How to Build a Perennial Garden


According to Colorado State University Extension, "Perennials often require less maintenance than most annual flowers. Once established, they generally require less water than annuals and often have fewer pest problems." Building a perennial garden requires studying your garden site and finding flowers that fit. It means determining how much time you have to spend in your garden before investing in the plants. Amending the soil gives the plants an optimum growing site. Once the perennial garden is established, it is a matter of maintenance rather than beginning anew each season.

Planning the Perennial Garden

Step 1

Draw a scale model of the planned garden on graph paper. Allow for sufficient room on two sides to provide sufficient access to the plants. Add any established trees, shrubs, fences or other structures to the model.

Step 2

Watch the sunlight in the garden. Note how many hours of sunlight the different areas of the garden receives and whether it full, partial, dappled or full shade. Also check to see whether the light is morning or afternoon light. Note this on the model.

Step 3

Use gardening catalogs and books to select potential perennials for the garden. Cut out pictures of the plants and arrange on the garden model. When you have the arrangement you like, glue or tape the pictures to the model.

Planting the Perennial Garden

Step 1

Prepare the garden soil. Dig it up, remove weeds, rocks and other garden debris. Incorporate generous amounts of well-rotted compost, manure or decaying leaves.

Step 2

Use a soil testing kit to determine the pH of the soil. Depending upon what plants are going into the garden add sulfur or limestone to change the soil's pH.

Step 3

Plant the flowers in the perennial garden according to the garden model, beginning with the taller, foundational flowers, then planting the flowers that decrease in height to the lower border plants at the edge. Space all the plants based upon their mature size.

Step 4

Place stepping stones around the flowers to allow for easy access for care. Lay an irrigation system or soaker hoses around the plants before covering the garden with mulch.

Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure
  • Graph paper
  • Gardening catalogs
  • Scissors
  • Glue or tape
  • Compost or well-rotted manure
  • Shovel
  • Soil testing kit
  • Sulfur or limestone
  • Plants
  • Stepping stones (optional)
  • Irrigation system (optional)
  • Mulch


  • "The Complete Garden Flower Book;" Catie Ziller, Publisher; 2001
  • "Burpee Complete Gardener;" Barbara W. Ellis, Editor; 1995

Who Can Help

  • Colorado State University Extension: Perennial Gardening
  • Iowa State University Extension: Change your Soil's pH
Keywords: perennials, perennial garden, flowers

About this Author

Since 1995, H.B. Dean has written more than 2,000 articles for publications including “PB&J,” Disney’s “Family Fun,” “ParentLife,” Living With Teenagers,” and Thomas Nelson’s NYTimes Best-selling “Resolve.” After 17 years of homeschooling her five children, Dean discovered that motherhood doesn’t stop with an empty nest.