Gardening Help FAQs

Here are answers to some of the most common questions we receive about garden plants. You will find concise information on general gardening techniques as well as plant selection and care. For detailed information on specific plant pests and problems refer to our Common Garden Pests and Problems page.

Do you have additional gardening questions? Please contact us. Here's how.

Horticulture Questions and Answers

How do I plant perennials?

A successful perennial garden starts with a proper site and plant selection, and good soil preparation. Before planting, check the amount of light, type of soil, drainage, pH, and how existing plants will affect the planned garden. Make a plan that fits your home and existing landscape. Perennial gardens can be formal with lots of straight lines and geometric shapes, natural, or use curves to make an informal bed. Use plants that are adapted to the growing conditions and will give the size, shape, texture and color you want. Don't forget to plan for seasonal interest. Use a variety of perennial's to provide continuous bloom, interesting foliage, and fruiting effects. Before planting, draw your plan on paper, it's much easier to erase than to transplant.

At planting time, proper soil preparation is critical because it will be several years before you can amend the soil. Several months before planting, have your soil tested to find out what nutrients should be added. Apply these with two to four inches of organic matter such as peat moss, compost, leaf mold or aged manure. Work these into the top 8 to 12 inches of soil. Let the soil settle for two weeks or wait until after a good rain before planting. If you don't, plant crowns may end up higher than you planned. If the soil does settle after planting, add mulch or additional soil to cover exposed crowns.

To save yourself time in the future, remove any weeds before you plant, as once you plant, it's harder to remove weeds. If your bed will be in a grassy area, remove the grass before working the soil or kill the grass using an herbicide following the label directions carefully. The herbicide Roundup works well. Do not rototill the grass into the bed without killing the grass ahead of time. If you do, you will have a weeding nightmare!

Most perennials are best planted in spring but hardy ones can also be planted in the fall. Perennials do best if planted before October 1st so roots can establish themselves before the ground freezes. Use stakes to mark where you want to set the plants. Dig a hole large enough to provide space for the roots. Gently loosen the root ball and cut any roots growing around the root ball. Lightly push soil down around the roots. This ensures good root soil contact and will eliminate air pockets. Create a small dish around the plant to make watering easier and more effective. After planting, mulch the area with 2-3 inches of compost, bark or other organic material. If the weather does not allow for immediate planting of mail ordered dormant plants in the spring, keep them in a cool dark spot and make sure the packing material around the roots doesn't dry out.