How to Care for a Perennial Plant


Perennial plants survive for more than one year, often dying back in winter and returning in spring. While the initial investment is often more than it is for annual plants, it is spread over many years and may be cheaper in the long run. Valued in gardens and borders for either their flowers or attractive foliage, most perennials require only minimal maintenance each season to continue thriving year after year. Spring and fall often see the most required care, as the plants return from dormancy and once the season winds down and winter preparation begins to ensure the plants survive until next year.

Step 1

In the spring, remove any remaining dead plant matter and garden debris such as leaves from the perennial beds in spring. Remove the winter mulch around the plants and dispose of it.

Step 2

Begin watering the plants as they return from dormancy and start to grow. Keep the soil moist but not soaking wet until the plants return to dormancy in the fall.

Step 3

Perform a soil test, available at garden centers, in the spring. Apply the recommended fertilization to each bed as indicated by the soil test. Generally, apply a balanced fertilizer once plants begin to flower.

Step 4

Apply a fresh three-inch layer of organic mulch over each bed in spring to preserve soil moisture and prevent weeds. Use wood chips or mature compost to mulch.

Step 5

Remove spent flowers from flowering perennials before seed heads form. Pinch the withered blooms off one-quarter of an inch beneath the flower, or remove the entire stem at soil level on plants that only produce one flower per stem.

Step 6

Cut back all the foliage in the fall once it has yellowed and died back. Cut down to three inches above soil level and dispose of all dead plant material.

Tips and Warnings

  • Stake plants with long stems and large flowers otherwise they may break or become damaged. Cover new perennial beds with straw mulch in winter to avoid cold weather damage.

Things You'll Need

  • Soil test kit
  • Fertilizer
  • Mulch
  • Compost
  • Shears


  • Penn State Extension
  • University of Vermont Extension
Keywords: perennial plant care, growing perennials, maintaining garden beds

About this Author

Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications. Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.