Perennial plants

Perennial plants

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Perennial Plants

With the generic term Perennials we mean those herbaceous plants that have a multi-year development, therefore they remain in our garden for years, contrary to what happens to the annuals, which instead with the winter cold tend to dry up completely. Being herbaceous plants they do not form a woody shrub, and therefore the aerial part often does not survive at low temperatures; from the root system but we will get new plants every year.
In order to survive year after year most of the perennial herbaceous plants develop bulbs, tubers, rhizomes, or other type of root system that can store enough nutrients to develop a new plant when spring arrives; some bloom from the first year in which they are planted, others need a few years to stabilize at their best and be able to flourish; some can be grown for years, others have short lives and are "rejuvenated" from year to year, using cuttings or plants obtained from seed.
Perennial herbaceous plants are characterized, unlike annuals and biennials, by vegetative structures that can survive for at least three years. Most of them, during the cold season, lose the aerial part and are therefore invisible. However, let's not forget that there are also evergreen herbaceous plants that manage to keep the foliage even in the most rigid climates and can be extremely helpful in making our green space more alive.

There are many species of perennial plants, but we can identify some useful tips for growing them all.Before planting a perennial we remember that this plant will remain in our garden for a long time, so let's place it in a place where it can develop undisturbed over time; many perennials tend to be groundbreaking over time, so we must also remember that if we do not want them to develop excessively each year we will have to contain their development, eradicating damaged or smaller or sick plants.When we have chosen the place for the plant we work at best the soil, mixing the soil with leaves and sand, to increase the drainage; enrich the substrate with mature organic fertilizer, which in addition to providing a good supply of mineral salts over time, will also help us improve the soil mix; while we turn over the clods we eliminate all the weeds that may be present.We always remember that knowing our plants helps us to cultivate them to the fullest, so before buying perennials for our garden let us know which ones are more suitable for the flowerbed we have chosen, so let's place the plants that love light in the sun, and in the shade, ferns or other similar plants; avoiding blunders from the beginning will help us during cultivation.In addition to lighting, let us also inform ourselves of the humidity that is preferred by the plants we have chosen; if we don't have an irrigation system and we live in Sicily we avoid plants that need a lot of water; if we live in Trentino we avoid plants of Mediterranean origin or that fear frost.After having chosen the most suitable perennials, let us put them at home, keeping at least 15-20 cm of free space between one plant and another; the young plants recently placed at home will need frequent watering, but suspend them if the climate is rainy, let's intensify them during the dry periods.Over the years our plants will tend to stabilize, and need watering only during the summer months or during particular periods of drought. To keep the soil moist and free of weeds, it is advisable to mulch it between the plants, using bark, lapillus, dry leaves; the material placed on the ground will keep it cooler in the summer and less cold in the winter, also guaranteeing the necessary moisture to the plants during dry periods.Some plants like to be renewed every 3-4 years to be able to flourish at their best and develop vigorously; generally the plants are rejuvenated by dividing them: we proceed in autumn removing the plants from the ground, and dividing the bread of roots and the head of leaves above them into portions; the plants thus obtained are placed directly at home. During the division operation we can observe the state of health of the root system of our perennials; a slight pruning of the roots will stimulate their growth, we also prune the blackened roots or the damaged or poorly developed parts.Some perennials tend to produce semi-woody stems, which dry up in the garden during the winter; if desired it is possible to prune the remains of the vegetative season in autumn, or in late winter, so as to keep the flowerbed clean. This practice is particularly indicated in the case in which the plants manifest leaf diseases or the attack by animal parasites during the vegetative season; pruning all the vegetative part by now we will also remove the parasites, avoiding that they can spread in the garden.There are many perennial herbaceous plants in nature, those present in nurseries are also very numerous; the choice depends on our tastes, the climate needs of the area in which we live and also on the position in which we want to place them in the garden.Hellebore, anemone, ajuga, astilbe and geranium are certainly more suitable for shady and cool places; instead sedum, saponaria, coreopsis and echinops love the sun and the warmer and drier climates.The lewisias and primroses bloom as soon as winter begins to warm up, while Japanese anemones and echinacea bloom when the days are already hot or even late summer.There are dozens of perennials that we could simply call daisies, dozens of bellflowers, dozens of anemones.Many perennials are present in the woods or in the wild areas in the area where we live; choosing perennials from nurseries similar to those we see in the forest we will certainly be more peaceful, it is very likely that the plants of those species are well suited to our garden and the climate of our area. We avoid choosing alpine plants for areas near the sea or making other similar mistakes, since "exotic" perennials are certainly more difficult to cultivate.How to choose and plan the garden

Speaking in a general way about the cultivation of perennials is difficult because it is an extremely wide category that includes individuals coming from very different natural habitats and with equally different cultivation needs.
Most of them are quite tolerant, growing and flowering with exposures from full sun to partial shade and are satisfied with a medium fertile soil. However, there are certainly more delicate and strictly specific requirements.
Before buying them it is therefore important first of all to know the characteristics of our substrate, our climate and the position of the parcel of land. It is also very useful to carefully plan every single area.

Color and structure combinations

To obtain a pleasant and at the same time stimulated environment for the eyes it is good to combine essences with taste. Basically the best combinations are obtained by creating flowerbeds or borders in a specific scale of colors (for example combining red with deep pink or soft pink, blue with blue). This gives the area a harmonious and relaxing appearance.
To give liveliness you can instead focus on the juxtaposition of complementary colors, which have the characteristic of enhancing each other. Excellent, for example, combinations of blue and yellow, yellow and purple, red and blue, orange and purple. A beautiful effect, more delicate, is also created between blue (or lilac) and pink.
The white can always be inserted since it goes beautifully with every other color, giving lightness and brightness to the compositions, especially when it comes to small flowers.
Let us not forget in any case of the color that absolutely dominates the garden: green. Its different shades can create interesting effects and the succession of leaves of different shapes and textures will add movement and lightness when the corollas will be missing. Moreover, there are not rare cases of brightly colored leaves (red, purple, yellow) or very neutral and cold (glaucous or silver), interesting as if no longer blooms.


It is extremely important, especially in flowerbeds and borders, to place the tallest grasses in the back (or in the middle). On the second or first line, those with smaller dimensions will be added. In this way each one will be exploited to the fullest and will be able to receive the right amount of light.
Let us remember, if we are to insert the elements in the last line, to buy them already of almost final size so that they are not suffocated or perish due to lack of light.

Seasonal combinations

It is equally important to plan the garden so that there is, in every season, something in bloom or significant in each specific area. Most plants produce flower stems from spring to early summer, but we can find some that produce them from late summer to late autumn. We also keep in mind that perennials have always been the best shrubs companions and it is possible to find superb combinations. In the event that there are still completely bare areas, one can resort, to stop the situation, from annuals, biennials and bulbous plants.

The borders

The borders, which bind closely to the herbaceous perennials, are a very happy Anglo-Saxon invention. It is mostly long rectangles up to 10 meters long and at least two wide. It is usually accompanied by a driveway or overlooking a meadow.
To obtain a beautiful effect it is important that there is a neutral background, usually obtained thanks to a hedge or covering climbers. Then there are the key plants, planted in large masses where they draw attention. Often it happens that they are repeated more or less regularly along the way.
Maximum flowering usually occurs at the beginning of summer. Consequently during the other seasons they can be a little bare. It can, however, be remedied by careful study (as described above).

Perennial ground coverings and rock garden

Ground cover plants, which have a creeping or prostrate habit, are another indispensable element in the garden. They are important in borders or in flowerbeds because, by covering the ground, they avoid the excessive spread of weeds. Moreover, some of them are very interesting for their long flowering.
They are also very useful for the creation of specific areas called "rock gardens" where the natural combinations that would be found in nature are reproduced, especially in arid and rocky environments.

Perennials in pots

The cultivation of perennials in more or less large containers can give enormous satisfaction and significantly expand our horizons avoiding the repetition of omnipresent plants (such as geraniums).
The vases can be used both by those who only have a terrace and by those who have a large green space. A beautiful container, perhaps in terracotta or refined cement, can gracefully accompany the other essences cultivated in the open ground and gives us the possibility to change the combinations according to the seasons. We will also have the possibility of using herbaceous plants that we could never insert into our substrate because it is not suitable.

How to buy perennials

The best time to buy them is without a doubt spring. The ideal is in fact to put them in residence at the end of February-beginning of March, when however the frosts are finished. In this way the specimen will still have time to develop the root system and will consequently be stronger on the arrival of the heat and summer droughts.
It is always preferable to choose small plants in jars with a diameter of 8 to 10 cm. Then place them at the right distance, leaving each one the space to develop up to maturity.
However, if we find plants in larger pots, perhaps from previous years, but without signs of disease, we can choose to buy them anyway. We will eventually proceed to a division obtaining many small specimens and saving at the same time.
In spring it is also possible to buy, especially from retailers of bulbous plants, simply the roots or rhizomes. They can be a bargain if we then dedicate ourselves to planting them carefully (perhaps first in small pots) and following them with assiduousness for the first time.


About a month before, the ground must be worked in depth with the spade. At the same time we will incorporate a good quantity of flour or pellet manure and some handfuls of cornunghia. The clods will then be shredded when we proceed with the planting.
This should be done on a non-rainy day, but only slightly humid, with overcast skies. We extract the seedlings, dissolve the roots and place them in the soil respecting the correct planting distance, based on the probable final development of the foliage. We compact the soil with our feet, then we make long holes where we will run the irrigation water, so that it reaches the roots more effectively.
For plants that will become very tall it is good to immediately insert suitable supports.

Cure for growth

irrigations they must be adjusted according to the specific needs of the perennial. It is also necessary to consider the exposure and the type of soil. Young plants need more frequent interventions. Those stamped, on the other hand, should, over time, become more and more autonomous.
We always proceed preferably in the morning or better still in the evening avoiding to wet the leaves in order not to favor the establishment of cryptogams.
End of winter is the period in which perennials give the most work ever. First of all, it will be necessary to clean the ground from what remains of the previous year, possibly cutting it to the base. A light weeding of the area is also very useful. This will favor the penetration of water and manure and fertilizer for flowering plants that we will distribute in abundance.
Weed elimination in flowerbeds and borders it is always important, but above all in the early days of the plant, to dedicate ourselves to cleaning from weeds. When perennials are small it is usually a heavier job. If, however, these become larger and thicker, the space in which they can be established will become ever smaller.
Side jets sometimes weak side jets are emitted. It is good to intervene by removing them at the base with scissors or fingertips.
eliminate the withered flowers as soon as possible. In some cases the rebirth will be stimulated, but it is still important to prevent the heads from falling to seed, unnecessarily wasting energy.
Division It is important to proceed every three to four years with the division of the heads. In this way we will eliminate the older parts and we will also have the possibility of obtaining new plants to be inserted in other parts of the garden or possibly to give or exchange with other enthusiasts. It is an operation that takes place at the end of winter, when the soil is not too wet. The rhizomes or tubers are separated using a small knife and then disinfecting the cuts with sulfur. The root plants are divided instead by levering with two pitchforks.

Perennial plants: How to prune and renew perennials after winter

The herbaceous perennials, or small perennials that do not exceed 30-40 cm in height, are almost always finished with a dry and worn-out appearance due to months of low temperatures and scarcity of light.
For this reason, when temperatures rise and the hours of light increase significantly, it is time to intervene on perennials to stimulate their intense vegetative growth. In this period pruning is one of the most effective interventions to rejuvenate plants, stimulate them to produce new growth and restore vigor to their growth.
Pruning must be done differently depending on the posture and type of perennials we face. As a rule, a very intense pruning will have to be done, with the cutting of the twigs up to 8-10 cm from the ground for all those bushy plants that do not exceed 50 cm over the whole summer.
For plants of higher dimensions, on the other hand, pruning should involve dry, broken and thickened branches (perennials of height between 50 cm and 1.5 meters).
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