Caring for Perennials
Caring for your perennials as they grow helps will help ensure their blooming return the next year. These tips will help you do just that.
- Pinching is one of the handiest things you can do in the garden. Removing the stem tip, with a pinch of your fingernails or with pruning shears, makes plants more compact and bushy.
- Pinching is particularly helpful for mums and asters. Flowering plants purchased in a pot have been specially treated to make the plants bushy and full. If left untouched the following year, they will grow fewer, taller, scraggly stems that are more likely to need staking for support.
- When pinching, scheduling is important. You want to start early enough to make an impact. And you need to stop by July 1 so flower buds can develop before heavy cold strikes. Start with this pinching schedule but feel free to modify it as you gain experience: Pinch shoot tips when the stems are 4 to 6 inches high. Pinch again three weeks later. Pinch a final time in late June.
- Shear reblooming perennials such as catmint and moonglow coreopsis to promote a second flush of flowers. Getting rid of the old flowers and seed pods encourages new growth, new buds, and new flowers. This is a great reward for a small amount of effort.
- Renew a declining clump of perennials by division. As many perennials grow, new shoots emerge at the perimeter of the clump, which keeps spreading outwards. The center becomes increasingly older -- sometimes woody, sometimes completely barren.
- The solution is division. In spring, late summer, or fall, dig up the entire clump. Cut out the old heart, refresh the soil with organic matter, and replant healthy young pieces. You may have enough good divisions left to share with friends.
- Support full, floppy perennials with pruned twigs. This is an old British trick called pea staking. It helps perennials stay upright and look natural without glaring metallic stakes or forced shapes that result from corseting with twine. Even better, pea staking costs nothing but a little time.
- When the perennials begin to arise in spring, set the ends of sturdy branched twigs around the plant. The twigs should be about as long as the height of the perennial. As the stems grow, they will fill out to hide the twigs. You can cut off any errant woody stems that remain in sight after the perennial reaches full height.
In our final section, we'll talk about how perennials can interact with other plants in your garden.Want more gardening tips? Try: