Mixing Perennials and Annuals for Continuous Color

As the first burst of spring and color gives way to a sea of greenery, experienced gardeners know how to bring the color back and sustain it throughout the more challenging days of summer heat and sporadic rain. Combining the best of care for your perennials, with the addition of some help from ever-blooming annuals, will result in a garden that keeps you in color for the duration of summer and into fall.

The Ideal Mixed Bed

Always purchase plants that are intended for the Hardiness Zone in which you live. Consider your soil content, whether it will benefit by adding compost or peat. And plan on fertilizing every four to six weeks. Where does the sun hit your garden, based on the position of your home? Consider shade that is a constant, from structures, trees and fencing, when calculating how much sunshine your garden receives. Commit to watering on a regular basis when rain is not dependable, in order to get your plants established. Once roots have taken hold and plants are thriving, it’s possible to grow more reliant on rain for regular watering, so long as extreme sunlight and/or strong winds don’t dry out your plants. But remember that annuals often need more watering than perennials.

Variety is not only the spice of life, but of your garden as well! Height, color, texture, bloom time, size – plan your garden as you would decorate a room, considering the effect each piece will have on the rest. Bloom time is key, since your overall goal is continuous color. Research your plant choices, or visit your local nursery to see which perennials are blooming at the beginning, middle and end of the spring-through-fall season. Also, seeing plants in bloom will help with color choices. Think of your garden as home for tall, medium and short plants, so that the garden appears homogeneous and taller plants won’t block the sun from shorter ones. Space plants according to suggested widths on plant labels, so that you allow room for plants to grow.

Leaves on perennials will continue to provide a green backdrop for annuals, even when the perennial is past its bloom time. Consider the different colors and textures of leaves as an added bonus from the perennials in your garden. Heucheras come in a vast array of leaf colors, which can flourish and add much to your garden, even after the dainty coral or white bell-like flowers they produce are spent. The greenery from peonies and lilies will also provide good, green “filler” in your garden. Don’t cut down leaves from a perennial that has finished blooming! Its leaves are necessary to absorb nutrients and provide growth and strength for the next year’s blooms.

Continue the Care

After blooming in spring and early summer, perennials will often look leggy, spent and not exactly the highlight of your garden. But with dead-heading, fertilizing, regular watering and adequate sun, some perennials will come back for a second bloom before calling it a season and going dormant until next year. Dianthus and daisies are examples of this. Popular annuals for filling in color are petunia, geranium, lobelia, and for spots with less sun, impatiens and begonias.