Using perennials in your garden

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Perennials are favored by many gardeners, not only for their ability to bloom for several seasons, but for the wide variety of colors, shapes and sizes they come in as well. 

Whereas annuals must be planted anew every season, perennials can be left in the ground to bloom for several seasons.  This makes gardening with perennials less costly and means that the perennial garden can be easier to maintain. 

In addition, most perennials are very easy to work with, and the demands they place on their gardeners are usually quite low.  Sufficient water, good soil and abundant sunshine are all most perennials need to provide beautiful blooms all season longs.

There are several important considerations with perennials, however, given the nature of their growth.  Since perennials remain in the ground year after year instead of being started fresh every season, they are more prone to disease and insect infestation than shorter lived annual plants.  This means that the gardener must be on the lookout for any signs of disease or unwanted insects, since an unnoticed infection can quickly spread through the entire garden.

The best way to avoid disease and other problems in the perennial garden is to make sure the plants are as healthy and robust as they can be.  Healthier plants are naturally able to withstand disease and insects better than weaker ones, and an infection that would kill a weaker plant will be fought off by one in better condition. 

In addition, the gardener should be ready to immediately combat any diseases or infections that are found.  Keeping a supply of common fungicides and insecticides on hand is a good insurance policy when trouble strikes.  Perennials should regularly be inspected for signs of problems, such as wilting leaves, spots or holes in the leaves.  These can all be warning signs of problems with disease or insects.

It is a good idea to get in the habit of checking for such problems every time the garden is weeded, watered or otherwise tended to.  When watering perennials, it is generally best to water them deeply once a week instead of spraying them with a hose more often.  It is important not to encourage standing water on the leaves, as this can leave the plants vulnerable to fungal infections and other problems.  It is also important not to water the plants during the heat of the day, since watering then could cause tender foliage and flowers to suffer burns.

Watering deeply and less often is almost always preferable to watering more often and more shallowly.  Investing in a good soaker hose or drip irrigation system is a great idea for any perennial grower.

Since the key advantage of working with perennials is their ability to come back year after year, it is important to care for the plants properly after the current growing season has ended.  Most perennials should be pruned once a year, but it is important to pay attention to the specific requirements of each variety.  While some perennials benefit from a radical pruning in the winter, others need less pruning.  It is important to understand the exact requirements of your particular plants.

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