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Perennial Tips

In the Midwest, there's a mecca for American gardeners curious about the latest in perennials. Gardeners with different conditions can grow many of the same plants, but they shouldn’t be shy when it comes to questioning local garden centers. Here are a few tips to get you started.

1. Cluster Similar Plants

For visual diversity and continuity in the garden, plant in repeating groupings of six or seven similar varieties that combine well, rather than in large masses of a single type of plant.

2. Space Closely

Weeds can't flourish without room to grow. Plant perennials 15 inches from center to center and grasses at 15 to 20 inches. Economical 4 1/2-inch pots will quickly catch up with gallon sizes.

3. Don't Overfeed

Perennials seldom need much soil enrichment in the way of conventional fertilizers. But mulching with shredded bark or leaf mold helps keep roots moist.

4. Leave Them Standing

In winter, don't cut attractive dry stems, grasses, or seedpods. Remove them in early spring before the bulbs come up, leaving a light mulch of leftover leaves on the surface to enrich the soil.

5. Divide and Share

Every four to five years, many perennials need thinning or dividing (an easy way to obtain new plants). Expand your planting beds -- or give your extra bounty away.

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