By BJ Jarvis
Gardeners looking for plants that survive year after year and produce spectacular flowers should consider perennials.
Unlike annuals that die after just one season, there are many perennials that give perpetual pizzazz and also tend to be lower-maintenance garden members. June is the perfect time to plant new perennials that will flower summer through fall.
Choose the flower color that will complement your garden best. Consider combining flower and foliage colors or textures. For example, purple salvias mixed with silvery foliage of Artemesia (wormwood) provide a wonderful combination.
A planting bed filled with a ground cover of bright yellow perennial peanut will knock your gardening socks off. Of course, daylily is the backbone of a perennial garden, flowering in yellows, salmon and russet orange.
Other drought-tolerant species include rudbeckia (black-eyed Susan), coreopsis (tickseed), gaillardia (blanket flower) and sedums. One of my favorites is bulbine, a South African native that really excels in Florida’s droughty weather and poor soils. Fall’s chrysanthemums provide consistent floral shows as well.
Two plants that bloom most of the year are purple or white-flowering Angelonia and a euphorbia called diamond frost. As its name implies, it is loaded with white flowers from spring through fall.
Relatively harsh summer weather conditions dictate the addition of organic matter such as well-rotted manures or other humus. As a result, soil moisture retention will increase and will also encourage beneficial microbes that are often lacking in our near-sterile sandy soils.
In summer’s heat, watering is necessary to get plants well established. Once well rooted in the landscape, one deep watering per week is far more beneficial than frequent or shallow irrigations. If Mother Nature provides rain, skip watering entirely.
Finally, mulch perennials and other landscape plants with a 2 to 3-inch layer of chipped or shredded plant material. Mulch maintains soil moisture, moderates soil temperatures, slows weed growth and generally gives landscapes a great finished look. Keep mulch off of plant crowns and tree trunks to avoid rot. No rubber or rock “mulches” please! They provide none of the benefits mentioned.
These practices will keep perennials blooming year after year while they beat the heat.
For more information about perennials, check out this detailed perennial publication from the University of Florida/IFAS at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/MG/MG03500.pdf.
–BJ Jarvis is horticulture agent and Pasco County Extension Director. She can be reached at .
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