Tips for Successful Perennial Planting

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

Being practical is a must for gardening success. But never limit your horizons to dull-and-dependable, low-maintenance workhorses when you can grow dazzling-and-dependable, low-maintenance stars.

We're talking voluptuous lilies and roses, the Marilyn Monroes and Mae Wests of horticulture. Make your 2015 garden a smash hit by planting these and other sensuous flowers now amongst the plain-Jane standards.

Peonies, lilies, roses, asters and Lenten roses (hellebores) add sizzle from late winter through late autumn-not bad for Central Ohio. You may have some or all growing in your garden. Not to worry. More is always better.

Garden experts, including Michele Thomas, assistant public garden manager at Inniswood Metro Gardens, and Jared Hughes, manager of Foertmeyer & Sons Greenhouse Co., offer suggestions to increase your chances for perennial success with these-and most other-flowers.


While at first glance they don't seem lush, asters can be sheared into a mounded shape. Cutting them back by half to two-thirds in June and again in July transforms them into white, rose, red, pink, lavender and purple clouds, depending on variety. Good air circulation helps reduce foliage diseases. After blooming, cut them to the ground to prevent seeding. Asters are widely available in Central Ohio as blooming plants. Plant in the spring.


Winter flowers? Yes. These updated Victorian favorites are deer-proof, have almost-evergreen leaves and produce pastel flowers of pinks, lavender and pale green on mounding plants that can reach 30 inches across and 18 inches high. Plant them near an entryway or a spot easily seen from indoors. Or, Hughes suggests, use them in three-season rooms along with heuchera (coral bells) and Christmas fern. Plants are available in winter at Foertmeyer and some other Central Ohio garden centers, as well as mail-order sources. Plant in the spring.


If you can grow daffodils, you can probably grow lilies. When happily sited, they last for years and may multiply. Division isn't necessary. Colors include red, orange, dark burgundy, yellow, rose pink, white and blends. Heights range from 18 inches to several feet. Many are fabulously fragrant and can perfume the garden from June into September, depending on variety. Lilies thrive with their heads in the sun and feet in the shade, making a mixed perennial border-where leaves from neighboring plants shade the soil-ideal. Cut off spent flowers at their base. Never prune lilies or cut off stalks until frost has killed them in late fall. Green leaves make food to produce next year's flowers. Plant in groups in the fall.


Peonies can last for generations. In addition to the classics you may remember from grandmother's late-spring garden, legions of hybrids are on the market today (Klehm's Song Sparrow Farm and Nursery is a good source). Flower forms are pom-poms and singles, and singles are less likely to flop after late-spring rains. Apricot, pink, burgundy, yellow and blends are among color choices, many types are fragrant and some types have ferny foliage. Plants grow 2 to 3 feet tall and wide. To lessen chances of botrytis-a fungus that affects flowering and leaf appearance-cut off faded flowers (and don't compost the trimmings). Trim plants to the ground in late September. Plant in the fall.


Since Knock Out debuted in 2000, popularity of tough, low-maintenance roses has soared. Roses are available in sizes from 12-inch miniatures to 12-foot climbers, and many repeat bloom from late spring to frost. Some have colorful seed pods-or hips-in winter, a source of vitamin C and wildlife food. Every color but blue is available. Some pruning to tidy up plants may be needed in early spring. Forget the complex pruning rules, however, unless you're competing in rose shows. Hedge shears are fine for removing spent blooms should you choose to remove old flowers. Plant now or in early spring.