The Secrets of Southern Perennials
It’s best to think of perennials as “featured attractions.” Superstars that make a glorious entrance, steal the spotlight, then disappear for beauty rest before their next big show.
Perennials are some of the easiest plants to grow, but sometimes misunderstood. Yes, perennials are “permanent” plants, although their lifespans can vary from 3-5 years to decades and decades. They’re generally quite flowery; they can really pump out a floral mass when they’re at their peak. And there are other valuable perennials that are grown solely for their beautiful, striking foliage.
Where the mystery comes in for many gardeners is the length of bloom season. We’re all a bit spoiled by annuals—those little flower factories that bloom from the day they’re planted to cold fall days. So, we’ve come to expect everything from our plants: continuous color, we want to plant them once, and expect them to return spectacularly every year.
When planted with this thinking in mind, perennials can sometimes be disappointing. Often, they’re just starting their show when we buy them at the nursery. Our expectation is a quick rev-up, then non-stop flowering for the rest of the year. But perennials are not annuals. They rarely bloom over long, long periods.
So, should we avoid them? Of course not! We just need to plan for them.
A little time spent thinking about their bloom times and cycles can pay off tremendously. You see, it’s best to think of perennials as “featured attractions.” Superstars that make a glorious appearance, steal the attention, then disappear for beauty rest before their next big show.
Here’s the secret power of perennials: they create change. They create interest. Excitement.
Truly great gardens evolve over the seasons, they change from week to week, month to month. They are never the same. And perennials are the plants that accomplish that.
With a little planning, with flowering trees and shrubs as the “backup singers” and annuals as the dancers during the main summer show, perennials can make your garden interesting all year long.
The latest trend with perennials is to refrain from cutting them back after flowering.
Many perennials have interesting and colorful seed heads. Enjoy them all fall and winter. Then, in early spring, cut them back to the base. This technique works especially well when perennials are combined with ornamental grasses.