Zone 8 Perennial Plants – Growing Perennials In Zone 8 Gardens
Perennial gardeners are always looking for new ways to grow their perennial plants. They want to have variety in their gardens and they don’t like having the same plant year after year.
So what’s the best way? What kind of landscape do you need? Which type of plants will work well with your gardening style? How many perennials can you get away with growing in your yard?
The answer is: it depends. There are several types of zones, some of which are hotter than others. Some zones have mild winters while other zones have hot summers. And then there’s zone 9, which is considered the hottest of all the zoned areas! If you live in one of these extreme climates, you may not be able to grow any perennials at all.
If you’re just starting out with perennials, you’ll probably want to start small. You can even plant them in containers if you’d prefer. But once you’ve got a few plants established, it becomes harder to control them because they spread so easily. Also, when the weather gets too hot or cold for awhile, the plants stop producing flowers and fruits and die back to the ground.
When this happens, they become a nuisance rather than an asset in your garden.
When you start getting into the dozens and even hundreds of plants, you need to start thinking about a more permanent landscape that is suited to your climate zone and the amount of maintenance you want to do.
A great way to start out is with annual flowers such as petunias, zinnias or marigolds. They grow fast, they’re very easy to maintain, and they’re cheap! You can have an attractive, colorful garden without spending a fortune on plants each year.
If you’re looking for a little more permanence but still want to avoid the hassle of caring for woody plants such as raspberry canes or fruit trees, you might want to consider using shrubs and smaller trees. There are several options here:
Heathers are great plants that offer a nice backdrop to flowering perennials. If you’re looking for a good mix, try planting White Woodland Heather (), Purple Heather (), Rose Bay (), and Heath (various species).
Bee balm (or bergamot) attracts bees and butterflies, and it also has a nice fragrance. Bergamot Tea (or Bee Balm) is a perennial that is easy to grow, blooms all summer long, and can grow in semi-shade. Other great bee balm varieties include Fordhook Giant and Ohio Purple.
Wildflower mixes are always a good option if you’re just starting out because they’re easy to find, easy to plant, and they offer a nice variety of flowers that will attract birds, butterflies, and other wildlife into your yard.
When planning out your landscape design, be sure to start small and keep it simple. Add one or two new plants each year until you have the garden of your dreams.
Also, be sure to keep records of when you plant what and where so that you don’t forget what you planted two or three years ago! It’s all too easy to forget what you planted, especially after a long winter.
In addition to the type of plants you use in your landscape design, there are other things to consider as well. The following questions will help you get started thinking about what you want to incorporate into your landscape design.
Where is the sunniest spot in your yard?
Where do you get the most natural sunlight on a typical day? Is it in the morning, midday, afternoon, or evening? Or does your yard not receive much direct sunlight at all?
Where do you want to place your garden?
What spots get the most sun? Less sun? What will work best for you?
What do you want to grow?
Are you looking to grow vegetables? Herbs? Fruits? Nuts? What can grow well in your climate and soil type?
How much work are you willing to do?
Some gardeners love to spend a lot of time working in their gardens. Others, not so much. Think about how much time you want to spend maintaining your garden.
There’s no right or wrong answer here. Some gardeners just want to throw some seeds in the ground and let nature take its course. If you want a garden that takes minimal maintenance, consider leafy greens such as lettuce, spinach, and kale. These are easy to grow, but you’ll be eating them before they mature so you’ll have to plant new seeds every few weeks.
Other easy-to-grow plants include radishes, carrots, beets, and other root vegetables. These can typically go in the ground and you don’t have to do much except give them water every now and then.
Other gardeners love to spend lots of time working in their gardens. If this sounds like you, you’ll want to choose plants that you can continually harvest from throughout the season. Some great plants for the patient gardener include tomatoes, zucchini, pumpkins, and other vine plants. Celery is also great for the patient gardener and can be eaten raw or cooked in soups and stews.
Deciding what types of plants to grow can be a fun process. Consider what your family likes to eat and then research which herbs and vegetables can grow well in your area.
Choose what you’re going to plant.
Once you’ve decided what you want to grow, it’s time to choose what you actually want to plant.
You can either buy seeds or plants at this point. It really depends on how much you want to spend and how much work you’re willing to do.
If you want to save money, buying seeds is the way to go. Just be sure to read the package and select the ones that are best suited for your climate and environment.
If you’re not exactly sure what you’re doing or you don’t want to waste time and money on seeds that might not work, you can always buy plants at your local nursery or big box store.
Seeds are typically much cheaper than buying plants, but they can be a bit more work. You also won’t have anything to show immediately, so if you’re the impatient sort, you might want to buy plants.
Regardless of whether you buy plants or seeds, make sure you use proper gardening techniques. This means wearing gloves, a hat, and other protective gear. You don’t want to get hurt in the process!
Your tools and supplies need to match your environment, which means you need the right gloves, kneepads, and other safety gear. Don’t forget sunblock if you’re going outside!
If you’re planting seeds, a cheap seed tray from the dollar store will be fine. You can also use old cups or ice trays (but not the plastic ones that are not supposed to be used for food).
If you’re buying plants, you can usually get these in a small pot or in a flat. The plastic flats are great for starting plants because they have holes already in them for easy watering.
If you’re starting your garden in a container or bag, make sure it has good drainage, or the roots will rot.
Make sure to give your plants lots of sun. If you don’t have a yard or a patio, consider putting your plants on a porch that gets lots of sun or even in front of a sunny window.
Prepare the soil or growing medium for seeds or plants.
Not all plants grow well in ordinary garden dirt (even if you live on a farm). The types of nutrients in the dirt are not the same as what the plant needs as far as pH balance.
If you’re buying plants, the nursery should have already prepared your growing medium, but if you’re starting from seeds or bulbs, then it’s best to use a premixed bag of soilless growing medium.
There are also special peat and bark nuggets that can be used for planting seeds (they’re typically used in containers).
Make sure you’re getting a sterile growing medium that hasn’t been treated with any pesticides or weed preventers. If you’re using soil, make sure it’s untreated as well. Even organic soil may have chemicals in it that will kill your plants.
Buy seeds or plants that are suited to your region and climate.
If you’re new to planting, you probably don’t want to plant watermelon seeds in the middle of winter.
Compare the planting/growing information on the seed packet or plant label to your local growing conditions (as listed on the National Garden Association website).
If you’re still not sure, call the experts at your local nursery. Chances are, they’ll be happy to help. They might even have suggestions on what will grow best in your area.
Choose a spot for your garden that gets plenty of sun and is close to a water source (if necessary).
You also want to keep your garden area away from the house to prevent things like foundation leaks (if your house is old) and sump pump failures from damaging or killing your garden.
If the soil in your garden space is not good for planting, you can still grow vegetables in a raised bed (with good soil). Raised beds are good for people who don’t want to get their hands dirty, or who have limited mobility.
To build a raised bed, you’ll need some lumber. If you don’t have any leftover pieces, you can usually pick up some cheap 2×4’s at your local home improvement store. The size and dimensions of the bed are up to you, but remember that you’ll need to be able to reach into the middle to tend to your plants, so make it no higher than your knees if you’re on the shorter side.
Once you have your lumber, measure the size of the bed you want and then cut the boards to length. Make sure to remove any nails from the boards before using them.
Build the frame of the bed so it’s sturdy and then fill it with your prepared soil or growing medium.
Make sure that there is at least one bench near your garden that gets full sun all day. If you don’t have an immediate option for this, you can also use a simple sunlamp to make up the difference during shorter days or periods of bad weather.
Carrots, lettuce, radishes, and similar vegetables need full sun (6 or more hours) to grow their best.
Take your prepared soil and dig a shallow hole for each seed or plant. Mass plant seedlings if they’re small or seeds if they’re larger.
Using your fingers, spread out the seed or plants roots and place in hole. Cover with soil and pat down firmly.
Add more soil as necessary until the hole is filled. The seedling or plant should be just below the surface of the soil.
Water your garden well and keep it consistently moist but not soggy.
Mark each row with a ribbon or equivalent so you can easily locate each plant or seed as you care for it.
Continue to water your plants when rainfall is lacking or you suspect that they need it.
Most vegetables need several hours of direct sunlight and at least an hour of “frost free” conditions (above 60 degrees Fahrenheit) in order to grow well. If you live in a less than ideal growing area, use plant growth regulators to extend the length of the growing season.
Some vegetables such as lettuce can be grown in cooler temperatures and do not need as much light (4 hours or less) to thrive.
Once you see flowers start to bloom, the plants are beginning to bloom and will soon begin to go to seed, which means they’ll be ready for harvest.
Harvest your plants when they’re large enough to use or before the seeds begin to form.
Sources & references used in this article:
Herbaceous perennial plants: A treatise on their identification, culture, and garden attributes by AM Armitage – 2008 – books.google.com
SGS Pasture Theme: effect of climate, soil factors and management on pasture production and stability across the high rainfall zone of southern Australia by …, PM Dowling, DF Chapman, DL Garden… – Australian Journal of …, 2003 – CSIRO
Effect of overwintering environment on the survival of 30 species of herbaceous perennials by KC Dimke, SK Still, DS Gardner – Journal of …, 2008 – meridian.allenpress.com
Latitudinal population differentiation in phenology, life history and flower morphology in the perennial herb Lythrum salicaria by K Olsson, J Ågren – Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 2002 – Wiley Online Library
Herbaceous Perennial Trials in Central Alabama, 1996-97 by JR Kessler, JL Sibley, BK Behe, DM Quinn… – …, 2000 – journals.ashs.org
Strategies to force flowering of six herbaceous garden perennials by RR Iversen, TC Weiler – HortTechnology, 1994 – journals.ashs.org
Determination of buffer zones to protect seedlings of non-target plants from the effects of glyphosate spray drift by RH Marrs, AJ Frost, RA Plant, P Lunnis – Agriculture, ecosystems & …, 1993 – Elsevier
Perennial All-stars: The 150 Best Perennials for Great-looking, Trouble-free Gardens by J Cox – 2002 – books.google.com