Landscaping With Perennials

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Q:  I am interested in adding perennials to my landscape but do not know much about them. Can you tell me more?

 A:        Herbaceous perennials have been used in various ways in the landscape for many years. Herbaceous perennials are plants that die down and go dormant in the winter months but put on new growth from the roots in the spring. Perennials can be mixed in with other types of plants in the landscape or grouped together to form perennial landscape beds. Often times, perennials can be found in rock gardens, borders, natural areas, and foundation plantings.

The advantage of landscaping with perennials is that they require minimum maintenance. After establishment, most perennials require minimum pesticides, pruning, and staking. Perennials should be planted in well-drained soil, amended with compost or organic matter. It is important to define the right plant for the right place when planting perennials. Consider hardiness zones, climate, light exposure, and growth characteristics when selecting perennials for a landscape.

Some of the traditional perennial favorites include daylilies (Hemerocallis sp.), hostas, and shasta daisies (Chrysanthemum maximum). Daylilies come in various colors and characteristics. They are easy to manage and thrive in full sun but can tolerate partial shade. The plants multiply easily and can be dug and divided in the spring every 5 to 6 years. Hostas are known for their attractive foliage. Many cultivars are available, including ones with variegated foliage. Hostas require full shade to partial shade. Plants are easily divided or can be left undisturbed for many years. Shasta daisies are popular because they continuously bloom from early summer until frost. The daisies grow 1 to 3 feet in height. They should be located in partial shade with moist, well-drained soil.

Perennials that have been growing in popularity include blanket flower (Gaillardia x grandiflora), lenten roses (Helleborus orientalis), and astillbe (Astillbe x arendsii). Blanket flowers have yellow, orange to red flowers that bloom through the summer. They grow in full sun and are drought tolerant. Lenten roses have spring, nodding flowers along with large, dark green foliage. Lenten roses require shady locations with good, moist soil. Astillbe has a low growing habit that makes it work as a border plant or ground cover. The flowers are fluffy pink or white panicles above dense fern-like foliage.

There are many types of perennials available that are suitable for various location types. Just a few locations that perennials can be selected for include shady sites, butterfly gardens, and dry locations. To decide what type of perennials to grow in the landscape, first determine the location type and then select perennials to fit the location. There are numerous sources of information available on perennials. Information can be gathered from local garden centers, gardening magazines and books on perennials and perennial gardening.

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Jessica Strickland is an Agriculture Extension Agent, specializing in horticulture for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Wayne County. Horticulture program information can be found at // Forward any questions you would like answered from this week’s column to