How to Start a Perennial Garden


The creation of a perennial garden provides a lasting element in the landscape. Perennial plants lie dormant during the winter and reappear each spring. Plants expand in size yearly with maturity. Learning how to start a perennial garden involves analyzing the growing conditions of a location and choosing the right plants.

Step 1

Select a location and analyze the current growing environment. Assess the sunlight availability to aid in choosing the correct plants for the location. Evaluate the soil quality using a soil test kit or by taking a soil sample to the garden center. Soil will dictate the health and vitality of your perennial plants.

Step 2

Choose plants that match the location. Sunlight requirements should match available light. Each plant has a label that lists the lighting needs. Follow grower recommendations closely since each type of plant cannot survive with the incorrect amount of light. Select native plants that have adapted to local soil composition and temperature. Choose varying heights of perennials and include plants that bloom at different times to have continual flowers during the growing season.

Step 3

Work the garden soil with a tiller or shovel to a depth of 18 inches. Soil cultivation benefits perennial roots by breaking up compacted soil. Tilling also allows water to penetrate soil layers easily. Break up large dirt clumps and level the garden surface with a rake.

Step 4

Add 2 inches of compost, peat moss or humus onto the top of the garden bed. Use the shovel or tiller to blend the organic material to a depth of 18 inches. The finished garden plot should feature rich, organic soil that allows easy planting of perennial plants. Add any amendment recommended by the soil test at this point and blend these additives throughout the garden soil.

Step 5

Plant the tallest perennials at the rear of the garden or in the center of an island garden. Work from back to front in the perennial garden for perspective and to eliminate the chance of stepping on newly planted ornamentals.

Step 6

Squeeze the pot sides to loosen the soil and roots of the container perennials. Plants often become pot-bound in the small confines of a plastic gallon pot. Tip the plant sideways onto a flat surface. Squirt the roots with a gentle water spray from the hose to loosen bound roots and rinse off compacted soil.

Step 7

Dig a hole two times the size of the root ball of the plant. Place the plant in the hole to ensure that the top of the root ball lies even with the garden surface. Pour amended soil around the plant and press down to dislodge air pockets. Water at the soil surface with a garden hose to allow moisture to reach the roots. Follow spacing requirements for each plant to eliminate the need for transplant in one to two years.

Step 8

Mulch to a depth of 2 to 3 inches around each plant and throughout the garden bed to conserve moisture. Mulch layers insulate roots from summer heat and winter cold.

Things You'll Need

  • Garden plan
  • Organic amendments (compost, humus or peat moss)
  • Shovel
  • Rake
  • Tiller (optional)
  • Perennial plants
  • Mulch
  • Garden hose


  • Colorado State University: Perennial Gardening
  • University of Illinois: Perennial Placement
Keywords: perennial gardening, design perennial garden, starting perennial gardens

About this Author

S.F. Heron is an avid gardener with three years of experience in online writing and a working background in aviation and earth and ocean sciences. She is published on various sites, including Helium, eHow and Xomba. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from the University of Maryland.