Perennials in the Garden

Perennials are plants that live for several years. Most live for many years, although some, short-lived perennials, may live for as few as three years.

“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’.”


Herbaceous perennials are a special group of perennials that die back completely above ground each winter. The roots survive below ground during winter, sending out new shoots in spring.

Perennials form the backbone of a garden, adding a richness of colour, shape and texture. They have an advantage over annuals as they reappear every year in the same planting position, recreating the same planting plan. Perennials are loved for their versatility; there are plants for every type of garden situation and every style of border design. No matter whether you live in the countryside, by the sea or in the middle of town, there are numerous suitable perennials for you to choose from.

How to Choose Perennials

As when choosing any other garden plants, it is important to consider the physical environment of your garden: the type of soil, whether it is moist or dry, whether it is shady or sunny, and whether it is exposed to winds or other severe weather. Once you have considered all of these factors you will be left with a shortlist of perennials that will work well within your garden.

The next step is to decide what type of design you want. You will then be able to select the plants from your shortlist that will create the look you want. It is important at this stage to consider the colour, texture and shape of the foliage, flowers and whole plant form.

Select Healthy Plants

From the maintenance point of view it is important to select only plants that are healthy and strong. Some perennials are tough, able to resist extremes of weather and many diseases. These are always worth considering for a trouble-free garden.

When purchasing plants, check each specimen carefully to ensure it is free of pests and diseases and showing no signs of physiological illness.


Choose Plants for all Seasons

When selecting plants for your border, consider their flowering periods. Will the plants that you have chosen to work together flower at the same time? Have you chosen plants to offer interest in every season, or are you focusing on just one or two seasons?

Sometimes gardeners will create a border for just one season. This works well in larger gardens, where different parts of the garden can offer interest in the other three seasons. However, in most gardens a flower border needs to work hard, offering interest in three or four seasons. If carefully planned, a border can offer colour and interest in all four seasons.

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