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What Are Flowering Perennials?

A flowering perennial or simply called ‘a perennial’ is an outdoor plant that lives longer than 2 years. Perennials emerge in the spring after the snow is gone and temperatures warm, flower (at different times) throughout the growing season, die back to the ground in late fall as temperatures cool, and re-emerge the following spring. Typically, perennials have little or no woody stems however are herbaceous with soft, tender stems and stocks.

Perennial flowers can survive being planted in the wrong location; however, they cannot survive without water.

With all the wild and wacky weather we have been experiencing, perennials need a bit of extra care. No matter how long a perennial has been ‘in the ground’, there will be times you will need to provided supplementary water.

Here is my list of the times you need to provide supplementary water for perennials:

  • During times of drought. When perennials haven’t received a significate amount of rain for five or more days, they need to be watered – this applies for the full growing season, no matter how long a perennial has been in the ground.
  • During times of extreme heat.  When the temperature rises, so does the need for water as perennials have to work harder when it’s hot.
  • When we have little or no spring rain to start the growing season, perennials need extra water as they start to grow and develop new stems and buds. If we have above average temperatures in April and May, perennials need to be watered in April and May.   
  • Gardeners tend to forget to water into the fall. I know temperatures are cooler in the fall, however, perennial roots continue to grow so make sure to water.
  • Any new perennial planting needs water for the first few growing months to develop deep, strong roots.   

How to Water Perennials | Watering Tips

Giving perennials a light watering or quick shower does nothing to promote strong root growth. All a ‘light sprinkling’ of water does is breakdown flower blooms and provides the opportunity for diseases to grow on foliage. It’s all about watering deeply, at the root level (ground level) so perennials get a really good, deep drink.

Long Handle Watering Wand from Canadian Tire
  • Water in the morning when possible before the heat of the day. I can’t seem to make the morning watering work for me with my schedule, so I’m a ‘water in the evening person’ which is the second best time of the day to water. Watering in the heat of the day can lead to leave scorch (sunburn) on foliage, or the water evaporating before it even gets to the plant.
  • Use a watering wand not a jet spray nozzle. I love a good ‘long-handled watering wand’ (gardener’s best friend). Place the wand along side the perennial at ground level and water there. Try to keep water away from plant flowers or leaves. Just a note, a jet spray nozzle can blow flowers and flower buds off perennials, defeating the purpose for growing a flowering garden.
  • I use the 1-2-3 watering method. Water the first perennial, then the second perennial, then the third perennial, then go back and water the first again, the second again, and the third again. Then move on to the next three perennials and repeat. The goal is to get water to the plant roots. If you water the same plant at least twice, there is a good chance you will achieve this goal. Yes, I know, this watering method takes a bit of extra time, however, it is well worth the effort when your perennials are thriving and blooming with little or no damage or disease.
  • You can’t rely on rain to provide enough water for your perennial gardens. Mother Nature has a sense of humor. She produces tons of rain in one month, while in the next month there is nothing. Perennials need at least one-inch of water per week to thrive in seasonal temperatures. During times of heat or drought, perennials need at least two to three inches of water per week. Remember: If your hot when you’re outside, chances are your perennials are feeling the heat as well.   
  • If you stick your finger into the soil beside the perennial about one inch down and the soil is dry, you need to water.
  • If you see perennials wilting, you need to water.  Perennials with wilting foliage, particularly in the evening, is a sure sign they need water.
  • You don’t have to water every day, just water deeply. Light, frequent watering tends to produce shallow rooted perennials that will struggle in our cold winters and hot summers. Water at least once per week and water deeply. Perennials with deep, strong reaching roots not only survive, they thrive.

Final Thoughts

It’s really easy to under-water perennials. It’s pretty hard to over-water perennials. Watering is the key to having a successful, beautifully flowering perennial garden. Take the time to tend to your gardens by watering correctly.    

Lexi Dearborn

The Gabby Gardener

June 2022

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