5 Ways to Perk up your Perennials
By O’Bryan, Horticulturalist
In Summer, the powerhouse of the landscape is the perennial garden. Not only does it bring beauty and structure to the garden, but perennials are also a source of food for many pollinators whizzing by. Keeping your perennials happy and looking their best will make your yard look amazing and give the wildlife a good home in your yard. Check out this list of 5 ways to work your perennial garden to evoke the envy of the neighborhood.
Perennials are floral dynamos. To keep them putting out flowers, they require some work. Most need to be dead headed so other flowers will come forth. When a plant puts out flowers, its main goal is to procreate through seeds. If you cut those seed heads off, known as deadheading, the plant will continue putting out more flowers in an attempt to procreate. Deadhead your perennials once a week to keep them flowering profusely.
If your perennials are getting too big or looking ratty, prune them back by half and they will take on a new life and fill out beautifully.
Perennials in the ground prefer a heavy dose of compost in Spring to help feed them. If you have perennials in containers, they will need a little help. Most plants that live in the same soil year after year will suffer over time. There are several ways to help them stay healthy.
First, consider replacing the soil each year. A good potting mix with lots of compost will feed the perennials well. If this is not an option, make sure to add a slow release plant food such as Osmocote to the soil so that every time it watered, it will receive some fertilizer. Add an extra water soluble plant food like Miracle Gro once a week to keep them happy and strong.
Some perennials, such as peony and ‘Autumn Joy’ sedum can get floppy over time. To keep them upright and looking pretty, it might be necessary to support them while they are smaller. There are several ways to do this. A cage similar to what is used for tomatoes is once way, and there are even peony cages made specifically for keeping the blossoming beauties upright.
Staking is another way to keep tall flowers, such as sunflowers, on the straight and narrow. Use bamboo poles with soft garden twine for an easy stake for individual flowers.
On hot days, newly planted perennials will need supplemental watering. A great way to do this is to snake a drip hose around the plantings and cover with mulch. Turn the drip line on or use a timer set for 20 minutes in the morning when temperatures are predicted to soar. The mulch will help keep the water from evaporating too quickly and your plants will stay nice and hydrated.
If you have perennials in containers, you must use the same rules as you do with annual container plantings. Water the containers on a daily basis when it is hot outside. When it is cooler, stich your finger in the soil down to your middle knuckle of your index finger. If it is moist at your fingertips. There is no need to water at that time.
If your containers can’t seem to hold enough water, consider adding Soil Moist. This product has little structures that control the flow of moisture and will hold it in when needed.
Disease and Pest Control
There are plenty of diseases and pests that can plague your perennials, many of which are chewing insects that will cut holes in leaves and eat buds off your plants and fungi that can plague the entire plant. There are two great, natural products out there that can help a lot.
Neem oil is a product made from the oil of a bean. It has many uses, one of which is a natural pesticide and the other is a fungicide. This product does it all, and is safe for human consumption so it is also safe for your pets. The only downside to neem is that if it rains, it must be reapplied.
Diatomaceous earth is another natural product that will take care of soft bodied pests like slugs and caterpillars. This dusty like material is actually made of millions of very sharp, crystal like structures that cut up soft bodies and then dry them out. Cruel I know, but when a slug slowly mows down your prize Hostas, you may think twice.
Keeping your perennials in good order will benefit your landscape in so many ways. Try these tips this year and you will see a major difference in your plants. The pollinators will thank you for it!