Tips for Planting Perennials

Tips for Planting Perennials

Dig into our easy tips for a few simple things you can do to make sure your perennials start off their best. By Justin Hancock
By Justin Hancock

Planting your perennials can be as simple as digging a hole, but a couple of quick and easy steps can help your perennials get off to the best possible start. 

Begin by ensuring your garden bed is clear of weeds and other debris. This is really helpful because getting rid of weeds from the beginning means you’ll have less maintenance later on. 

Dig the Right Hole
In horticulture, there's an old expression that you should dig a $10 hole for a $5 plant -- this one simple thing can make a big difference. When it comes to digging the hole, the hole should only be about as deep as the pot. Don’t make extra work for yourself by digging a deeper hole than you need to. The danger of a hole that’s too deep is that as the soil settles, your perennial may sink too far into the soil. This can hold your plant back, especially if you have heavy clay soil that doesn’t drain well. 

While the hole you dig shouldn’t be too deep, you do want it wide -- at least twice as wide as the diameter of the pot. This little step makes a difference when planting perennials because there is more loose soil around the plant roots for them to grow and stretch out. This helps your plant become established. 

Once you’ve dug the planting hole, place your perennial in the middle. Loosen the rootball when planting perennials, especially if they are rootbound. You can do this by gently massaging the soil and spreading out the roots so they fan outward rather than maintaining the shape of the pot. 

Fill the hole with the soil you used to dig it. You might sometimes see advice suggesting you fill the hole with a high-quality topsoil, but this can lead to problems, particularly if you have poor soil conditions because it creates a small zone of good soil and plant roots may not want to grow out into the surrounding soil. As a result, your plant may end up becoming stressed and rootbound while in the ground. 

Fertilizing Perennials
If you wish to fertilize your perennials, you can do so after planting. Many gardeners find it convenient to use a timed-release fertilizer. You should be able to find several brands available, both synthetic and organic in nature. The advantage of a timed-release fertilizer is that it slowly releases nutrients into the soil over the course of the season, rather than all at once.

Mulching Perennials
After the hole is filled, water your perennials well. Then spread a 2- to 3-inch deep layer of mulch over the soil to help hold soil moisture and reduce future weed growth. If you notice the mulch is particularly dry, it’s helpful to water again after planting. You don’t want dry mulch to absorb moisture from the soil at planting time. 

A Note About Landscaping Fabric
If you’re wondering about using landscaping fabric, also called weed barrier or landscape cloth, in your new perennial garden. We don’t recommend it because most perennials benefit from being divided every few years. It can be difficult to dig them up to divide them when landscaping fabric is in place. And, weed seeds that sprout on top of the fabric may root into it, and they can be more difficult to remove.