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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Have you heard?! Life Lab is one of New Leaf Community Markets' recipients of their EnviroToken program for their Westside Santa Cruz store! So get your shopping on, bring your reusable bags, and donate 10¢ to Life Lab with every bag you use! Thank you, New Leaf!
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We are so grateful to be starting 2018 with such strong support! Because of so many generous gifts from our supporters like you, we surpassed our 2017 fundraising goal of $124,000, with all campaign donations totaling $125,835.

These funds will help make Life Lab field trip and summer camp programs possible for children from families and schools that could otherwise not afford them. We believe that ALL children deserve the chance to love learning, healthy food, and nature. Thanks to your support, this year we will serve even more children in Santa Cruz County and across the nation.


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Happy almost 2018, Life Lab fans! We are only $809 dollars away from reaching our $124,000 year-end fundraising goal! Before you ring in the new year, will you help us ensure a promising 2018? 100% of the funds necessary to do this important work come from grants and from individuals like you. Will you join us in ensuring that we can continue to deepen and expand our reach, so that even more children can experience the joy of loving learning, healthy food, and nature? Your tax-deductible gift made by midnight tonight will go directly to supporting our programs.
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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.
Rachel PringleSenior Director of ProgramsEducation Outside
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.
Erica CurryTraining and Professional Development ManagerFoodCorps
Thank you for such a wonderful field trip experience! Your leaders did such a great job at keeping our kids engaged.
Sheila BrickenKindergarten TeacherSan Lorenzo Valley Elementary
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.
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