Choosing Your Plants

Things to consider when choosing plants:
Height
Tall plants should form the background of your garden, medium plants should form the middle, and shortest plants should form the front border or path edge of your garden.

Spacing
It is important to pay attention to the spacing of plants in your garden. Please consult your plant label for this information – it will tell you the amount of room plant will need as it matures and spreads in the garden.

Exposure
Please consult your plant label for this information. Depending on the site exposure in your garden, (Sun, Shade, Part Sun, Part Shade) you will want to make sure and select plants that will perform well in your site.

Hardiness Zone:
What is your hardiness zone?
Locate your hardiness zone by going to the ‘How To Grow’ section of our website and clicking on the icon link to the left of the page. Set up by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, consulting this map will help you find out if a plant will survive the coldest average temperatures in your area.

Heat Zone:
What is your heat zone?
Locate your heat zone by going to the ‘How To Grow’ section of our website and clicking on the icon link to the left of the page. Developed in 1997 by the American Horticultural Society, this map will help you determine if a plant will survive the hottest average temperatures in your area.

Bloom Time
Perennials feature different bloom times – some early, some late, and some bloom all season long. You want to consider this when planning your garden so you have some plants in bloom all season long. For example, there are some early flowering perennials such as Dicentra that will bloom and completely die back by summer. These should be used as underplantings to later blooming perennials.

Bloom Color
Typically, primary or contrasting colors (bold hues) should be planted in small masses and harmonious colors (pastel hues) should be planted in larger masses. A basic design principle is to group plants together in odd numbers such as 3, 5, 7, 9, etc. Remember to consider that bloom time will also affect the color show of your garden.

Selecting Your Site

Site Exposure
It is important to evaluate your planting site to determine what kind of exposure you have: Sun, Part Sun, Shade, or Part Shade. Also, keep in mind that you may have certain areas in your yard that have seasonal shade, such as in the summer when deciduous trees are in full leaf. You can take advantage of this by planting early blooming perennials in these areas. They will grow & finish blooming by the time the trees produce their leafy shade canopy.

How many hours of sun are considered Full Sun and Part Sun?
Full Sun means plants need at least six hours of direct sunlight. Part Sun means plants need at least three hours of direct sunlight, with shade or filtered sunlight during the remainder of the day.

How many hours of shade are considered Full Shade and Part Shade?
There are many kinds of shade! Full Shade means plants get less than two hours of sun per day or no direct sun at all. Part Shade means two to four hours of direct sunlight followed by shade or filtered sunlight during the remainder of the day.

Where do prevailing winds enter the site? Will plants require protection or staking?
Typically in our area, summer breezes come for the southwest and winter winds from the northwest. Prevailing northwinds into your site will produce a cooling effect on plants, so you may need to consider planting a wind break (such as evergreen shrubs) for protection. Also, plants may require staking in windy areas – you may want to consider using lower growing plants in this situation.

Site Location
Where are the views to the garden from the house?
You want to make sure these will be pleasing, unobstructed views.

Will your site be subject to deer, rabbits or other animals? What can be used to keep deer & animals from eating your plants?
Try Liquid Fence, which is an all-natural product that is guaranteed to repel deer & rabbits. It is safe for humans, animals, pets, plants, & vegetation. It is available at many large retailers -for more information go to www.liquidfence.com.
Also available at many large retailers, you can try Deer-Off, Deer Away, or Not Tonight Deer – these are other all natural animal repellents that work on a variety of herbivores. These products deter animals by using odor & taste barriers.

Where are utilities located? 
It is important before you begin any planting to know where utilities are located in your yard. There are local services that can help you identify these areas – check your phone book or call your local village or building department.

Do you have children or small pets? 
If so, you need to research and carefully consider your plant selection when developing your garden or home landscaping. There are many poisonous plants that can harm children, pets, or animals. For example, Digitalis (Foxglove), although very beautiful, is poisonous to pets, animals, or children if ingested. There are many websites that list these plants – simply do a search on Poisonous Plants, and you will be provided with a wealth of information about varieties of poisonous plants.

Site Analysis
Is your site flat, rocky, or sloping?
In flat sites, you will experience drainage problems. You will need to create a berm or some sort of drainage so water will be able to run off. Also, it is important to have well amended soil in this type of site. For rocky areas, you will also need good drainage, as plants are typically shallow-rooted. Go to our ‘Products’ section and type ‘rock gardens’ in search box, then select all categories. This will then give you a list of perennials that are suitable for use in rock gardens. For sloping sites, you will need to create a retaining wall and plant on the upper tier.

Are there existing trees & plants that can have an effect on your garden?
It is important to think about how these can affect your garden site. Do they produce shade in areas of your garden? Do they have special soil/water requirements, such as a pines, spruces & rhododendrons which require an acidic soil? Do they have established root systems that can be damaged by additional planting?

Consider the floor plan of your house – will the garden site be easily accessible?
Evaluate the flow from the house into your garden. Does a path or steps need to be created to access it?

Garden Style

Take into consideration the style of your house when planning your garden – is it traditional, victorian, or modern? 
It is important to create a garden style that will complement the existing architecture of your house.

Are you interested in creating a themed garden, such as a Butterfly, Hummingbird, or Native Garden?
Simply go to our ‘landscaping tips section and click on the links to see complete listings of plants for these types of gardens.

Preparing Your Soil

Perennial varieties have different soil requirements, though almost all perennials require a well-drained soil. Many perennials need a fertile soil, although some more aggressive varieties are best planted in average to poor soil. There are perennials that require moist soil, such as Astilbe, or are drought tolerant, such as Achillea. It is best to consult the tag information or our product database for your particular perennial variety. Many Midwest soils are clay-based, which means you must add soil amendments and organic matter to improve drainage. You can purchase a soil testing kit at your local garden retailer that will help you determine what kind of soil you have. A pH of 6.0 to 6.5 is ideal for most perennials.

Amending Your Soil
Mushroom compost, homemade compost (grass clippings, leaf waste, etc.), or peat moss will help aid in drainage & provide organic matter. Also, gypsum, vermiculite, or coarse sand can also be added to heavy clay soils to improve drainage. It is best to add 2-3″ of soil amendments. The soil and amendments should then be cultivated to a total depth of 8-10″.

Planting Instructions

When is the best time to plant perennials – spring or fall?
Planting perennials in the fall is our suggestion. If planted by the end of September, perennials will have a chance to get well established in moderate temperatures before the cold winter months arrive. Plants planted in the fall will produce a healthy root system and reward you with a lush, colorful display the following spring. Be careful not to plant too late in the fall. Late fall plantings can cause frost heaving and possible loss of plants. Frost heaving is caused by alternate freezing & thawing temperatures which can heave or pull perennials from their planting holes in the ground. It is best to plant early in fall to avoid losing plants. Spring is also a good time to plant, however. Perennials can be planted in the spring after the danger of frost has passed. It is best to plant them in the ground as soon as possible, giving the roots a chance to become well established before the hot summer temperatures arrive. Proper watering in hot, dry weather is essential for plant health – do not allow plants to dry out!

Planting perennials in your garden
Dig a planting hole that is 1 ¸” times wider and deeper than the root ball of your plant. Lightly tap or squeeze pot to release plant. Gently pinch the bottom roots, which in turn will encourage roots to spread and take hold in the ground. Place plant in hole so that crown is even with ground soil level. Place a slow release fertilizer in planting hole around root ball. Water plant in hole and backfill with soil. Gently tap down soil around crown to remove any air pockets. Apply a mulch layer for weed control and to provide more even water absorption. Water plant thoroughly. See watering instructions below for requirements pertaining to the development of new plants.

Perennial Maintenance

Watering
When is the best time to water? 
It is best to water plants in the morning before 11:00 AM. During hot summer months, plants will often need a second watering, which is best done in the late afternoon around 3:00 PM. It is important to allow plant foliage to dry off completely before dusk to prevent plants from becoming susceptible to insects & diseases.

How much water do perennials need?
Did you know that water is the main constituent of plants? Herbaceous plants contain 80 to 90% water by weight and every plant process is affected by or dependent on water. Also, 95% of the water a plant takes up through its roots will be lost through a process called transpiration. This is essentially the plant ‘sweating’ out the water it takes up by expending energy to convert liquid water to water vapor and then releasing it through tiny openings on the leaves. Typically, perennials require at least 1 to 1¸” of water per week from rainfall or from irrigation. Because plants will transpire more during hot temperatures, they will require additional watering. Be sure to check plants for signs of wilting, which is their natural response to insufficient water. After planting, be sure to water plants thoroughly. It is also important to water plants adequately during the first few weeks after planting while the roots are developing. Also, be careful not to overwater plants, which can result in root rot and plant death. Water plants thoroughly and deeply at the crown and allow soil surface to dry before the next watering. It is best to avoid wetting leaves & flowers, which can encourage insects & diseases. Soaker hoses or drip irrigation are both effective methods of watering.

Fertilizing
What is the best time to fertilize a perennial?
The best time to fertilize perennials is in the spring after danger of frost has passed. It is not recommended to fertilize in the fall, as plants produce soft growth that can cause winter kill of perennials.

What kind of fertilizer should I use for perennials?
It is best to use a slow release fertilizer such as Osmocote, or a water soluble fertilizer. Check product labels to ensure a fertilizer is recommended for use on perennials.

Deadheading
Should I cut or leave faded blooms on?
It is best to remove spent blooms as this encourages many perennials to rebloom again. By removing spent blooms, plants will no longer expend their energy setting seed.

Weeding
The best way to control weeds in your garden is by good old fashioned prevention and hand-weeding! Start by applying mulch or using landscape fabric, and follow it up with spot hand weeding as needed. Using herbicides can be tricky business – you must be careful using them so they do not harm children, animals, or plants.

Fall Maintenance
Generally, perennials should be cut back to a height of 1″and all foliage should be removed. A 2″ winter mulch should be applied to plants after the ground freezes, usually around mid to late November. It is important not to use a heavy mulch or pile mulch on the plant crown, as this can cause crown rot. It is best to use woodchips, evergreen boughs, straw, or loose mulches and to avoid using leaves or grass clippings. Winter mulches should be removed in mid to late March, allowing new plant growth to emerge.

Dividing & Transplanting
Although they will continue to rebloom every year, perennials often lose their vigor and should be divided or replaced an average of every 3-5 years. Please consult tag information or product database for recommendations on a particular perennial variety. A good rule of thumb, however, is to divide perennials when you see a decline in blooming or the center of the plant dies out. The best time of the season to divide or transplant (relocate) perennials is in the fall when temperatures are more moderate and after flowering. It is usually not recommended to divide or transplant established perennials during the hot summer months. To divide, gently pull apart plant roots to form equal sections, making sure each has a good root system attached. Plant sections as soon as possible in your garden.

Insects & Diseases
Slugs, aphids, whiteflies and thrips are insects common to perennials. Botrytis, powdery mildew and leaf spots are diseases that are common to perennials. Go to your local garden retailer and check the labels on chemicals to treat your specific problem. If you have children or small animals and are concerned with using chemicals or pesticides, there are some organic products available to treat various pests & diseases. Review labels carefully!