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Perennials can provide color year round.

Planning for Perennials

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HOW MANY OF us can name a month of the year by what is blooming? Holly berries in December, camellias in January, paperwhites in February, azaleas in March and the list goes on. Perennial gardening can offer repeat displays over multiple years. Perennials are plants that live more than three years. Trees, shrubs, bulbs and grasses fit this description, but usually gardeners refer to perennials as non-woody, hardy herbaceous plants grown for attractive flowers or foliage. When planning for perennials, consider the following.

Your End Result

Cut flowers? Dashes of color between existing shrubs or trees? Borders along a fence? Let this be your starting point.

Stay In Your Zone

Generally, north of Lake Pontchartrain to Interstate 12 is zone 9a and the area north of I-12 to Shreveport is zone 8b. Choosing plants within your zone offers more success because they are better suited for our humidity, rainfall, and heat.

Height

Fall-blooming perennials are generally the tallest and would be placed in the back row, whereas middle-height plants are summer bloomers best placed in the middle of a space. The width of the bed is twice the height of the tallest plant.

Bed Size

An average perennial border that can accommodate several species is
6-8 feet wide.

Color

Cooler colors — violet, blue, green — make an area seem larger or create distance, whereas warmer colors — red, yellow, orange — display the opposite effect of being smaller and closer. White flowers are neutral, casting a glow when used monochromatically.

Maintenance

Perennials require more work including pruning, weeding, thinning, fertilizing, staking, and pest control. You will be rewarded for your efforts.

Careful planning for perennials can result in something blooming every month. And as a reminder: divide summer flowering bulbs now (but NOT Louisiana irises) and plant groups of gladiolus bulbs in two-week intervals to extend flowering. Happy Growing!

For more information on gardening in Louisiana, visit www.stmatergardener.org and www.lsuagcenter.com.

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