One of the questions people ask me most often as the temperatures get warmer is when can I start planting??? The answer is, it depends on what you want to plant. If you are thinking about planting annuals and live in places that have freezing temps you need to find out what your frost free date is. ( For us here in Southeastern PA, it's usually Mother's Day). Annuals are susceptible to frost so you don't want to plant them before the danger of frost is past.
But don't despair. You can start planting perennials.
So now you might be asking - "Why do I want to plant those?"
There's a few great reasons to discover perennials:
1. They Come Back Every Year.
So if you have a garden bed that you struggle to plant with lots of annuals every year, perennials can be a time-saving and cost effective solution. This is a photo of one of my beds in late summer. The Black-Eyed Susans, Russian Sage, and Sedum are making an amazing show. And the sedum is not yet showing its full dark red fall color. I really just mulch this bed and trim the plants back every so often. Pretty low maintenance.
2. They Spread
Some varieties spread by sending out roots (runners). So buying one or two perennials can fill a bigger area over time, if you are patient and allow them to do their job. The plants in this photo have been in for several years. The Black-Eyed Susans spread rapidly so it's sometimes necessary to dig them up when they spread to where I don't want them. But all in all they provide a beautiful mass of color in the late summer.
3. You Can Divide Them
As some perennials grow, they become large enough to dig up and divide. ( Fall is the best time to do this). Again this means that one or two plants can provide more and more plants over time. In fact, sometimes I purposely buy the largest pot I can find and then divide the plant into several before planting.
So How Do You Get Started???
1. Know Your Zone
In order to know if a plant will survive to come back next year, you need to know your hardiness zone. Plants that are perennials in Georgia may not be perennial in Pennsylvania. Below is the USDA Hardiness Zone Map for the US. You can also find this on-line. Here in SE PA we're in Zone 6. Plants that have a higher hardiness zone number indicated on their label won't be perennial here - they will be annuals. Plants with a lower number will be perennial and will come back every year.
2. Know How Much Sun Your Garden Receives
All plants need different amounts of sunlight. Check out how much sun the area you plan to plant receives and then look for the designation on the plant label.
Full Sun: More than 6 hours of sun/day
Part Sun: 4-6 hours of sun /day
Part Shade: 2-4 hours of sun/day
Shade: Less than 2 hours of sun/day
3. Shop with Experts
If you are just getting started with perennials be sure to visit a nursery with a great selection and expert staff. They can give you the in's and out's of which perennials they know to perform best in your area, how best to plant them so they take hold quickly and how to maintain them.
By adding perennials to your garden, you'll be rewarded with great color and foliage year in and year out with little maintenance.