Gardening with Perennials

Some people get confused: Which plants are perennials and which ones are annuals? Annuals bloom only one season and perennials come back each year! If you are planning to order some perennials or plant some this spring here are some tips to help you started in the right direction!

Plants ordered by mail often arrive with no soil around their roots. Unpack bare root perennials at once and plunge their roots into a bucket of water. Soak for one to four hours.

In a prepared bed, make a hole larger than the root area: this will give the plant room to expand. In the middle of the hole, shape the soil into a cone. Perch the plant on top of the mound, spreading its roots outward and downward. The crown of the plant, where the roots and stems meet, should be level with the top of the hole.

When you have placed the plant at the proper depth and spread out the roots, fill in the hole. Firm the loose soil to remove any large air pockets and to ensure contact between the roots and the surrounding soil. Spread a suitable mulch, like buckwheat hulls, around the plant or plants, leaving a little space between the crown and the mulch, and water thoroughly.

To plant a container perennial, tip it out of the pot; settle it into the prepared hole at the same depth that it was growing in the pot. Fill the hole, firm the soil, mulch, and water.

Shrubs and Trees

A container shrub needs a hole twice as large as the container itself. When the hole is ready, invert the container and remove the plant from its pot.

Break the root ball and encourage the roots to escape their confinement. Place the plant in the prepared hole and put a stake across the top to make sure it is at the right depth – with the top of the root ball at ground level. Fill in the hole and firm the soil with your feet.

Make a “well” around the plant to guide water to the roots. Add two or three inches of a suitable mulch – nuggets of bark are the right scale for most shrubs. Spread the mulch before watering to keep mud from splashing on the leaves and interfering with photosynthesis. Watering is the last step. Water gently but thoroughly.

Shrubs and trees are frequently sold balled and burlapped. Prepare them for planting by cutting the rope, wire, or string that holds the burlap in place. Also remove any nails driven into the root ball. You can leave natural fiber burlap in the planting hole, but always be sure to remove plastic or synthetic material.

Settle the plant in the prepared hole and check the depth by placing a stake or yardstick across the top. The top of the root ball should be level with the soil surface. Fill the hole and firm the loose earth with your feet. Make a well around the shrub. Then mulch and water.

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