Perennials — Basic Maintenance
Soil preparation is key to a great perennial bed.
- We recommend digging down and loosening the soil to a depth of 6–12 inches. Add compost to your soil by roto-tilling or turning with a shovel. Well-drained soil is a must for perennials and the compost will help open up the soil.
- Mulching is recommended at a depth of 2 inches to help keep weeds down and conserve moisture during a hot summer. Compost or shredded bark may be used.
- Fertilizing may be done in spring with a 10-10-10 fertilizer if desired. Most perennial gardens do not need to be fertilized if compost was used to establish the bed. Additional fertilization is not necessary except for heavy-blooming perennials such as daylilies, roses, and astilbes.
- Watering is key to establishing your perennials after planting. Check them every other day for the first month. Once established, your perennials will need an inch of water per week. Morning watering is best because it will reduce the chance of disease and evaporation. When transplanting or dividing, water the night before. If possible, keep the foliage dry when watering to prevent disease. Water your plants through a dry fall but do not overwater, as your plants need less moisture as they shut down for the year. Your plants will be tougher going into the winter with the proper moisture.
- Deadheading, removing spent blooms as they fade, will tidy the look of your garden and often promotes re-blooming.
- Pruning needs vary widely depending on the variety. As a rule, pruning can be done after the first flush of flowers. Talk to us about exceptions or proper timing.
- Division every 4 years may be needed to ensure air movement around your plants in order to prevent disease. Overcrowding can cause leaves to stay wet and in turn, develop spots. Division can also give new life to an older plant. One sign that division is needed is when a dead space develops in the center of the plant.
- Weeding is ongoing throughout the season. More frequent weeding will be needed in late spring. Pre-emergent herbicides can be used in early spring to prevent weed germination.
- Winter preparation is minimal in a perennial garden. Most perennials can be cut back to the ground in late fall. This will keep the garden clean and neat for winter. Perennials that give winter interest, such as ornamental grasses and coneflowers, should not be cut back until the new growth emerges in early spring. Woody perennials, such as butterfly bush and lavender, may leaf from old wood. Prune these in late spring once you can determine which branches survived the winter. Some tender perennials, like Coral Bells, benefit from a layer of mulch after the ground freezes to prevent winter damage. Mulch should be pulled away from the plant in early spring.
Caring for plants can bring pleasure and joy into your life and beauty to your surroundings. Hinsdale Nurseries is pleased to offer fine plant material, expert installation, maintenance services, and knowledgeable advice.