Is it too late to plant perennials?

The Penn State Extension of Berks County Master Gardeners will be featuring questions and answers to inquires received through their Garden Hotline.

Q: Is it too late to plant perennials in my garden? Do you have any suggestions on what plants would be best?

A: Fall is a good time to plant to give the plants a head start for the spring. Here are some things to consider when planting.

Keep a close eye on the weather and plan your planting accordingly. New plants are very vulnerable to harsh conditions, so avoid planting when temperatures are high and try to choose an overcast day. It’s recommended to plant between September and October.

A 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch around newly planted perennials will help insulate them for the winter and ensure they return healthy and ready to grow in the spring.

Water your newly planted beauties thoroughly until hard freezes. Plenty of moisture helps start new roots this fall as the soil stays warm long after the air temperatures cool.

Some examples of favorite fall-planted perennials: sedum, echinacea (coneflowers),  ornamental grasses, rudbeckia (black-eyed susans) and asters.

Q: Do you have any tips for planting the bulbs I purchased?

A: Bulbs are pretty easy, but there are a few things to keep in mind.

Depth: Follow the package directions, but the general rule of thumb is to plant bulbs at three times the height of the bulb.

Watering: Water well when planting, and then keep an eye on the weather. If your autumn is drier than normal, you may need to water deeply once or twice a month. Be careful not to over water as it can lead to rot.

Feeding: Fertilizers should be applied at planting and placed in the bottom of the hole where the bulb roots are located. Look for fertilizers labeled for bulbs, usually high in phosphorus to promote root growth.

Critters: Rabbits, squirrels and chipmunks love tasty bulbs! Use a sprinkle of blood meal or the repellent of your choice when planting to deter them. For particular pesky critters, a bit of chicken wire placed above the bulbs before the soil is replaced works well.

Design: Bulbs planted in groups offer a pleasing, softer, naturalistic look instead of single rows and create bigger impact. Tuck shorter varieties in the front of borders and try weaving tall, later blooming types through perennial beds.

Penn State Master Gardeners with advanced diagnostic training staff the hotline, answering questions on lawn care, landscape plants, houseplants, fruit, vegetables and herbs, insect and disease issues, and identification of unknown plants or insects. Advice is based on Integrated Pest Management strategies and environmentally-friendly approaches. For more information on these and other gardening-related topics, email the Garden Hotline at or call 610-378-1327. The office is open for drop-ins Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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