Perennial flowers form the backbone in the home landscape as plants that don't require replanting every year. Perennials have a root system that can survive the cold winter months. In the spring, perennials send out shoots and begin growth for blooms during the summer season. Most perennials bloom for a short period during the summer but have beautiful foliage that enhances the look of the garden. Learning how to choose perennials involves evaluating current soil conditions, sunlight, spacing and deciding which perennials appeal to you as a gardener.
Decide on the purpose of your proposed perennial garden. Flowering perennials provide a variety of colors throughout the growing season with the option of choosing plants that bloom at various times for continual color. Foliage perennials add vibrant green to the garden with smaller flowers.
Consult the USDA hardiness zone map to determine your planting zone. This identifier provides information on the cold tolerances in your area and should be used when choosing plants at the nursery. If your location crosses two zones, choose the colder zone to limit the loss of susceptible plants. See the resources for a link to the USDA hardiness zone map.
Evaluate the soil conditions for your garden bed. Dig into the soil and examine the depth of moisture in the wedge of dirt removed from the hole. Moisture should percolate down 6 to 8 inches to aid the perennials in growth. Extremely dry or soggy soil should be amended with peat moss, compost and mulch to improve drainage and add essential nutrients that the deep-lying roots of perennial flowers need to succeed.
Monitor the availability of sunlight in your proposed garden area and document results on the garden diagram. Perennial flowers must be planted in the correct sunlight conditions for optimum flowering and growth. Shade exposures receive indirect sun or dappled sunlight through tree branches. Partial shade receives four to six hours of sunlight each day and full sun receives more than six hours of direct sunlight.
Access the existing color scheme of your landscape. Landscape design tends to blend new gardens with existing features using similar plantings, colors and designs. Choose perennial flowers that bloom in corresponding colors with existing perennials, shrubs and trees.
Decide your preference for blooming times of the perennials. Many gardeners choose plants that bloom in succession to provide an entire season's worth of coverage for a garden. Perennial flowers usually hold blooms for two weeks or more and require little maintenance during the growing season. Staggering the blooming time will allow for a flower garden with interest, color and depth throughout the growing season.
Evaluate the existing space allowances for your perennial flower garden. Perennials will expand after two to three years of proper soil conditions, moisture and air circulation. Allow plenty of room for new additions to expand and thrive in the perennial garden.
Visit the local nursery to check native plants and peruse the available perennial flowers. Native plants are particularly well suited to thrive in your particular location. These hardy perennials help limit water consumption and maintenance. Document your choices on your garden diagram to determine proper spacing, lighting and design considerations.