Before you pack away your garden gloves and trowels for the impending winter, now may be the time to expand or start a perennial garden. Perennials are flowering or foliage herbaceous plants that survive through the winter months. Whether deciduous or evergreen, perennial roots survive the winter and send up new growth each spring.
Perennials need well-drained soil. Improve poor soil by incorporating organic matter prior to planting. Dig the hole deep enough to completely cover the plant roots. If the plant is being transplanted from a pot, make sure the entire root ball fits into the hole.
Mulch around newly planted perennials to help insulate the soil. This will encourage the roots to continue to grow as the temperatures drop. When the plants go dormant, leave the above-ground growth intact. In the spring you can cut back the branches.
Selecting perennials appropriate for your landscape begins with knowing your United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) zone. USDA zones are used to divide the country based on temperature. This informs gardeners of the plant hardiness for their respective area. The USDA zone map shows the zone divisions as well as the temperature range for each zone. Most of Kansas is in zone 6, though there is some discrepancy about this hardiness zone. Some gardeners prefer to play it safe and only select plants hardy to zone 5. This ensures the plant is suitable for the growing climate in their area. Plants that are hardy in zones 7 or higher will likely not survive the Kansas winter.
Planting zones are a good first step for choosing landscape plants. Knowing the cultural requirements and site conditions is equally important. Will supplemental water be available during dry periods? Will the plant tolerate full sun or is shade preferred? Is the species able to tolerate humid summers? Each of these questions should be understood for proper plant selection. With all of these considerations in mind, here are some perennials that are good options for fall planting.
Yarrow (Achillea sp.) is an easy-to-grow, drought-resistant perennial that tolerates even poorly conditioned soils. The long-lasting blooms attract butterflies and make a nice addition to cut flower and dried arrangements.
Bee balm (Monarda sp.) is another great choice for a pollinator garden. This is a low-maintenance perennial with a showcase of beautiful blooms. Bee balm prefers well-drained soil and regular water, at least while being established.
Garden Phlox (Phlox) blooms during the spring/summer months and can be upright or groundcover varieties. Blooms range from white to shades of pink and purple and appear in mass. Groundcover phlox does well in poor soil conditions making this is an easy addition to the landscape. Phlox paniculata is native to Kansas and Missouri ensuring it is well-adapted to the growing conditions.
There are many lists of suitable perennials, including natives, that can be planted in the fall and thrive in Kansas landscapes. Getting some planting done now will save gardeners from a little work in the spring.