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Perennial plants provide flowers in our gardens year after year. They are planted together to create herbaceous and mixed borders, which peak in interest in summer and early autumn. However, they can provide colour through much of the year (except the depths of winter) with careful planning and planting.
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The term ‘perennials’ is used loosely by gardeners to indicate those plants which grow in beds and borders, which are not trees, shrubs or bulbs. They are the ‘summer colour’, the ‘border flowers’ and make up a ‘flower garden’.The two terms commonly used by gardeners are:
To be more botanically precise, the following applies:
Perennials are widely used in the garden. However, the two main uses are in:
Planting: Most perennials are usually reliable and easy to plant successfully, but some from warmer climates suffer in winter and need the shelter of a wall or greenhouse and well-drained conditions.
Staking: many tall perennials will need staking to hold the flowers upright and prevent flopping.
Perennials need little pruning. However, there are two instances where it is needed:
Many perennials can be raised from cuttings; softwood and semi-ripe. Others can be raised from seed. Perennials are also usually divided.
With an enormous range of perennials offered by garden centres and nurseries it is possible to find ones to suit a wide range of sites. Selecting the right plant for the right place and soil conditions and buying a good quality plant is important if the perennial is to thrive.
There are thousands of perennials to choose from and some of the best can be seen on the RHS Find a Plant.
See the links below for help with choosing suitable perennials for your garden as well as our page on choosing plants for perennial borders:
Perennials are usually very robust garden plants, but sometimes will start to decline for no apparent reason. This often starts with browning leaves but may indicate an underlying disease such as phytophthora or pythium root rot.
Young foliage and susceptible plants can be affected by slugs and snails, rabbits and voles.
Yellow leaves (chlorosis) indicate a nutrient deficiency.
It is important to stake taller or unstable perennials to prevent plants flopping and the flower spikes falling over.
Borders: revitalising an over-mature bedBulbsClimbers and wall shrubsHelleboresHostaPerennial borders: choosing plantsPerennials: cutting backPerennials: plantingPerennials: stakingPeony: herbaceousRoseShrubsTrees
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