Creating a Perennial Border

The Importance of Preparation

Thorough preparation is key to creating a healthy, attractive and long-lasting border. If a border is prepared effectively, it also reduces the time spent on maintenance. Removing all the weeds before the bed is planted up is much easier than trying to remove them once it is full of plants. Once constructed, beds of perennials tend to be left in situ for many years with only a few minor adjustments. there are two major steps in the preparation process. The first is to remove all of the weeds, the second is to prepare the soil.

Getting Rid of Weeds

The most problematic weeds in a long-term planting bed are perennial weeds. Any piece of rhizome or root left in the soil is likely to grow into a new weed and can quickly reinfest the bed. If your soil is light, then most weeds can be removed as you dig; remove all parts of the roots: rhizome, tap root and corms. If the soil is heavy, the best solution may be to treat with a broad spectrum weedkiller. Another alternative is to allow the weeds to begin emerging then remove them again. This process may need to be carried out two or three times to remove the amjority of the weeds.

Borders should be dug in the autumn and not planted until the following spring so that any remaining weed seeds have time to germinate and can be removed.


You should not attempt to dig the ground when it is waterlogged or frozen as this will harm the structure of the soil. Choose a time when the ground is firm but moist. Dig the ground deeply, at least to one spade’s depth, not just below the surface. On heavier soils it is worth double digging to two spades’ depth. Incorporate as much well-rotted m=organic material as possible, such as garden compost or farmyard manure. this will not only provide the plants with nutrients but the fibrous content will improve the texture, giving better drainage on heavy soils while making light soils more moisture retentive.

Finding Plants

Established perennials can be bought in containers and planted into your border at any time of year. You can also propagate perennials by taking cuttings or by division. This is a good solution if you are looking for older or rarer varieties that are difficult to find in garden centres. Most perennials can be propagated in this way. Seed is not much used for perennials because of the time taken for the plant to establish and the fact that many garden varieties do not breed true.

Plan out Your Border

Draw your planting plan out on paper before you begin ordering plants. This will ensure that you buy the right quantity and are sure where each plants should be positioned. Most perennails work best in groups and for this reason they are usually planted in clumps of three, five or seven. Learn more about planting plans.

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