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North Metro Companies Basic Care for Perennial Plants, Ornamental Grass & Bulbs
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North Metro Companies, LLC
2402 Hwy 55
Medina, MN 55340
Phone: 763.682.6008
Fax: 763.684.8067
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Basic Care for Perennial Plants, Ornamental Grass & Bulbs

Perennial gardens can be very easy to upkeep and maintain as perennial plants are typically considered to be very hardy. By providing ongoing care for your perennials, you'll not only create a much more attractive display but you will produce better results and ensure longevity. Perennial plants respond to basic care with better blooms & vigorous health.

Follow these simple tips and you'll be well on your way to success in your garden:

  • Water:  Utmost in importance the first year following the installation of these plants is watering the plants. It is very common for these plants during the first year in your garden to “hang on for Dear life” because they are struggling to acclimate to a new surrounding and develop a healthy root system. Depending on the specific type of soil, perennials will need at least 1 inch of water per week and they should be watered in the morning so that they can dry off by the time it gets cooler in the evening. Cool and wet leaves in the evening will make them more susceptible to disease. In general, water thoroughly (soak) and then allow the soil to dry out and then water again. The time in between waterings depends on the weather, location of the plant in the garden and the type of soil in the garden.
  • Weeding:  Even with some mulching during the growing season that will help stop most weeds, occasional weeding will also probably be need for most perennial gardens. Weeds sap nutrients and water away from your plant and limit healthy growth. Weeding will need to be done on an ongoing basis as it is easier when weeds are smaller.
  • Mulching:  is basic. It helps keep the soil moist and cool. It helps control weeds. Best of all, it feeds the soil gradually over time as it breaks down. Check your mulch periodically to see if you need to fluff it with a rake or replenish it. Keep it between two to three inches thick. Apply mulch in a flat layer over the root area but do not allow it to touch the stems of your plants.
  • Fertilizing:  Although most perennials are not considered to be 'heavy feeders', it is important that they are produced with an adequate nutrient supply. Mulching the perennial beds with compost each year often supplies an ample supply of nutrients. In beds covered with bark mulches, it is recommended to fertilize once or twice per year with a general purpose fertilizer. Applying too much fertilizer causes many perennials to grow too quickly and become floppy. Do not apply fertilizer directly on top of the crown or severe injury from the salts may result.
  • Staking:  Perennials that grow to be tall will thrive far better if they are staked or tied up. Staking a tall perennial will prevent slumping and allow for the attractive blooms to be seen. Alternately, tall perennials can also be pinched in the late spring. Pinching your perennials along the stem will promote bushier, rather than upward, growth and will make it less likely that they will need to be staked.
  • Dividing:  Many perennials propagate by division and some will need divided every couple of years in order to prosper. The best way to divide your perennials is by digging them up and removing the entire plant from the ground and dividing the clump up into 3 or 4 sections. In general, perennials that bloom early should usually be divided in the fall, and perennials that bloom in late summer or early fall should be divided in the early spring.
  • Deadheading: entails removing the dead flower heads and faded flowers; this practice keeps the garden looking nice and encourages many perennials to continue blooming for an extended period and improves the appearance of the plant. For perennials that self-seed, dead-heading can also be done before it goes to seed which will prevent invasive perennials from taking over your garden. It also prevents the plant from trying to form seed, so it has more energy for blooming and overall health. Large blooms, such as roses and peonies, are cut off one by one. Plants with a multitude of stems and blooms, such as dianthus or lavender, may be sheared. Prompt deadheading prevents reseeding in the garden and may encourage rebloom.
  • Thinning: or removing some of the stems from the dense bushy clumps in the early spring can benefit some perennials by allowing more air circulation and reducing the conditions for certain foliar diseases such as powdery mildew. Similar to deadheading, cutting some perennials back after they flower will often rejuvenate the clump by regenerating new growth and may possibly lead to another flush of flowers later in the growing season.
  • Cutting back:  is also used to prevent some perennials from flopping over or to prevent the centers of the plants from opening up and appearing ragged following bloom.

Prepare Perennials for the Winter

  • Do not fertilize perennials after they stop growing in the late summer or early fall. This will allow them to prepare for dormancy rather than encouraging them to remain actively growing.
  • Trim foliage back in winter: Many perennials go completely dormant (die back to the ground each year) and should have the foliage trimmed back before winter. Removing the existing foliage will make the perennial beds look cleaner and will decrease the likelihood of diseases setting in over the winter months or being carried over and infecting next years growth.
  • Trim foliage back in spring: Other perennials, such as ornamental grasses & sedum, are often trimmed in the spring allowing the foliage to provide some structure to the winter landscape.
  • Add organic mulch: In northern zones it is beneficial to apply mulch after the ground has frozen to help protect these perennials during harsh winters.


Annual Schedule for Perennial Plants & Ornamental Grass

  • 1st year:  keep them alive
  • 2nd year:  help them thrive by weeding and fertilizing
  • 3rd or 4th year:  they will be ready to divide and replant in a different area of your garden or give away to friends & family.


Ornamental Grasses

Ornamental Grasses are undoubtedly one of the easiest types of plants to grow & maintain.

Additional Care Tips:

  • Most grasses are slow starters in the garden. They do not get started growing very much until May or June so they are best surrounded by early growing and blooming plants so there is not a hole in the garden until summer. Grasses flower in late summer/early fall. This is their time to shine.
  • Established grasses are the ultimate low maintenance plants. Once a year all you need to do is give then an annual haircut early in spring.
  • Cut them back to within 2 to 12 inches of the ground (depending on the type of grass and the size of the plant). Use hedge shears and wear gloves - some species have very sharp edges.
  • Try to cut down the previous year's growth of cool season grasses as soon as the snow melts because that's when they start to grow. If you leave this job too long you could chop off the tips of the leaves.
  • Some grasses need dividing when they die out at the center. Usually, division isn't needed for many seasons, but it's a good way to get new plants, as grasses tend to be expensive. Dividing a large mature grass plant is demanding: you need a strong back, a sturdy spade and an axe to chop clumps apart.
  • Divide warm season grasses in early spring, as they begin growth, and cool-season grasses in early spring or fall. Water newly planted divisions until they are well established.
  • When cutting these grasses down, leave about one-third of previous year's growth in place. The new growth will quickly hide the old plant material.
  • You can cut warm-season grasses right down to the ground if you like, but if you are doing the job late, be sure not to cut into the new growing tips. I like to cut these grasses down a little later because I find that the previous season's buff-colored foliage looks good in with the spring-flowering bulbs.

Flowering Bulbs

Flowering Bulbs are a colorful addition to your garden. We recommend using bulbs in your garden when you need some flower color at a time of the year when you could lengthen the color season especially in early Spring. It is good to plant bulbs amidst other plants so you do not have to look at the dying leaves in an open area of the garden.  Follow these care tips:

  • Deadheading:  When flowers fade, cut them off to prevent seed formation. Seeds take stored food from the bulbs.
  • Removing foliage:  Once the flower is gone it is important to only cut back the flower and flower stem and leave the leaves until they turn brown or yellow and die. The reason is to allow the leaves to photosynthesize energy into the bulbs for the following year.
  • Fertilizing:  After plants bloom, fertilize them lightly with 5-10-10 fertilizer. Use no more than 1 pound for a 5 by 10 foot bed. Avoid high-nitrogen fertilizer (N is the first of the 3 numbers). Be sure to keep fertilizer off the leaves and away from roots; it will burn them. In addition to 5-10-10 fertilizer, you can use bone meal as an extra source of phosphorus.