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"The Best Spring-Blooming Perennials"

Spring-blooming perennials provide some of the earliest color in the flower garden. Many bloom alongside the spring-blooming bulbs like daffodils and early tulips and are wonderful companions. Spring-blooming perennials return year after year in the garden. Click on a plant name to order it from Pernell Gerver's Online Store.

Christmas rose and Lenten rose are two of the earliest-blooming perennials in my garden.

Christmas rose can be in bloom as early as Christmas, especially in winters when there is little snow cover. In my garden, it blooms reliably by Valentine's Day every year. It bears up to a dozen single, white, four-inch-wide, rounded flowers that stand about a foot high. It has handsome, evergreen foliage that forms a foot high and wide mound.


Lenten rose begins blooming in mid March and continues blooming for up to four months. I've had Lenten rose bloom from March to July in my garden. It bears flowers in shades of purple, plum, and rose, many with spotted or speckled flower petals. Lenten rose has evergreen foliage that grows about a foot and a half tall and mature clumps can reach three feet across for a stunning early-spring display.

Fringed bleeding heart 'King of Hearts'Fringed bleeding heart is another spring-blooming perennial that begins blooming very early in the season. I've seen it in bloom in my garden as early as late March. The new cultivar 'King of Hearts' has medium-green, finely-divided foliage that forms a handsome clump. Large, bleeding-heart-shaped flowers are held in clusters on stems that stand above the foliage. Unlike the common bleeding heart that goes dormant after blooming leaving a hole in the garden, fringed bleeding heart 'King of Hearts' blooms from early spring to frost, making it one of the longest-blooming perennials in the garden.

Epimedium rubrum is in full bloom in the garden right now. It grows about a foot tall and has interesting, spider-like flowers. The red flowers are held in clusters that rise through its foliage. As its leaves appear in spring, they have a red blush in the veins, giving them a netted appearance. As the leaves mature, they turn bright green. Epimedium rubrum spreads to form an attractive groundcover and it thrives in dry shade.

English Daisy 'Rob Roy'English daisy 'Rob Roy' is another spring-blooming perennial. It has deep green foliage and bears lovely deep-crimson flowers in spring. Each flower is fully double and resembles a pincushion. The flowers are held on short flower stems that stand above its foliage.

Late spring is the blooming time for lewisia, a rosette-forming plant with succulent-like foliage. Single or semi-double blooms in white, yellow, pink, orange-red, and blue-red appear from May to late June or early July and surround the foliage. It's a low-growing plant standing just six inches high.


Pernell Gerver's Gardening Q & Aby Pernell Gerver

"Peonies Don't Bloom When Planted Too Deeply"

Q. I have peonies that grow beautiful foliage but never blossom. They are healthy, full plants. Could you tell me why they do not flower? Thank you.

A. Peonies are beautiful, late-spring flowering perennials that have large, showy flowers. Flowers can be single, semi-double, or double and are several inches across. Single-flowered types have prominent yellow stamens. Flower color includes red, pink, rose, white, cream, and yellow. Peonies grow to three feet tall and thrive in full sun. They have clean, nicely-textured foliage and when planted close together can be used as a small shrub border. They are also very long-lived perennials, often living for 75 years or more.

A non-blooming peony is a fairly common problem. In order for it to bloom best the plant must be grown in full sun and fertilized regularly. If the peony is in full sun but is still refusing to bloom, then the problem is the plant is most likely planted too deeply. This is referred to as a "blind peony." The pink buds on the roots are called the "eyes" and this is where new growth comes from. When these buds are too far below the surface, the plant will send up foliage but no flowers.

When planting peonies make sure the buds are no deeper than one inch below the surface. Also, keep mulch away from the center of the plant because a deep layer of mulch can also prevent a peony from flowering.

Thankfully, there is a way to make a non-blooming peony bloom. This fall dig up the entire clump, roots and all. To make it easier to see where the eyes are, wash away the soil from the roots. The eyes are pointed, small, pinkish buds. These eyes are the beginning of next year's growth. On peonies the pinkish area of the stem should be planted no deeper than an inch. Before replanting, improve the soil in the hole with compost or other organic matter. Then set the clump back in the hole. Lay a board across the hole and use a ruler to make sure the eyes are buried no more than an inch deep.


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