How to Garden Perennial Flowers


Perennial flowers survive for at least three years in the home landscape. The shoots of these plants appear in early spring, grow out to produce beautiful foliage, and bloom during a 2- to 3-week period each year. Perennials die off completely to the ground each fall, but the roots remain alive underground during the winter. Learning how to garden perennial flowers involves providing optimum care throughout the year.

Step 1

Tackle weeds in the perennial flower garden regularly. Use a hoe for easy weed removal. Rake the blade across the garden surface to strip weeds from the topsoil layers. Regularly weeding will discourage the formation of mature weeds that can go to seed to produce more weeds. Stay ahead of these nuisance plants to improve the appearance of your perennial garden.

Step 2

Apply an all-purpose fertilizer after shoots appear above ground in the late spring. Perennial plants work hard to recover from the cold winter and need a boost. Follow instructions on the label to create the correct mixture for your perennials. Use a basic 10-10-10 basic fertilizer with equal amounts of a nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Perform a single application to limit the chance of excessive foliage growth and few flowers.

Step 3

Add a 3- to 4-inch mulch layer to the perennial garden bed in the late spring. Mulch assists in weed suppression, retains moisture in the soil, and controls soil temperature during the hottest part of the summer. Organic mulches such as shredded pine bark or hardwood mulch are preferable. Lighter-color mulches (such as straw) or inorganic rock mulches attract heat that can damage perennial plant roots.

Step 4

Deadhead perennial plants to improve the appearance of the plants during blooming time. Clip off dead flower heads as soon as the blooms start to become brown. This prevents the perennial from using energy to produce seeds instead of new buds. Some perennials respond so well to deadheading that the plant produces additional blooms a second time during the growing season.

Step 5

Prune back dead foliage regularly. Monitor the condition of each perennial plant. Flowering causes stress to the plant. Look for stems and foliage that exhibits yellowed leaves or dead areas. Prune these stems back to the junction with the main plant stem or the nearest healthiest branch. The plant won't expend further energy trying to keep a dying branch alive.

Step 6

Water perennials properly throughout the growing season. Deep watering allows water to penetrate 8 or more inches into the soil layers. Accomplish this by placing the hose at the base of each perennial and allowing water to trickle into the soil for a few minutes. Use a gentle stream so the ground becomes soaked. The water will travel through the soil layers to the perennial roots.

Step 7

Stake individual plants that tip over from the weight of flowers. Place the stake firmly into the soil near the tall stalk. Tie cloth strips loosely around the plant at two points to support the heavy stem.

Step 8

Allow perennials to die off as winter approaches. Leave dead foliage in place and cover the crown and immediate 6 inches around each plant with a 3-inch protective mulch layer. Leave this mulch in place as insulation until new shoots appear in the spring. Remove the mulch once new growth appears.

Things You'll Need

  • Hoe
  • Rake
  • Fertilizer
  • Mulch
  • Pruning Shears
  • Stakes
  • Soft cloth strips
  • Garden hose


  • Penn State University: Care and Maintenance of Perennials
  • Virginia Cooperative Extension: Perennials: Culture, Maintenance and Propagation
  • Savvy Gardener: All About Mulch

Who Can Help

  • Planet Natural: Organic Fertilizer Explained
Keywords: gardening perennials, perennial flower care, caring for perennials

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.