A perennial is a plant of which the stems and leaves are renewed each year upon the arrival of spring. The plant gradually develops, blooms all summer and dies in winter. The following spring, the growing cycle restarts and is renewed for years. Easy to grow, perennials are ideal to give a touch of brightness to balconies and gardens year after year.

There is such an impressive number of perennials that it would be difficult to list them all. Renowned for their diversity, they are largely valued for their ability to adapt to different environments and their incredible vitality. Often flower-bearing, they are each distinguished by their bearing, shape, fragrance, type of foliage, and the colour of their flowers. Similarly, they sometimes have very different needs and should therefore be well-known before being planted or combined with each other. Very versatile, perennials beautifully adorn walkways, flower beds, hedges, rockeries, or flower clumps but they also bring more life to balconies, terraces and sun rooms. By choosing them cleverly, you can have flowery gardens and balconies from spring to fall. Indeed, some species such as lily of the valley, iris, peony and valerian flower as soon as the good weather returns, while others such as cornflowers, carnations, oxeye daisies, gladioli and chrysanthemums bloom in summer or fall. Undemanding, they can last for years, provided of course that they are well-grown and well-maintained.

How to choose perennials?

To select the perennials that are best suited to your garden or balcony, it is necessary to take certain factors into account. Indeed, before planting, it is important to know if all the conditions necessary to their well-being are met. Thus, the soil type (drained, humus-bearing, compact, rich, acidic, neutral), the degree of sunlight (full sun, partial shade, shade) and exposure to the wind are many details that need to be taken into consideration. While some perennial plants need sun and well-drained soil to grow (scented geraniums, pelargonium, Azalea mollis, fuchsias, passion flowers), others, however, need to be planted on acid soils, sheltered from sunlight (hydrangeas, camellias, magnolias). Consequently, if you want to brighten up your garden’s shady corners (the flowerbeds, for example), use plants likeĀ  Japanese anemones, bluebells or common lungwort. For hedges rather prefer species such as rose bushes or hydrangea while perennial geraniums, dusty millers or papavers are perfect for flower beds. For sunny regions, use exotic species such as fuchsia, passion flower or yucca to decorate balconies. In any case, always make sure that your plant benefits from the best possible conditions to grow, flourish and bloom.

Maintaining perennials

In general, perennials appreciate loose soil that is well-weeded. While many people prefer to plant in spring, at which time vegetation resumes, the perfect season for planting is still autumn. Before putting your plants in the ground, it will be necessary to moisten the root ball and add some compost, manure or organic fertilizer to the soil. To withstand the winter, the less hardy perennials often require that their roots be protected with winter protection or a suitable mulch made of dead leaves and pine bark. The weakest of them will need to hibernate in order not to be destroyed by frost. Although a significant number of perennials fear the cold, most of them are more concerned about moisture. Under the effect of cold, this moisture can trap and freeze the roots, which has the effect of destroying the plant. Similarly, except in exceptional cases, perennials do not like abundant and too frequent waterings, as they often lead to root rot. For that reason, always ensure that the earth is less humid before proceeding to the next watering. In spring (April-May), your plant is finally ready to grow again, but to help it, you will need to prune and pinch it whenever the need arises. In addition, during flowering, consider removing the dried flowers because by remaining several days on your perennials, they will only contribute in exhausting their energy supplies. Finally, note that most perennials are propagated by seeds or cuttings. Nonetheless, given the fact that there are hundreds of species, it would be better to check with an expert before choosing the right method of propagation.

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Published in Perennials by Alexander on 31 Aug 2011