Mt Cuba Center
Mt Cuba Center
Back to News Updates – November 19, 2021


Planning Your Spring Garden

By Leah Brooks

Although planting time for herbaceous perennials is nearly over, planning time has already begun! As the temperatures drop and frost begins to form with regularity at night, the time to plant herbaceous plants comes to a close. A herbaceous perennial is a plant composed of soft non-woody tissue that lives for a number of years.

Iris versicolor

Perennials installed in the ground after the first frost run the risk of experiencing “frost heave,” which occurs when freezing conditions cause soil moisture to turn from liquid water to ice. The phase change increases the volume of the soil, causing it to swell and shift upward. Recently planted herbaceous plants are pushed up or heaved out of the soil, exposing the roots. If this is not noticed and quickly fixed via replanting, the plant will likely dry out and die from exposure.

Be sure to plant herbaceous perennials with enough time for their root systems to establish while the soil is still workable. This way, they’ll have a lower risk of experiencing frost heave.

Winter is often the most convenient time for a busy gardener to plan garden additions and transplants. To help you decide which plants to add to your spring wish list, Mt. Cuba Center has created a resource with information on 120 herbaceous flowering perennials; 80 of which are native to Delaware (indicated in bold) and 40 that are native to other areas of Eastern Temperate Forest Ecoregion. Data was referenced from Missouri Botanical Garden’s Plant Finder database and Rutgers University’s Deer Resistance List.

Eurybia divaricata

Download the Excel spreadsheet with each species’ suggested use(s), sun and moisture conditions, deer resistance ranking, height, spread, bloom color, and bloom period. Try utilizing Excel’s “Filter” feature to sort plants by these characteristics. Let your imagination run wild with the possibilities!

Download Excel Sheet

Download PDF Sheet

To filter the cells (boxes) by the data (numbers/letters) they contain, follow these steps:

  • Click on a cell within the spreadsheet
  • Under the “Home” header, in the “Editing” tab, click the “Sort & Filter” icon
  • Click “Filter.” Now each column header has a gray drop down arrow
  • Click the gray arrow, then choose how you would like to filter the table based on the information in that column
  • To clear/remove a filter, click on the gray arrow and click “Clear Filter from (Column Name)”

Fun with Filtering

Click on the gray arrow at the top of the “Color” column, select “Sort A-Z”, and you’ll see the plants grouped together by bloom color.

Click on the gray arrow at the top of Column F, uncheck the box next to “(Blanks)”, and you’ll only see the plants that thrive in part shade. Before clearing the filter, click on the gray arrow at the top of Column J, and uncheck the box next to “(blanks)”. Now you’ll see only plants that thrive in part shade and wet conditions!

Geranium maculatum