Perrenials for zone 5

She blooms in full and her beauty is only witnessed by the night sky and, by dawn, she wilts even before the sun’s first kiss; with only her fragrant scent left as the ghost of her evening arrival.

Queen of Night (Source: WIKIPEDIA)

Known by many names such as the Princess of the Night or the Queen of the Night, the Cereus cactus is a species of cactus whose flower only blooms at night, typically between the months of July and October.

However, one class of cereus – possibly coming from the species Epiphyllum Oxypetalum – blooms one night a year and enthusiasts of this species make it a point that they do not miss it. The blossom it produces on the night it blooms is described to be the size of a new-born infant’s head and, by dawn, its pristine, white petals wilt and the flower dies leaving only its strong fragrant scent that is equally anticipated by many.

This night-bloomer has trumpet-shaped flowers with creamy-white, waxy petals. In full bloom, the flower can measure up to 4 inches wide and as much as 8 inches long. Depending on how they are grown and cultivated, these cacti can stand erect or be trained to sprawl a trellis. Unfortunately for most of us, this Queen of the Night is only found in deserts, the subtropics of Southwestern United States, Central, and South America, and the Antilles.

However, at least one species of Cereus has been successfully grown from clippings and is now a popular houseplant.

Without their sought-after blooms, these cacti typically look fairly common with gnarled, dry nests or a strange cactus-orchid hybrid with leaves – not really something that will turn heads and make a jaw-dropping impression.

According to Marc Hachadourian of the New York Botanical Gardens’ Nolen Greenhouses, the plant is “kind of big and gangly and awkward,” as he describes the cactus species. He continues by saying that the “lure of those blooms is worth it,” referring to the plant’s extraordinary behavior when its buds begin to blossom.

A night-blooming cereus before full bloom at Sakherbazar, Kolkata (Source: WIKIPEDIA)

These night blooming flowers will not actually begin to blossom until they are about four or five years old; and by then, they will only begin with only a few flowers. With a little patience and time though, the incidence of blooming flowers will increase as the plant ages.

Some breeders speed up the flowers’ blooming process by keeping their plants in dark environments all day to mimic night-time conditions during the blooming season. But regardless of the methods to make the buds blossom, the Cereus will only open its buds at night and will wither and wilt by dawn.

You may think that with this peculiar behavior that the plants would have died out by now but these night bloomers are pollinated by a species of moth – called the Hawk Moth – that is drawn to its fragrance. Several other species of nocturnal insects and animals like bats also contribute to pollination.

The occurrence of the bloom is quite a rarity that many enthusiasts and hobbyists make it an annual event where they would gather like-minded friends, family members, and even passers-by to witness the Queen of the Night awake from her slumber in an explosion of intoxicating fragrance.

A Facebook page called The Queen of the Night Society has even turned itself into a small community in their little neighborhood of Hudson, NY. The members of the group have their own plants and they are more than happy to exchange tips and tricks in caring for their little night blooming plants.

At the Tohono Chul botanical garden in Arizona, the staff at the facility spend months closely monitoring all 300 of their native, night-blooming cereus to make sure that they are in peak health and, of course, to know when they are due to bloom.

On the night that the flowers are expected to bloom, Tohono Chul operates late into the night and sets up a small event serving food and drinks to both loyal guests and curious visitors. According to Jo Falls, an educator at Tohono Chul, “…it’s really just an excuse to be out in the desert after dark to see what many people see as this absolutely magical flower.”

Because the flowers bloom according to specific weather and environmental conditions such as rainfall, humidity, and temperature, most species go into full bloom during rainy periods in the summer. Some plants even seem to follow a lunar cycle where buds open up around a full moon.

Epiphyllum oxypetalum (Credit: Damitr/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

Blooming typically happens between sunset and midnight and it takes at least an hour to three hours for all the petals to unfold. Once they do, a wave of fragrance resembling magnolia or gardenia will flood its area and the senses of those around it, beckoning them like pheromones to marvel at its beauty.

Unlike the character in Mozart’s Magic Flute, this Queen of the Night is a lady of wonderment and beauty; and like a fickle lover, she will quickly slip away from your grasp once you take your eyes off her when the dawn breaks.


  1. DesertUSA
  2. NY Times
  3. Gardening Know How

The blooms are summoned not by magic, but temperature, humidity or rainfall, with most species blooming at rainy times in the summer. Most appear to follow a lunar cycle, with more buds emerging on or around a full moon.

In the moonlight, their white petals and sweet aroma attract nocturnal pollinators with which some of the plants have co-evolved.

A hummingbird-esque Hawk moth arrives to pollinate Peniocereus greggii, the twiggy desert cactus, and bats typically pollinate other species. The nighttime blooms reduce competition for pollinators by other plants, allowing the cactuses to bear more fruit.

In some places, the Queen of the Night is still coming. You can prepare for her arrival by keeping an eye on buds, which develop over one to four weeks until they swell up and turn away from the direction they once faced.

The bloom will arrive sometime between sunset and midnight. Over one to three hours, the petals unfold, and a thick perfume resembling magnolia or gardenia permeates the air.

If you take your eyes off the Queen of the Night, she will slip away with the moon.

When Mr. Randall returned the next morning, the vibrant blossom had vanished. But The Queen of the Night’s essence remained, and it will continue to be shared from strangers’ gardens, the Twitter accounts of random passers-by, and the many others who get to experience random beauty one lucky night a year.

8 Exotic Plants That Take Up to a Decade—or More—to Bloom

Waiting Around for a Bloom

September 15, 2015

Earlier this year, the Denver Botanical Garden pointed a web camera at the corpse flower growing in their greenhouse. The live stream captured the massive flower as it opened, revealing its petal and, fortunately for web viewers, not its, uh, peculiar scent (more on that later). Why all the fuss? The seemingly simple act of a corpse flower blooming can take up to 20 years. Here are some other plants that can take a long, long time to flower.

Queen of the Night

Photo by Wiki Commons/Kirkastroth

(Peniocereus greggii)

For 364 days of the year this member of the cactus family, found in areas of western Texas down to southern Arizona, resembles a dead bush. But for one night in the middle of summer it opens with trumpet-shaped, creamy-white flowers up to 8 inches wide.

Corpse Flower

Photo by Wiki Commons/United States Botanic Garden

(Amorphophallus titanum)

The smell emanating from the corpse flower has been described as resembling that of rotting meat. Fitting, as the scent attracts the carrion beetle, which is the plant’s primary pollinator. The flower, native to the rainforests of central Sumatra, blooms once every 8 to 20 years, but when it does it opens up to 5 feet wide, or more, with a single dark-purple petal under a tall central stalk.


Photo by Wiki Commons/Suresh Krishna

(Strobilanthes kunthiana)

When the kurinji shrub, native to southern India, blooms, it turns large swaths of hillside bluish purple. That happens about once every 12 years because the plant synchronizes its reproductive phase as a survival mechanism, flooding the area with new plants in order to outnumber predators, such as wildebeests.

Talipot Palm

Photo by Wiki Commons/Cumulus Clouds

(Corypha umbraculifera)

The beautiful show of 16-foot-tall flowers that rise above the talipot comes at a steep price. The tropical palm, found in Sri Lanka and India, can live up to 75 years, but it flowers just once in that time, and then dies. The sturdy leaves are used for fans or to make thatch roofing.

Queen of the Andes

Photo by Chlaus Lotscher/Getty Images

(Puya raimondii)

Every 80 to 100 years, this Queen, found in Peru and Bolivia, puts on a show with a flower spike that reaches up to 30 feet high. The plant’s stalk is actually made up of 30,000 individual smaller flowers, and, like most members of the bromeliad family, which also includes pineapples, Queen of the Andes dies after flowering.

Sheep Eater

Photo by Wiki Commons/Mar del Sur

(Puya chilensis)

Native to Chile, this thorny plant snares sheep and birds that get too close. The animals die from lack of food and eventually decay at the base of the plant, becoming natural fertilizer. The 10-foot-tall plant can take up to 11 years to bloom, when its top fills with dozens of green-yellow flowers.

Giant Himalayan Lily

Photo by Wiki Commons/Mar del Sur

(Cardiocrinum giganteum)

Massive white-and-purple trumpet-shaped flowers appear from the 10-foot-tall plant after about seven years. When not in bloom, the lily, which grows in the Himalayas, is a mass of glossy green leaves. The parent plant dies after flowering but leaves behind several smaller bulbs.

Century Plant

Photo by Wiki Commons/Mar del Sur

(Agave americana)

Despite the name, century plant typically blooms sometime between year 10 and year 25. The succulent, native to Mexico, forms a rosette that can reach 10 feet wide, made up of thick, gray-green leaves tipped with spines. A single flower stalk grows from the base, reaching 30 feet high and blooming with greenish-yellow flowers before the plant dies.

Common Zone 5 Perennials – Perennial Flowers For Zone 5 Gardens

North America is divided into 11 hardiness zones. These hardiness zones indicate each zone’s average lowest temperatures. Most of the United States is in hardiness zones 2-10, with the exception of Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Plant hardiness zones indicate the lowest temperatures a plant can survive in. For example, zone 5 plants cannot survive in temperatures lower than -15 to -20 degrees F. (-26 to –29 C.). Fortunately, there are many plants, especially perennials, which can survive in zone 5 and lower. Continue reading to learn more about growing perennials in zone 5.

Growing Perennials in Zone 5

While zone 5 is not the coldest zone in the U.S. or North America, it is still a cold, northern climate with winter temperatures that can dip down to -20 degrees F. (-29 C.). Snow is also very common in zone 5 winters, which actually helps insulate plants and their roots from the brutal winter chill.

Regardless of this frigid winter weather, there are many common zone 5 perennials and bulbs you can grow and enjoy year after year. In fact, bulb plants have many varieties that will naturalize in zone 5, including:

  • Tulips
  • Daffodils
  • Hyacinths
  • Alliums
  • Lilies
  • Irises
  • Muscari
  • Crocus
  • Lily-of-the-valley
  • Scilla

Zone 5 Perennial Plants

Below is a list of common perennial flowers for zone 5:

  • Hollyhock
  • Yarrow
  • Wormwood
  • Butterfly weed/Milkweed
  • Aster
  • Baptisia
  • Bachelor’s Button
  • Coreopsis
  • Delphinium
  • Dianthus
  • Coneflower
  • Joe Pye weed
  • Filipendula
  • Blanket flower
  • Daylily
  • Hibiscus
  • Lavender
  • Shasta Daisy
  • Blazing Star
  • Bee balm
  • Catmint
  • Poppy
  • Penstemon
  • Russian Sage
  • Garden Phlox
  • Creeping Phlox
  • Black Eyed Susan
  • Salvia

2. Black-Eyed Susan

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) is a native wildflower that does best in full sun and organically-rich soil but tolerates average soil and even drought.

Varieties range from native Rudbeckia hirta, with its yellow-orange petals and dark brown centers, to hybrids in shades of deep orange and red. This garden classic blooms from June to September on stalks of up to 3 feet tall.

Black-eyed Susan provides continuous medium-height color saturation throughout the summer months. It self-sows, so either deadhead, or be prepared for seedlings to sprout next season. If you have a large space to fill, this can be a bonus. However, unless you have a native variety, your seedlings may not replicate the disease-resistance of their forbears.

Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) Seeds via True Leaf Market

Try alternating black-eyed Susan with Montauk daisy and coneflower for an interesting grouping of medium-height flora with similar sun and soil requirements.

Place it in the middle position of borders and beds, with ground covers in front, and tall, structural elements like giant allium in back. Sow seeds or plants in early spring in zones 3 to 9.

Read our complete growing guide here.

3. Blazing Star

Blazing star (Liatris spicata) is a native wildflower that attracts pollinators to the garden. It prefers moist, organically-rich, well-drained soil.

Blazing star adds vertical drama to a garden.

Spikes laden with blossoms of pink, purple, or white may reach 4 feet in height.

This linear design makes a bold impact from July to September. And, because it’s sturdy and blooms from the bottom up, it lasts a long time in vase arrangements.

Blazing star (Liatris spicata) via Eden Brothers

Interplant blazing star at mid-story for unexpected vertical drama, or at the back of beds and border for structural definition.

Sow seed or plants in spring or fall in zones 3 to 8. Divide over time as needed.

Read our complete growing guide here.

4. Bugleweed

Bugleweed (Ajuga) is a fast-growing evergreen ground cover for sunny to partly shady areas with average to moist, well-drained soil.

Varieties range from blue to white with shiny green, purple, and variegated foliage, upright blossom spikes, and a height about 6 inches.

Ajuga and tulips in a spring garden.

Sow it right over your daffodils and hyacinths for low-profile May to June color. Use it along walkways and in troublesome areas where you can’t seem to get anything to grow. Ajuga’s key characteristics are its year-round interest and weed inhibition.

Chocolate Chip Ajuga via Burpee

Sow seeds or plants in early spring in zones 3 to 10.

5. Clematis

Clematis is a non-invasive flowering vine that grows in full sun to part shade in moist, organically-rich, well-drained soil.

Clematis can be found in almost any color imaginable and with different shaped flowers. And you can find spring and summer blooming varieties.

There are spring and summer bloomers, and some are fragrant.

Large, showy blossoms range from velvety burgundy to downy white, strewn along vines reaching over 12 feet long.

Clematis functions as “window dressing” in the garden. Train it up and over lattice frameworks, arbors, and fences to create privacy.

Blue Clematis ‘Rasputin.’

Train it up a lamppost, over a wall, or anywhere you want a mass profusion of blooms. Dress up that boring window-less garage wall with a foundation planting and decorative trellis.

Blue Light Clematis via Nature Hills Nursery

Plant rootstock in spring or fall. Do not prune until fully established, and then only on varieties that do not produce new shoots on old wood.

Read our complete growing guide here, and to protect your vines from frost and freezing temperatures see our clematis winter care guide.

6. Coneflower

Coneflower (echinacea) is a garden staple in my family. It prefers full sun and organically-rich, sandy, well-drained soil. Native purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) and its cultivars often outperform today’s yellow and orange hybrids.

Choose coneflower for a summer’s worth of color.

Prized for centuries for its medicinal qualities, coneflower blooms from summer to fall, and its seed heads attract songbirds like goldfinches.

Topping out at about 3 feet, its key feature is the ability to provide consistent, long-lasting mid-level color. It is especially attractive interplanted with varieties of similar soil culture like black-eyed Susan.

Echinacea Coneflower Seeds via True Leaf Market

Sow seeds or plants in zones 3 to 9, in mixed beds, borders, or stand-alone drifts.

Read our complete growing guide here.

7. Cranesbill Geranium

Cranesbill geranium, or hardy geranium, is a mounding species that thrives in full sun in average, well-drained soil. Reaching heights of up to 3 feet, it’s a good middle-position filler in beds and borders, with shrubs behind, and shorter flora in front.

Cranesbill geranium fills the mid-level with a profusion of blooms.

This plant’s voluminous foliage makes it useful as a camouflage for unsightly faucets, hoses, utility meters, and other foundation eyesores. In autumn, it adds gold and umber shades to the landscape.

Cranesbill blossoms are showy and appear continuously from spring until frost. Choose cultivars in shades of pink, purple, blue, and white.

Hardy Geranium ‘Rozanne’ via Burpee

Sow seeds or plants in early spring in zones 4 to 9. Divide as needed in spring or fall.

Read our complete growing guide here.

8. Creeping Thyme

Creeping Thyme (Thymus Serphyllum) is a culinary herb that makes a stunning, color-saturated edible ground cover in full sun and average, well-drained soil. Brushing past or stepping upon it releases a pleasant, minty fragrance.

A pink carpet of creeping thyme borders a path.

It’s drought tolerant and in mild climates, evergreen.

Topping out at about 3 inches, it’s tiny pink-purple blossoms form a rich carpet of color as summer gets underway. Sow it en masse along walkways and driveways, at the very front of beds and borders, and in a drift of its own, to show off its primary asset, vivid color.

Creeping Thyme Seeds via Eden Brothers

Sow seeds or plants in early spring in zones 4 to 8.

9. Daylily

Daylily (Hemerocallis) is a clumping root plant with multiple bold, shapely blossoms per stem, each opening for just one day.

It grows heartily in full sun in organically-rich, well-drained soil. Cultivars are available in a vast array of colors including orange, pink, purple, red, yellow, and white.

The best features here are the elegant shape of the petals, and heights of up to 4 feet tall. It shows best en masse, with spring, summer, and fall bloomers for a continuous spring to frost display.

Use tall varieties to best advantage as stand-alones or back-of-border anchors in expansive beds with room for spreading. Shorter types may used to define border frontage with a swath of color. All types may be grouped en masse for vivid drifts.

‘Happy Returns’ Daylily via Nature Hills Nursery

Bed plants in spring or fall in zones 3 to 9. Deadhead spent blossoms to extend bloom time and divide as needed.

Read our complete growing guide here.

10. English Lavender

English Lavender (Lavandula aufustifolia) is a shrubby herb used in medicinal and culinary applications. If you have full sun and dry, sandy, somewhat acidic soil, this is the perfect choice for rockeries, beds, borders, and kitchen gardens.

Lavender’s foremost asset is without a doubt its fragrance. Be sure to place it near bed and border perimeters to encourage brushing past and releasing its pungent aroma. In addition to scent, the spikes of blue-purple blossoms add dramatic lines to the landscape.

With a compact form and 1- to 2-foot height, you may also use lavender to create a band of color and texture at the mid-story level. Consider mingling it with yellow yarrow for an appealing contrast.

Sow seeds or plants in early spring in zones 5 to 8. Enjoy color from June through August, and deadhead to promote optimal blooming. Prune every few years to maintain a compact shape.

Common English Lavender Seeds via True Leaf Market

Lavender comes in several different species but the English variety and the French type are the two most common.

11. Siberian Iris

Siberian Iris (Iris sibirica) grows from a root structure called a rhizome, in full sun to part shade. It prefers organically-rich, moist but well-drained soil. Cultivars are available in a rainbow of colors including blue, pink, purple, white, and yellow, with heights up to 4 feet.

Iris grows in showy clumps that takes center stage as a focal feature, naturalizing into dramatic drifts of color in the spring garden. Some varieties like to have “wet feet,” making them perfect solutions for dampish trouble spots. Slender stems with showy blossoms appear in late spring.

When the blossoms wither, prune away the entire stems. Leave the ornamental grass-like leaves intact to feed the rhizomes and add linear interest to the landscape right through fall.

‘Blue Moon’ Siberian Iris via Eden Brothers – Fall Planted or Spring Planted

Siberian iris is suitable for zones 3 to 8, where it may be bedded in early spring or fall. While you may sow singly, placing several together makes for an attractive clump. Plan to dig them up in about 4 years to remove withered rhizomes.

12. Giant Allium

Giant Allium (Allium giganteum) is a striking ornamental onion bulb that thrives best in full sun and moist, organically-rich, well-drained soil. Large globes of purple blossoms perch atop bare stems that reach up to 5 feet in height.

This giant variety provides whimsical pops of color and texture that seem to float on air.

Sow it sporadically for a quirky accent, mass it in a drift, use it to define the back of a border, or make it a focal point in the center of a bed. Giant allium blooms in May and June.

Giant Alliums via Burpee

Bed bulbs in fall in zones 5 to 8. Excessive moisture or poor drainage may cause rotting.

13. Hellebore

Hellebore (Helleborus orientalis) is an rhizomous evergreen prized for appearing in the garden as early as January and lasting well into spring. It likes organically-rich, moist, well-drained soil, and a little shade once the sun starts to heat things up.

Hellebore’s job in the garden is to usher in the springtime, and provide 1-foot-high, texturally-rich, glossy green foliage throughout the year. Cultivar colors include green, pink, red, and yellow.

Place beneath deciduous trees as a neutral ground cover, and the perfect companion to spring bulbs. After the bulbs wither, simply tuck their stems out of sight beneath the generous-sized hellebore leaves.

Hellebore ‘Phoebe’ via Burpee

Sow seeds, rootstock, or plants in early spring in zones 4 to 9.

Read our complete growing guide here.

14. New England Aster

New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) earns it keep in the landscape as a native that attracts pollinators, and a last blast of color in the summer-to-fall transition period. It does best in full sun with average soil that’s moist, but well-drained.

Once it gets going, this aster is more like a shrub. Reaching heights of up to 6 feet, it’s a profusion of small, feathery purple blossoms that open continuously during August and September. Left to its own designs, it may require support. Alternatively, you may prune early in the summer to minimize legginess.

In addition, you may prune at season’s end or leave withered stalks for habitat and winter interest. Self-sowing and naturalizing contribute to its proclivity for spreading.

Heirloom New England Aster Seed via Eden Brothers

Sow seeds or plants in early spring in zones 4 to 8.

Read our complete growing guide here.

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