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May 22, 2018  |  Login
Planting Purchased Perennials
By Marcia Tatroe & The National Gardening Association

In theory, you can plant container-grown perennials at any time of the year when the ground isn’t frozen. But in reality, survival rates improve when you take your climate into consideration and schedule your planting accordingly. Newly transplanted perennials need a period of intensive care while they settle in and adjust to their new home. Strong sunshine, drying winds, and intense heat can stress any plant. These conditions are especially damaging to plants that have been recently disturbed and are busy repairing torn roots and coping with the inevitable trauma that transplanting causes.

Timing Is Critical

By planting at a time of year when you can count on the weather to be mild for a while, you give the garden a head start. In cold-winter regions, planting in early spring gives perennials a couple of months to get used to the climate before hot weather sets in. Only bulbs, bearded iris, peonies, and oriental poppies are safe to plant during the fall in the coldest winter regions. But in areas where winter temperatures don’t fall below –20°F (–29°C), early fall is another excellent time to plant the flower bed. Even though the days are shorter and cooler, root growth continues unimpeded after frost has blackened the top of the plant, not stopping until the ground freezes solidly. Gardeners in mild coastal climates can plant their flower beds at any time of the year, whenever planting is convenient. In hot, humid, mild-winter regions, fall planting is preferable. Planting in fall enables perennials to grow strong root systems before they’re subjected to the heat of summer.

Whatever time of year you decide to plant your flower bed, make sure that you can give it your full attention for several weeks afterward. A new garden needs vigilance — it’s as needy as a new puppy. Check the flowers for wilting or other signs of distress at least twice a day until they start to put on new growth.

Hardening Off

Hardening off is a way of increasing your plant’s stamina before planting — similar to slowly acquiring a base tan before taking that outdoor, tropical vacation. Plants that have been growing outside at the nursery can go right into the ground, but greenhouse-grown plants are lush and soft and have never known a single day of sunshine in their lifetimes. You have to introduce them slowly to the harsh, real world.

Leave the plants in their containers and put them in a shaded area with some indirect light for a few days. A north-facing, covered porch is ideal. Whenever a freeze is predicted, bring the plants inside overnight. If these are shade plants, you can leave them in this protected site for a few more days and then put them in the garden. For sunny-spot plants, give them a few days in the shaded area and then place the plants in a sunny location for an hour one day. (Click here to learn all about sun-loving perennials and shade-loving perennials) Give them a couple of hours of sun the next day, and so on, increasing their exposure each day. At the end of a week, the plants are thoroughly accustomed to sunlight and wind and are ready to go into their new home.

Picking The Perfect Day To Plant

To get your plants off to a vigorous start, you need to choose your planting day carefully. You’re looking for a cool, overcast day, preferably the first of many with no record-breaking heat predicted for the near future. An imminent threat of a rainstorm is better yet, if you can get your bed finished before the storm strikes. more



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