Without fail, every year I find myself adding plants to the perennial garden during the hottest part of the season. Sometimes the plant is a gift from a friend’s yard, other times it’s a couldn’t resist variety at the garden center. Given this spring’s quarantine, trips to the nursery were delayed and even now are limited, somehow making the visits even more special.
I seem to always be able to find room for another perennial, telling myself it is the one that will complete the garden (are gardens ever really finished?). Or perhaps it will perfectly fill an empty space, bloom when others have faded, add the ideal color, or supply needed texture. Whatever the rationale, how could it not come home with me?
Here are a few pointers for successfully establishing herbaceous perennials when summer’s heat, arid conditions and drying winds present challenges. While these best practices are important, equally critical is the gardener’s diligence and consistency. Plants are less forgiving at this time of year and may not recover if ignored. Conversely, they’ll respond well with a little extra TLC.
- Choose plants that love the heat and adapt to our semi-arid climate. Native plants and Plant Select® offerings are good bets.
- Plant in the evening so plants have the cooler nighttime and early morning temperatures to acclimate.
- Prior to planting, coat the roots with mycorrhizae (my cor rye zay), a fungus which stimulates healthy root development and improves absorption of moisture and nutrients. Several companies market this ingredient under different names.
- Remove buds and blooms, which allows the plant to put more energy into establishing roots and foliage. Admittedly, sacrificing the blooms is hard, but it does help reduce transplant shock.
- Unless there has been a soaking rain, water daily for the first week or two to avoid dehydration and transpiration. Watch the plant for the remainder of the season to determine good watering practice.
- Apply mulch around the plant, stopping within a few inches of the crown. Mulch will cool the soil and reduce evaporation.
- Tent the plant with shade cloth during the hottest part of the day.
- Transplant the plant a temporary home in a large container until late summer or early fall, when adapting to a new home may be less stressful.
Are you adding to your gardens this summer?
Text and photo by Linda McDonnell, A Denver County Master Gardener