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Your Perennial Border

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Why grow perennial plants?

Perennial plants are a wonderful addition to your garden or landscape. Perennials are plants that, when cared for, come back for several years without being replanted – this saves gardeners the hassle of replanting each year as you do with annuals. Herbaceous perennials will die back above the ground, but come back from their root or crown which persists underground while the plant is dormant over the winter. Woody perennials have stems that persist aboveground through the winter, though their growth typically slows during the winter months.

Watch this video on the benefits of growing perennial plants.

Choosing and Assessing Your Garden Site

When choosing any plant, you’ll want to match it to your site. Watch this video for tips on what to look for when assessing your garden site.

You may also want to check out this page on selecting landscape plants for more information. With perennials, you may wish to pair plants with different bloom time, textures, and colors. The best perennials will have interesting features other than their flowers. They may have foliage in unique colors or shapes, vibrant fall color, or attract pollinators. Or, perennials may be able to withstand the challenges of your yard – this might be shade, flooding, drought, or pest issues.

Designing the Perennial Garden

When designing your landscape, you will want to consider the height and spread of the plants. Give plants enough space to reach their mature size, and place taller plants at the back of the garden. Grouping several plants of the same variety is pleasing to the eye.


Most people think of spring as the season to plant in the garden, and it is an excellent time to do so. Fall is another wonderful time to install perennial plants in your yard. It is always best to prepare your soil prior to planting. Complete a soil test and use the recommendations when you are preparing the garden.

For containerized plants, be sure to loosen the root ball when you are planting. You want to encourage any roots that might have grown in a circular shape around the pot to begin growing down and out, rather than continuing to circle. The plants should be set in their planting holes at the same height or just slightly higher than the level they were planted in their container. Burying the crown or trunk of the plant can negatively impact that plant’s performance, and may ultimately lead to its death. There are lots of great tips on planting both woody and herbaceous perennials in the NC Extension Gardener Handbook. See: Chapter 10: Herbaceous Ornamentals and Chapter 11: Woody Ornamentals.

Dividing Perennials

Once perennial plants in your garden become established, you may need to divide them. This will give you more plants to move or share, but it can also improve the health of your established plants by giving them more room to grow. Read more about how to divide plants, including videos demonstrating the process, in this article about dividing perennials.

More Information

There are lots of great resources to help you learn about perennial plants. Here is a list to get you started: