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.
Many people run to their local greenhouse or garden center and pickup whatever plants are blooming and start to plant. The problem is that any plants that are annuals in the area may not survive.
So what do I mean by annuals? Annuals are plants that only survive for one season. Perennials are plants that come back year after year.
What is an annual for PA may be a perennial for Florida. If a plant is an annual in your area you probably experience freezing temperatures during the winter and into early spring. If you plant an annual too early and freezing temps visit you, the plants won't survive.
So when is it safe to plant you ask? A good guide is to find our what your frost free date is. To find this out you can visit this page on the Farmer's Almanac website:
Put in your zip code to find the frost free date for your area. This will also help if you are planting vegetables. Some are to be planted when 'danger of frost is past' while others are to be planted a given number of weeks before the last frost. Knowing your frost free date is invaluable to your gardening success (and happiness).
So you might be asking - what can I plant now?
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. The plants in photo above are making a beautiful show.
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.
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. As I noted above, the plants that are perennials in Florida 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.
Comment below and let us know if you are planning to add perennials to your garden this year. Or if you already have perennials in your garden, what are your favorites?
We'd love to hear from you!