Life Lab

Life Lab cultivates children's love of learning, healthy food, and nature through garden-based education.

Planting Perennials

What are Perennial Plants?

Perennial plants are plants that live for two or more years. Perennial plants grow for several years and go through repeated flowering and seed producing cycles before they die or put out one seed production cycle, and then die. Perennial plantings serve as a foundation for your garden and can serve various purposes such as:

•  attracting wildlife and providing habitat for beneficial insects such as pollinators and predators

•  food production (such as fruit trees and vines)

•  medicinal uses

•  ornamental uses

Perennial plants are usually easier to maintain than annual vegetable crops and once planted perennials provide a place of beauty and interest for years to come.

There are many considerations to take into account when selecting perennials:

•  evergreen vs. deciduous (green year-round or lose their leaves)

•  flowering, fruiting months and colors – it makes most sense choose plants that will fruit or flower when school is in session.

•  size and structure – will the mature size of the plant your are planting fit properly in the space you are planting it?

•  uses of plant (culinary herbs, ornamental uses, medicinal uses, habitat, food production, ect)

•  light requirements – will the plant you are planting receive the appropriate amount of light throughout the year

•  appropriate climatic zones


Climate Zones for Perennial Plants

To determine which plants are suitable for a climate zone gardeners refer to plant hardiness charts or “climate zones”.

There are two zone charts that are commonly used in the western region: the USDA Zone and the Sunset Western Garden Zones.

The USDA Zones range from 1-13, with one being a colder zone with annual average minimum temperature of –50F or below and 13 being a warmer zone annual average minimum temperature of 40F or above. In California most locations fall between zone 7-10.

View the USDA Zone map.

The Sunset Garden Zones are similar to the USDA Zones but are more detailed allowing for a more specific match of a plant's ideal environmental preferences and a location's climate. There are 24 Sunset zones and the Sunset Western Garden Book is an indispensable resource that lists thousands of plants, their zones and growing information for the Western US.

Learn more about Sunset's climate zones.

To find out your specific zone ask your nursery professional, contact your County's Master Gardener , or view the zone maps listed above.

To find out what zone a particular plant will thrive in refer to the plant label or a resource such as the Western Garden Book or website.

Here are a few more points to consider when planting perennials:

  • “Herbaceous” perennial plants die back to the ground in the winter and regrow in the spring, “Woody or Deciduous” perennials lose their leaves but not their structure, and “Evergreen” perennials keep their leaves during the winter. Keep these characteristics in mind when planning your garden's design.
  • Evergreen perennials can be planted any time of the year, but for most of California the best time of year is in the fall. This allows plants root systems to get established before their growing season and to take advantage of winter rains.
  • Bare root perennials such as fruit trees and vines should be planted in the dormant season (winter months or late winter months if your ground is frozen).
  • Most bulbs are planted in the fall for spring blooming dates.

Introduction to Perennial Plants

Selecting Fruit Trees & Vines for CA School Gardens

Growing California Natives

Suggested Perennials and Perennial Themed Gardens


Learn about edible crop planning and planting annual crops

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Thanks to the 35 educators who joined us for two great days in Santa Cruz visiting some of the best Life Lab school gardens in the nation (Bonny Doon, Westlake, Gault and Pacific School); eating at Pacifc School's FoodLab -the best school meal program in the world; and a Plant it, Grow it, Eat it Workshop. Happy #f2smonth, keep cultivating children's love of learning, healthy food, and nature through garden-based education! ... See MoreSee Less

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Hope to see you all out on Saturday for this year's Hard Core Cider Tour! A portion of proceeds from this fun event will benefit Life Lab. ... See MoreSee Less

Hard Core Cider Tour - Santa Cruz

October 8, 2016, 1:00pm - October 8, 2016, 6:00pm

San Lorenzo Park in Santa Cruz

The Hard Core Cider Tour returns to Santa Cruz, CA for its 2nd year! Imbibe UNLIMITED 2 oz. samples from some of the World's Top Craft Hard Cider Makers, savor mouth watering food from Local Food Trucks (food sold separately), groove to Live Music, and let your inner kid out with our Jumbo Lawn Games! This year, we are raising funds for Life Lab. Our mission is to celebrate the revival of craft hard cider making. As one of America’s long lost alcoholic beverages, we strive to reintroduce the joy of imbibing hard cider to all! CIDERS: 101 Cider House, Schilling Cider, Aspall, Santa Cruz Cider Company, Finnriver, The San Francisco Mead Company, South City Ciderworks, Surf City Cider, Rambling Route Cider, Tieton Cider Works, Two Rivers Cider Company, William's Orchards, Everett Family Farm, Ratel Cider, Humboldt Cider Company, WILDCIDE Hard Cider, Far West Cider Co, Red Branch Cider Company, E.Z. Orchards Farm Market, Indigeny Reserve MUSIC LINEUP: Olde Blue FOOD TRUCKS: The Choke Coach and Ate3one SPONSORS: Good Times Santa Cruz, UpOut SF, Santa Cruz Waves TICKETS: * General Admission: ~$40 Online / $50 At The Door * General Admission - Group Rate (4+ Tickets): ~ $30 Online / $40 At The Door * Designated Driver: ~ $10 (Available for purchase At The Door Only) TICKET ADMISSION INCLUDES: * UNLIMITED 2 oz. Tastings * Signature Keepsake Mason Jar * Unlimited Selfies & Goodtimes … #hardcorecidertour This is strictly at 21 and Over event. * * * * * Remember to Please Imbibe Responsibly * * * * *

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We walked around and took photos of some of the other awesome sustainability orgs who were under the Sustainability Tent with us at OPERS Fest this year.

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Another great workshop with San Mateo County Educators. Thanks Heal Project sharing the power of garden-based learning. ... See MoreSee Less

Great training this weekend at the San Mateo County School Farm hosted by Life Lab! Always inspiring to connect with folks dedicated to farm and garden based education

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Delicious! Taste testing at Common Threads Farm as part of a Growing Classroom Workshop in Bellingham, WA. Not many better places in the nation to be for apple tasting! Bringing (tasty) learning to life in the garden..... ... See MoreSee Less

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Rachel Pringle

Rachel PringleSenior Director of ProgramsEducation Outside

Life Lab has been the most innovative and relevant organization in this field. From providing the best curriculum to their cutting edge professional development, we have relied on Life Lab as our go to organization for support, ideas, and collaboration.

Erica Curry

Erica CurryTraining and Professional Development ManagerFoodCorps

Life Lab provides truly inspiring training. Their breadth of experience, joy for teaching, and commitment to sharing knowledge highlight the best practices in food and garden education.

Sheila Bricken

Sheila BrickenKindergarten TeacherSan Lorenzo Valley Elementary

Thank you for such a wonderful field trip experience! Your leaders did such a great job at keeping our kids engaged.

Tara Neier

Tara NeierCamp ParentSummer camp mom

Terry had another awesome two weeks at Life Lab. I think he learns more there than in any other part of his year. School is great, but he’s passionate (and often dogmatic) about what he learns there.