Growing perennials: a checklist for Spring

Keep this checklist handy as Spring arrives, so you are well-prepared to care for your perennials.

 

Follow this simple guidance to nurture the growth of perennial flowers and plants in your garden.

 

Prepare your garden

Weed, feed and mulch established plants. Cut off any remaining dead growth and tidy up evergreens.

Lift and divide established clumps of ornamental grasses and mid- to late-summer flowering perennials and replant the divisions.

Repot container-grown plants that are congested and top-dress those remaining in pots with fertiliser and fresh compost.

Harden off plants by removing winter protection once the weather has improved. Plants you have raised or overwintered under cover will need plenty of time to establish themselves before next winter.

 

Plan your planting

Plan new planting schemes for your garden, then buy and plant new perennials and grasses while the weather conditions are still cool and moist. Look for well-established plants in large pots at the garden centre. These are a good buy as you can divide them up immediately into several smaller clumps.

Pot up young plants that have developed from autumn or winter root cuttings and tender perennials overwintering under cover. Place them in fresh compost and water well to encourage new growth.

Take basal cuttings from plants that produce an abundance of new shoots at ground level and insert them in cuttings compost to root.

Sow the seeds of many perennial species, either those that you have bought or those you collected during the previous year.

 

Protect your plants

Protect new shoots from slugs and snails, particularly those of susceptible plants such as delphiniums, hostas, lupins and peonies.

Remove weeds regularly, otherwise they will compete with your ornamental plants for food, space and moisture.

Deal with aphids as soon as they settle on the soft growth of perennials—vigilance is important. You can remove them by hand—gently wipe the aphids away with your fingertips, taking care not to damage the young shoots—or use an organic oil-based spray that kills the pests as they feed.

Lift and discard some of the more invasive plants, such as Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia).

 

Nurture growth

Put supports or stakes in place well before tall perennials reach the point at which they begin to flop over.

Water thirsty young plants that are still developing a root system if more than a few days go by without rain. Soft and leafy perennials that have just been planted need plenty of water to maintain their rapid pace of growth—in dry weather this means up to 1 gallon (5 L) per week per plant.

Mulch to reduce water loss and suppress weeds. Cover the soil around plants with an organic mulch, such as composted bark, well-rotted manure or garden compost. Before you mulch, make sure the soil you intend to cover is thoroughly moist and clear of any perennial weeds. Then lay the mulch at least 3 inches (7–8 cm) deep to keep the moisture in and to prevent sunlight from reaching the soil and thus stimulating weed seeds to germinate.

Encourage sideshoots to grow from the base of new plants. Whether they have been raised from seed or from cuttings, make them bushier and stronger by removing the growing tip of each shoot, pinching between thumb and forefinger, once they reach a height of 4 inches (10 cm).