Here are some ideas to keep in mind when you're planning
your gardens and choosing plants.
You have probably seen zone ratings in plant descriptions. What
do these mean, and how can they help you plan?
To help gardeners
choose plants, various systems for rating hardiness have been developed.
A plant is considered hardy in a region if it can grow and thrive
there without requiring special protective measures such as insulating
with straw mulch.
The USDA Hardiness
Zone Map divides the country into regions based on the average minimum
winter temperature. Always check the hardiness rating of a plant
you are considering, and compare it to the zone you're in.
If you live in USDA Zone 5 (minimum winter temperature -20 F), choose
plants that are rated to Zone 5 or lower. If you choose plants
rated to Zone 6 (-10 F) or higher, you may lose plants to freezing
You may be able
to grow plants rated to one zone warmer than yours if you live in
a particularly warm spot, such as near a large body of water, or if
you place the plants in a sheltered spot where they're protected from
strong winds. However, if you are just starting out with perennials,
why take the chance? Choose plants that are reliably hardy.
ratings indicate a plant's ability to withstand cold winter
After hardiness, sunlight is your most important consideration.
Choose plants that are adapted to the light levels in your garden.
Don't plant sun lovers under dense trees, and don't plant shade
lovers where they'll be exposed to blazing mid-day sun. Plant descriptions
give the light preferences for plants, so take these to heart. You
may be able to grow a sun lover in partial shade, but you may get
fewer flowers or weaker growth. Place it in a spot where it can
plants adapted to the light levels in your garden.
for Continuous Bloom
Most perennial plants have a distinct
bloom period, lasting anywhere from a week to a month or more. Plant
descriptions usually include an approximate bloom time, such as
"early summer" or "autumn." A few will describe
certain plants as continuous bloomers, but even these usually have
a period of peak bloom. When planning your garden, consider bloom
times carefully. If you mistakenly choose all early summer bloomers,
you may be disappointed when there's only foliage in your garden
from midsummer on.
take some time to get established. You may get a few flowers in
the first season, depending on the size of the plant you've purchased,
but you'll need to wait a season or two for the real show to begin.
Plan to add some annual flowers to your new perennial beds to carry
you through the first growing season.
Geraniums contrast nicely with a perennial salvia.