The "Perennial" Question: Which Plants to Choose?

The planting beds are calling. You want to get those new perennials in the ground soon. No more waiting. The warmer it gets, the harder it is for newly-planted arrivals to take root and survive.

You wander around the yard, eyeing potential spots for new plants. Sometimes those empty spaces just scream to be filled.

Filled with what, though? Choosing the right perennials is about more than just going to the nursery. Remember, these plants come back year after year, usually a bit larger. A haphazard selection can result in an overgrown mess, or money wasted if they don’t survive.

You don’t have to spend hours researching potential new tenants for your planting beds. In fact, most of the information needed is right on the sales tags (such as the Plant Hardiness Zone, which you know about from our last post.)

Before even getting in the car, it’s a good idea to measure out the open spaces in your planting beds. Seriously. Find out exactly how much room you have to work with.

Pay attention to other qualities, too. Is the soil well-drained, or does it stay moist? Is the area sunny and dry, or shady and wetter?

When you’re at the nursery, read the sales tags carefully. Check how large the plants will grow. Do the math, based on the available space in your beds (aren’t you glad you measured?). Putting plants too close together can create the previously mentioned “overgrown mess.” Locating them too close to a house invites insects or wild animals to take a look at what’s inside.

Use the sales tags to learn whether the plants prefer drier or wetter soils, and more sun or less. Match them to your growing conditions. This isn’t rocket science; it’s simple research that can save time, money and aggravation.

Remember, too, that bigger isn’t necessarily better when buying nursery plants. Just because a plant is larger doesn’t mean it’s healthier. Instead of only size, look at the color of a plant’s leaves. Make sure they’re not brown or withered on the edges. Tug a few, to ensure they aren’t about to fall off.

Picking the right perennials for your yard involves a bit of homework, and taking the time to fully understand what you’ll be planting. Don’t rush. Any mistakes won’t be obvious right away, but will reveal themselves later. You’ll be reminded, though, if you have to dig up and start over.


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