Perennial plants are the trusty stalwarts of our beds, borders, and containers. Thriving for many years before they need renewing, they’re a vital part of every well-designed planting scheme. To help you get the most from your perennials, we’ve searched the internet to bring together this comprehensive list of excellent blog posts and YouTube videos. Here are some top tips from expert gardeners who, when it comes to perennials, really know their stuff.
Alexandra – The Middle-Sized Garden
Expecting too much too soon from your perennials is a mistake says Alexandra at The Middle-Sized Garden – particularly if you’re planting a new border from scratch. She says: “My acanthus mollis, for example, has taken three years to find its feet, but it looks as if it’s going to be lovely this year.” In the meantime, journalist turned gardener Alexandra explains, “fill your gaps with border annuals.”
John – Pyracantha
Early spring is the best time to sow your perennial seeds, says John at Pyracantha. If you normally buy plug plants but would like to try your hand at growing from seed, this post is a must-read. The first step is to fill your seed trays with multi-purpose compost, firming it down, but not too heavily, before watering it in with a fine rose so that the water drains all the way through. Now you’re ready to sow. Worried about planting perennials into clay soil? Check out this post for 12 perennials which thrive in clay.
Lee – Garden Ninja
“Prairie borders are a beautiful, informal planting style that can work in a variety of garden sizes. They’re also relatively fuss-free and can bring a sense of calm to a garden,” says Lee aka, The Garden Ninja. A multi-award-winning garden designer, he says these borders are about drifts or blocks of plants which flow into one another. Inspired by the grasslands of North America, prairie borders feature lots of stunning perennial grasses. Head to Lee’s post for more info, plus the lowdown on when and how to prune herbaceous perennials.
Carol – The Sunday Gardener
What is the ‘Chelsea chop’, and how do you go about it? In her video, Carol, The Sunday Gardener, explains that the Chelsea chop refers to the practice of pruning perennials to encourage bushier growth and to delay flowering – it gets its name from the Chelsea Flower Festival which happens at around the same time. Watch Carol’s video to find out how to go about it – she says if you cut back the longer stems, you’ll encourage compact and bushy growth, as well as more plentiful flowers.
Also a proponent of the Chelsea Chop, Mandy at MandyCanUDigIt, says “the closer to flowering time you prune, the greater the delay in blooming.” She explains that you can cut some perennials back by as much as half, but that if you spot buds already formed on a stem, you should leave them as they are because “the likelihood is that if you cut them off, you’ll lose that year’s flowers.”
Griselda – @griselda.kerr
One plant which Instagrammer Griselda Kerr, author of The Apprehensive Gardener, says definitely benefits from the Chelsea chop is the Helenium ‘Waltrut’. Although she forgot to do hers this year, she says cutting back the stems at the front by half or even two thirds will result in flowers which “stand up well and look so fresh and ‘collected’.” The only caveat, she says, is if you need the plant for its height. In that case, rather than chopping it in May, you should stake it in April.
Alison – Gardening by Design
Spring is a good time for dividing perennials, says gardening consultant Alison at Gardening by Design. This rejuvenates existing clumps which may have become a bit woody, and also provides extra plants for elsewhere in the garden or to share with friends. Alison explains that how you divide a plant depends on the root structure, but always begins with digging it up. Get yourself a bucket, some fresh compost and make sure you read Alison’s post thoroughly.
“Never hang onto plants you’re not keen on,” says Jack at Jack Wallington Garden Design. Join him as he divides his favourite Astrantia which, at four years old, was getting congested. He uses the new plants to replace another Astrantia which doesn’t pass muster. Jack prefers to do his dividing in the autumn, saying, spring and summer are good times too but, for him, the dormant part of the year gives the roots the best chance.
Nick – UK Gardening
If you’d like to watch a demonstration of splitting perennials, make sure you check out this YouTube video from Nick at UK Gardening. Nick’s daughter was due to run a plant stall at her school’s summer fayre, and so he was helping out by dividing astrantia and echinacea for repotting. Easy to follow and informative commentary make Nick’s videos a great way to up your gardening game. This channel comes highly recommended.
Tanya – Lovely Greens
If you like to grow your own, this is the post for you. Tanya at Lovely Greens provides an exhaustive list of edible perennial vegetables, with lots of detail on how to grow them too. You’ll love some of the more unusual recommendations which feature among the 70 plants on the list. For an alternative to spinach and chard, try sea beet – the wild ancestor of all our beets. Tanya likes to “Live simply, grow your own, make natural things.” Her blog will help you to do the same.
Thompson & Morgan blog
Nothing beats the aroma and flavour of fresh herbs, so why not grow these perennial plants in borders or containers outside your kitchen door? Perfect for culinary use and also delightful to look at – the bees will thank you too. If you’d like a rundown of our top ten hardy perennial herbs to plant once and harvest for years, this article from Thompson & Morgan’ blog has just the information you need. Try mint, sage and oregano, and that’s just for starters.
Helen – GrowVeg
“Low maintenance, high flavour. How irresistible is that,” asks Helen Gazeley for UK gardening innovators, GrowVeg? She’s talking about a pair of overlooked but highly flavoured perennial herbs, sorrel and lovage. Helen says lovage is tangy and pungent, like celery but richer and stronger. Sorrel – well, to me it tastes lemony, but some describe it more as an acid zing.” Both are apparently great for flavouring egg, fish and potato dishes. Fancy giving them a try? Helen gives you the info you need.
Anni – Gardens of Delight
“My aim was always to do the minimum of work, but also to obtain a plentiful harvest,” says Anni at Gardens of Delight. The result is a fascination with perennial vegetables. Anni’s shady and damp garden isn’t ideal for conventional annual vegetables, but she says: “I’ve found that perennial vegetables are pretty tolerant of these conditions. Some, particularly those in the brassica family, are targeted by slugs when they’re young, but by starting them in pots and planting out when the central stem has hardened up means they manage to avoid too much damage.”
We hope you’ve enjoyed our collection of some of the best gardener-generated help and advice about perennials. Now, all that remains is to grab your trowel, put on your wellies and get stuck in.