So you’ve wisely decided to plant perennials in your garden (or maybe you’ve inherited a few). But now what?

Blue Star

Blue star not only blooms in spring, it provides great fall color with its foliage.

Photo Credit: Felder Rushing

‘Lucifer’ crocosmia

For some hot summer color, consider ‘Lucifer’ crocosmia.

Photo Credit: International Flower Bulb Centre

When planting perennials, the most important issues revolve around using the right plant for the right place. Sun-loving perennials will obviously not prosper in a shady spot, and shade-loving plants may wither, yellow – or even die – in full sun. Know your growing conditions before you plant! There are perennials for every climate and condition – just make sure you match them up. For example, I have a continually moist place in my garden that receives a lot of sun. I needed a perennial planted there that would like those conditions, but I also wanted one that would grow no taller than about 12 inches, have fine texture, offer seasonal interest, and sport pink or purple flowers. I chose germander (Teucrium chamaedrys), and it’s flourishing.

Your garden soil is like your house foundation. Make sure your soil is right, and plants should thrive where they’re planted for years. I like to work compost, manure, old leaves and even shredded bark mulch into the soil before planting to increase organic matter content. (Give that a try, and your perennials will thank you for it.)

Where I am in Ohio, we must be vigilant about good drainage in our clay-heavy soils. I used to tell my students, “Twice as wide, about as deep and a mound in the middle.” That means the hole should be dug twice as wide as the rootball to allow for a nicely mixed backfill of garden soil, maybe some peat moss or compost and a little granular fertilizer – all tossed like a salad before putting back in the hole around the plant.

The hole is dug about as deep as the plant’s rootball, but I advocate a little mound in the bottom of the hole. This allows the rootball to sit on top of the mound and not drown as if in a bowl when the hole is full of water. If the perennial is pot-bound or has a firm tangle of roots, I lightly break up the bottom of the rootball and try to disentangle some of the roots before planting it in the hole. After planting, the perennial should appear to be at the same soil level as it was in the pot.

Planting techniques can vary depending on where you live and what type of conditions you have. For gardeners living in an arid part of the US, I’ve seen perennial holes dug specifically to resemble a bowl to hold water, and the plants may be planted slightly lower than the soil level they were in the pot.

The key is to be aware of the growing conditions and regular planting techniques for your area!