Buying Perennials Online
Hostas with their lush foliage are a favourite perennial
Perennials are extremely popular and offer an enormous choice of colour, shape and size for your garden from the tall spikes of Delphiniums which will add height to your border to the ever popular Hosta providing a lush explosion of green, often variegated, foliage.
A perennial is defined as an herbaceous plant that forms flowering stems each year before dying back to ground level in autumn and shooting again the following year. It can also cover some evergreen non-woody plants such as Bergenia. In this guide we'll cover what you should consider when choosing your perennials and where you can buy perennial plants online. If you're looking for something in particular we will show you plants from several shops in our perennials section, or you can browse plants by genus.
Plant Size and Support
Perennials range in size from a few inches in height to six or seven feet, but most fall comfortably in the middle of these extremes. Some taller perennials are self-supporting but many will need staking or some other type of help to remain upright in our unpredictable climate; this is especially true in exposed positions.
Tall perennials such as Delphiniums will need support
The traditional means of support is woody material from trees such as hazel but there are now many styles of supports available online or from Garden Centres. You can get an idea of what type of support you'd like in our plant supports section.
As well as eventual height, you need to consider the spread of a perennial when buying; some make a basal rosette a few inches across and throw up a single stem while others such as border phlox, can make a clump three feet wide. Some perennials have invasive roots or spreading rhizomes and you need to decide whether to allow sufficient room for them to expand or whether you are willing to curb their wandering tendencies on a regular basis.
As with most plants, your choice of perennials will be influenced by your soil type. Whether you have heavy clay soil or free-draining, sandy soil will dictate what will thrive.
Heathers such as Erica carnea prefer acid soil
Some plants hail from hotter climates than ours and will not tolerate sitting in cold, wet soil during British winters; others come from areas with dry winters or where a covering of snow protects them from the worst of the cold weather. There are also some perennials with strong, fleshy roots that need, and can cope with, a heavier soil or relish a damp spot in the wild.
Whether the soil is acid or alkaline governs whether you will be able to grow such things as Ericas (heather) and other acid-loving plants, or Scabious which crave limy conditions. Looking in nearby gardens to see whether your neighbours are successfully growing things like Rhododendrons is the quickest way of guessing which you have (Rhododendrons need an acid soil). A soil testing kit is a more precise way of determining soil acidity.
The aspect of your garden is also an important factor; some perennials need all the sun they can get while others need shady conditions more akin to the woodlands of their native habitat. There are also many perennials tolerant of a wide range of conditions.
One way to do your research is visit some Garden Centres and read labels to identify plant sizes and requirements; another is to purchase a book for reference such as the RHS Encyclopaedia of Perennials.
Buying perennials online
Buying perennials online has advantages and disadvantages. On the negative side, you can't check the quality of plants before buying. Try to stick to reputable firms or go with recommendations rather than finding a seller on a site such as EBAY. Not only are you more likely to get a better plant, there should be a customer service department if there is a problem.
If you buy online, make sure you check the size of the plant you order; sometimes a very cheap price will indicate a very small specimen. While the quality may be fine, be aware that small plants will have to be grown on before planting in the garden.
One of the great benefits of buying perennials online is being able to purchase a range of perennials with different flowering times in the year all at once instead of having to wait until they are available in local Garden Centres. Reputable mail order suppliers will ship plants at suitable times of year for getting them established in your garden and many will hold an order back if you tell them when you would like to receive it.
Where to buy perennials
These products have been popular with our community. If you are the thorough type, browse and compare all Perennials from loads of different merchants.
Read our seasonal guides to lawn care:
Or browse all our buying guides.