The Garden: The First Year, Plants Sleep, Second Year, They Creep & Third Year, They Leap!

A popular adage in the gardening world but I think it is a worthwhile reminder for all homeowners.

The first year after planting means that the plant may appear to be sleeping but really it is the roots that matter! Making sure the plant gets good soil, enough water and even a good covering of mulch to help it during the heat of the summer and the insulation for the winter.



The second year, the plant, shrub or tree looks a bit bigger than when first planted but it is just there. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if it’s even happy. If it is the whole garden you will find it doesn’t need as much water as it did after planting but there is still empty space between the plants. All flowering plants, perennials and shrubs should flower this year. Flowering trees may flower sparingly, as the larger root structure is still establishing.
This is the year they are creeping after all.



Then bam! Third year. The plant comes alive – it’s really noticeable in the garden! If the whole garden was new, you’ll notice how much the plants have ” filled in” – plants are now touching gently and your black mulch is less of a feature now. You drive up to your house and go “wow, that garden looks great…Finally!”

I know it may seem like it takes awhile, especially when the weather is a contributing factor like it was this past year with the extreme heat or in past years that have been cool and rainy. I think it is another reason why it takes three years for the garden to reach its full potential.

Wherever you are in the cycle, I hope you can appreciate it! As the garden, perennials & shrubs go beyond the three-year mark, they will require a bit more attention. Generally, Fall is the best time for dividing and Spring is the best time for pruning. (Refer to my Seasonal Tips Guide for specifics).

This is also the time to tweak what might not be working. For example, a shrub could grow to cover a perennial or maybe trees are not shading out some of the plants beside them…

I have to confess, no design is perfect and some changes will have to happen over time to account for the growth. A good design does mean good bones though and the garden will come into its own.

Fall is a perfect time for a garden design or redesign – and especially for planting.

You know where to find me if you need me.

2 Responses to The Garden: The First Year, Plants Sleep, Second Year, They Creep & Third Year, They Leap!

    Ken Sullivan

    Does this also apply to vegetable plants?

      Joanne Shaw

      Hi there, Not really because most of our vegetable plants are annuals. Meaning they only last one season. It would apply to some herbs that overwinter like chives.

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