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Tips for Growing Perennials

Perennials and Other Plants
Perennials can help make a planter out of a tree stump.

Perennials don't have to spend time in the garden alone. Pair them with other plants for lovely, suprising results.

  • Plan ahead to cover the gaps left by perennials that go dormant in summer. Two of the most common now-you-see-them-now-you-don't perennials are sun-loving Oriental poppies and shade-loving old-fashioned bleeding hearts. When done blooming, both plants slough off their old foliage and hibernate underground. This creates vacant places in the garden. But with a little planning, you can easily work around them.
  • Organize gardens so that neighboring plants can fill in and cover for the missing greenery. In shade, the ample foliage of hostas and ferns can move into voids left when old-fashioned bleeding hearts go dormant. In sun, hardy geraniums, frothy baby's breath flowers, and spreaders like dragon's blood sedum can fill in for Oriental poppies.
  • Plant Oriental poppies or bleeding hearts individually instead of in large clumps or drifts, which leave larger holes.
  • Set a potted plant, such as a houseplant spending the summer outdoors, temporarily in the opening.
  • Avoid dense tree roots by planting a shade garden around the outside of the tree canopy rather than directly underneath. Many tree roots cluster under the branch canopy, and active feeding goes on near the drip line, the place where rainwater drips off the leafy branch tips. Gardening beyond the shadow of the limbs reduces root competition, and the plants will get more light.
  • Lessen the impact of wind by planting tall perennials and ornamental grasses to shelter a garden full of more delicate plants. Sturdy-stemmed perennials, which are not likely to topple over with the first big gust, grow large enough to curb the wind faster than most shrubs and trees. Some perennials to try are maiden grasses, pampas grass, boltonia, goat's beard, and large hostas.
  • This tip also works on a smaller scale. You can plant smaller, delicate flowers beside sturdy medium-sized plants like purple coneflowers and irises for wind protection.
  • Use a string trimmer to cut back ornamental grasses in spring. The golden leaves and seed plumes are a great winter attraction. But in spring, the old growth must be removed before the new shoots begin to sprout. The string trimmer quickly cuts through grass stems. Rake them up and toss them on the compost pile -- job finished!
  • Make planters out of old tree stumps that are next to your house, in a mixed border, amid a grove of shade trees, or in a woodland edge. In nature, old stumps slowly begin to decay and provide fertile places for ferns and other interesting small plants to grow. You could plant flora native to your area or fill the opening with brightly colored annual flowers and vines.
  • Follow nature's lead and you will get several benefits: You won't have to pay to have the stump ground out; you can grow plants that need good drainage or special soil mixes right in the trunk; and you create an interesting, sculpturelike structure.
  • Chip some wood out of the top of the stump to create rooting space. Fill with a soil mix that's appropriate for the plants you intend to grow. After planting, water as necessary to keep the soil moist.

Want more gardening tips? Try:

  • Gardening Tips: Learn great helpful hints for all of your gardening needs.
  • Annuals: Plant these beauties in your garden.
  • Perennials: Choose great plants that will return year after year.
  • Gardening: Discover how to garden.