers encourages more blooms and leads to healthier plants. The best time to deadhead perennials is before they go to seed. Removing faded flowers extends a plant’s blooming period. If you allow flowers to go to seed, producing seeds will consume much of the plant’s energy. When a plant doesn’t have to produce seeds, more energy is spent on root growth and flowering. Some perennial flowers require frequent deadheading for reblooming. Removing buds, cutting back and thinning are other methods for pruning plants.

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