Maintenance Cures for Floppy Perennials
Perennial flowers come in all heights, from a few inches to over 6 feet tall. One disadvantage of the taller plants is that they sometimes flop over. This floppy habit tends to occur just at the peak of flowering, leaving the showiest part of the plant ignominiously splayed on the ground. There are a few simple tricks to help the gardener keep these leggy plants upright throughout the season.
Staking is one method. Staking is best done for plants that have just a few stalks, such as lilies. The key to staking is to place the rod alongside the plant before it begins to bend over. Be careful inserting the stake into the ground so as not to damage the plant. A stake can be made from wood, steel or any other rigid material. The height of the stake should be lower than the tallest point, this helps to hide it in the garden. Loosely tie the plant stem to the stake.
Caging perennials is another method. To cage perennials, place a hoop-like structure around the entire plant. Rings can be made from wire, or prefabricated supports can be purchased. Again, the trick is to place the cage or support around the plant before it begins to flop. Peonies, as well as other bushy perennials, respond well to caging. Place the support just as the plant emerges. The stems grow up through the support, which helps hold the flower blossoms erect.
Cutting Back Floppy Perennials
Cutting back is a technique used by experienced gardeners and is effective for controlling floppy perennials. The best example of cutting back is with chrysanthemums. Cutting back removes up to one half of the growth. Cutting back reduces the height of the plant, which helps to strengthen the stem and reduces the weight. The end result is a stocky, bushier plant that tends to stay upright.
In addition to mums, other perennials that respond well to cutting back are:
- fall blooming asters,
- balloon flowers,
- golden rod and
- Joe-Pye weed.
In the spring, when growth reaches about 1 foot, cut back to about 6 inches. This method may delay the first blooms but will pay dividends later in the season. It will take a little practice to figure out how each plant responds to the cutting back.
Divide Perennials to Control Size
Dividing an overgrown clump may also help reduce its floppy nature. When plants are large and there are numerous stalks, they tend to catch more wind and move in the breeze, causing the plant to fall over. Reducing the number of stems cuts down on the bulk of the plant and helps the stalks to stay erect.
Curing a bad case of floppy perennials requires being proactive. Once the plants have fallen over, little can be done to restore them. By taking early measures to prevent this common occurrence your garden flowers will proudly flaunt their colorful heads instead of bending to the ground in heaviness.