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Planting and Care: Perennials

Growing perennials in your garden is easy - just follow a few steps for successful planting, then care for the plants appropriately as they grow!

Unpacking - Don’t worry if your perennials have lost their leaves in transit. They have strong roots which will renew the foliage after planting. Make sure roots are moist. Soak briefly before planting if needed. They grow best in rich, humus soil that is well-drained and in a location protected from drying winds. Water most perennials whenever dry. To improve poor soil, add organic matter such as compost, manure, leaf mold, peat or a complete fertilizer. If perennials begin to crowd one another, they should be lifted, cut apart and replanted in a different bed. In the North, divide in spring; in the South, divide in fall.

Root Types: There are four basic methods of planting perennials.

  1. Fibrous roots (i.e. Carnations, Mums, Phlox, etc.) need to be spread downward and not cramped. The crown (where roots meet stems) should be level with or slightly above the soil.
  2. Long tap roots (Hollyhocks, Hibiscus, Columbine, etc.) should extend almost straight down. To avoid possible rotting conditions, place the crown just below the soil line.
  3. Rhizomes (i.e. Bearded, Japanese, and Lilliput Irises) should be planted near the surface. A small portion of the rhizome, where the leaves connect should be visible above the soil.
  4. Roots with eyes (i.e. Daylilies and Peonies) are placed in a hole on a cone of soil with the crown just below ground level. Spread roots around the cone. Lightly cover the crown with soil.


Asters are extremely hardy and bloom in late summer or early fall. Plant potted asters 2-3 feet apart. Water well at planting, and water regularly if your plants receive less than one inch of rain per week. Asters grow and multiply quickly, so plan to divide them once every two to three years.

Butterfly Flowers

Butterfly flowers grow quickly, with little maintenance required! Plant the tubers vertically, 1 inch deep, spacing 15 to 18 inches apart. Top the tubers with light soil, amending your garden soil with compost or humus if necessary. Butterfly flowers prefer drier conditions, so water lightly. Note - Butterfly plants are poisonous to some animals, so keep out these out of the way of pets.


Plant columbine bareroots in spring or early summer, and don't bury the seeds more than an inch. Select an area with excellent drainage, but be sure to keep plants hydrated until well-established. After blooming, deadheading can encourage more blooms and keep plants looking neater. These plants reseed if seedpods are allowed to fall.


Select a sunny spot with great drainage for planting, and space the plants 9 to 15 inches apart. Carnations prefer slightly alkaline soil, so consider adding lime or woodash to the planting site. Plant the carnations at the same level they were growing during shipment, and water in well. Cut off spent blossoms after the flowering season.

Coneflowers and Rudbeckia

Coneflowers prefer well-drained soil that is not overly rich. Space the plants one to two feet apart, depending on predicted grown size. Plant potted coneflowers so that the root ball is level with the surface of the soil, and water in thoroughly. After planting, coneflowers need watering only if less than one inch of rain falls each week. Remove spent flowers to encourage a longer blooming season, and cut down floppy branches after they flower.


Space coreopsis plants 1 to 1 1/2 feet apart, and incorporate organic material into soil when planting. Water weekly through the first summer; in later seasons; water only during drought. Each spring, cut back old foliage. Coreopsis will bloom throughout the summer, and makes a great border plant - consider positioning it near other perennials and shrubs!


Choose well-drained soil (add humus to further promote drainage if necessary). Plant daisies 1 1/2 to 2 feet apart. Remove dead flowers to encourage extended blooming. Cut flower stalks to ground after the blooming season and cover the plants with heavy mulch for protection in the winter.


Daylililes will flourish in any kind of soil, except the very wet kind! Select a spot that drains. Space the plants 1 to 3 feet apart, depending on variety, and keep the roots moist as the plants develop. After blooming season, foliage can be cut back to 5 or 6 inches.


Choose rich soil with a leveled pH. Too much acidity will stunt the plants, but lime can be added to correct acid soil. Space delphiniums 1 1/2 to 2 feet apart, and set the crown at or just above the soil level - the stems will rot if buried too deep. Water well as the plants become established. Cut back flower stems after the first bloom of the year to encourage later blooming.

Hardy Geraniums

Plant geraniums 1 to 2 feet apart, depending on the variety of your plants. Add compost or peat humus to loosen the soil, if necessary: gereniums love drainable soil! Water in lightly. Continue to water lightly throughout the development of the plant. Cut flowers back to force reblooms halfway through summer.


Hardy hibiscus prefers well-drained but moist soil, best enriched with humus, and bloom best in full sun. Plant your hibiscus 2 to 4 feet apart. It may take some time for the plants to grow, but will rapidly sprout once the ground warms. As the plants grow, it may require regular pruning to keep its shape.


Plant hollyhocks 1 1/2 to 2 feet apart. Remember that hollyhocks may require staking if planted in an open area, so consider planting near a sunny wall or fence. Hollyhocks have a short blooming period, which can be extended by removing dead flowers as soon as they are spent. Hollyhocks reseed annually.


Irises are a varied bunch - the care requirements for these beloved flowers depend on the type. However, all irises require acidic soil and plenty of moisture. Be sure to water regularly, and provide organic material to increase materials.


Lavender plants are not only fragrant, they're adaptable to various gardening scenarios. Warm, well-drained soil is ideal, and alkaline soil will enhance the fragrance of the blooms. Space lavender plants at least two feet apart. Water well while plants become established, after the first season or two, lavender is fairly resistant to drought. After the first few seasons, lavender will need to be pruned at the end of each season to retain its shape.


These beloved flowers bloom for several weeks in the late summer and early autumn. Space the plants 3 to 4 feet apart. Water plants during dry spells. Some varieties require pinching back growth before the blooming season to encourage large blooms.


Peonies prefer full sun but can handle part shade. Plant peonies just deep enough to cover, with the pink buds of the roots pointing up. Choose rich, well-drained soil. Add loam to soil if you live in a clay-rich area.


Several varieties of phlox work in different gardens, so size and soil preference vary. Creeping phlox should be planted 12 to 18 inches apart, and grow only 6 inches tall, Tall Phlox can grow upwards of 3 feet.


Plant scabiosa about 1 foot apart. Use humus to enrich the soil. Water plants well, but do not overwater - scabiosa are frequently the victim of rot. Cut back old flowers as necessary so your scabiosa will grow more and more flowers each year!