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A List of Perennial Flowers For Your Garden.

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Perfectly Planned Perennial Garden With Annuals Tucked In Between.

The following list of perennial flowers will help you choose just which permanent plants you want to invite into your garden to stay. When planning your perennial garden, keep in mind the fact that some of these plants could be around for many years to come. These are the plants which will live from three to thirty years or more, depending on how happy they are.

So even though you don’t need a pencil and paper to map out your garden, it’s a good idea to give it some thought before you go out and buy what could be a quite expensive plant. You need to know how to care for it so that your investment is not wasted – and where to put it.

If you are just starting out and have a large, bare plot to cover, it can be quite overwhelming, but imagine a garden without any perennials … It’s worth it. Of course the main things to plant first are the Trees (if you want some), then the tall Woody Perennials such as Roses, Rhododendrons and Hydrangeas, and then the smaller Herbaceous Perennials. Herbaceous Perennials are the ones that are easiest to deal with and move around if you get them wrong eg. Chrysanthemums. The Herbaceous Perennials are the ones which die back each year to ground level, and then bloom again in the spring. The best examples of these would have to be the Bulbs.

After you know what is going where, it’s time to think of the Annuals which can be tucked in between the Perennials. When planning your garden, keep in mind the fact that Herbaceous Perennials fit well with evergreen shrubs and small trees and bushes. See more information on this site: Perennial Flowers.

The following List of Perennial Flowers contains flowers which are common and easy to grow. In some cold areas they are only grown as Annuals. The information will be on the tag. I hope the images at the top of each page will give you some ideas about your perennial flower garden design. Check back here often as I add what I find because this list is by no means complete!

Perennial Flowers Starting With A.

Achillea millefolium. (Yarrow family).

African Daisy. (Osteospermum)

Agapanthus. (Star of Bethlehem).

Ageratum houstonianum. (Floss Flower).

Allium bisceptrum. (Twincrest Onion).

Alstromeria. (Peruvian Day Lily).

Amaranthus. (Prince’s Feather).

Anchusa. (Dropmore Flower, Italian Bugloss).

Anemone. (Windflower).

Aster. (Daisy Family).

Astilbe Flower. (False Spirea).

Aurinia saxatillis. (Basket of Gold, Alyssum saxatilllis).

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Home. Return to Perennial Flowers.

Picking the right type of plants is as important as where you are going to put your garden. Consider the type of plant, how much sun it needs and how much water it will need. If your garden gets 6+ hours of direct sun per day then you are going to want to pick perennials that will thrive in the sun and will not need to be watered multiple times a day so they don’t die from exposure.

We have collected 17 full sun perennials that will thrive in your sunny garden.

Salvia

Perennial salvias are lovely plants that make an attractive taste to gardens and landscapes. They produce beautiful and fragrant flowers with attractive foliage that bloom for weeks, generally from late spring or summer. They are mostly full sun plants although few types are shade tolerant. They grow well in fertile and well-drained soil.

Pincushion flower (scabiosa)

Pincushion flowers are long-blooming and compact perennials with gray to green leaves. The name was derived from the flower’s cushion-like center and pin-looking stamens, which resemble that of a pincushion. The beautiful pincushion flower comes in a wide range of colors, but most varieties come in blue, purple and white shades. The unique blossoms will take place usually from late spring, summer and fall seasons. This plant grows up to 1 or 2 feet in height and prefers medium, well-drained soil in full sun.

Bugloss

Bugloss are perennial forget-me-nots with large, ovate or heart-shaped leaves. They produce a delightful display of sky-blue flowers in spring that adds a vibrant and striking accent to landscapes and gardens. Mature bugloss stands 1-2 feet tall, and each plant can have several flowering stalks. They thrive well in deep, moist soil condition with full sun or partial shade.

Rock Cress

Rock cress is a mat-forming, semi-evergreen, herbaceous perennial plant that is most popular as an attractive border in a rock garden. They are alpine plants that can thrive in atypical locations like hills and slopes. Rockcress produces a profusion of fragrant, gorgeous blooms of vivid purple-red flowers in mid-spring to early summer. They grow up to 4-9 inches tall with a spread of 1-2 feet. They grow best in full sun and prefers for rocky, sandy, and dry spots.

Candytuft (Iberis)

Candytuft, a ground-hugging perennial flower, is a well-loved perennial among gardeners. Its fantastic display of white flowers above its glossy, evergreen foliage is a spring-blooming favorite. It is a subshrub with a height of up to 10 feet and spreading to about 2 feet. Also, it thrives well in well-drained soil and blooms best in full sun.

Poppy

Poppies are attractive clump forming perennials that bloom in early to mid-summer. They produce beautiful flowers with tissue paper-like petals which adds a vibrant accent to the landscape. The flower comes in colorful shades of red, orange, yellow, and white, often with dramatic dark centers. They can grow from 2 to 4 feet in height, although dwarf varieties are also available. They prefer well-drained soil at full sun.

Delphinium

Delphinium are perennials grown for their eye-catching spikes of colorful summer flowers. Their regal blooms come in gorgeous shades of blue, pink, white, and purple. They can bloom with single, semi-double or double flowers which are called florets. Tallest varieties can grow to 5-6 feet tall and 2 feet wide, however, dwarf types are also available can grow up to 1-2 feet tall and about 1 foot wide. Full sun is ideal as delphiniums bloom best in sunny spots and well-drained soils.

Campion

An old-fashioned, garden favorite that adds brilliant color is the rose campion. It is known for its silver-gray foliage and for its beautiful profusion of bright magenta, pale pink or white trumpet-shaped flowers that bloom in late spring to early summer. This plant grows up to 18-36 inches tall and spread up to 12-18 inches. It thrives in full sun and enjoys well-drained soils.

Boltonia

Boltonia, also called false aster, is a perennial wildflower that produces ray-like flowers surrounding a yellow center. Its sturdy stems, narrow leaves, and dozens of white flowers resemble that of asters. They bloom from late spring until fall and prefers moist soil under full sun. Like many wildflowers, they are easy to grow and needs low maintenance. They can grow up to 3-8 feet and 2-4 feet wide.

Helianthus

Helianthus maximiliana is a tall, upright, perennial, oval to heart-shaped hairy leaves. They produce huge, brilliant flowers with yellow petals surrounding the dark brown center. This plant typically grows up to 3-10 feet tall and 18-36 inches wide. Helianthus prefer full sun and enjoys well-drained soil, although it can also tolerate any soil condition. They are late season flowers that bloom at the end of summer and into fall.

Sedum

Sedums are standout perennials with thick, succulent leaves and fleshy stems. They produce densely clustered buds made of tiny, star-shaped flowers in shades of white, pink, or red that blooms in late spring or summer. There are three main varieties: mat-forming, creeping and upright sedums that can grow up to 3 feet tall depending on the variety and conditions. They are easy to grow and best exposed to full sun, in average, moist, well-drained soils.

Dictamnus

Dictamnus, also known as burning bush, is a relatively rare but beloved herbaceous perennial plant. It is considered slow-to-establish, but very long-lived plant. Once established, plants continue to flourish for years and generate gorgeous and fragrant flowering spikes that bloom during summer. The plant grows up to 2-3 feet and 1.5-2.5 feet wide. They are easily grown in well-drained soils in full sun.

Peony

Peonies are very long-lived herbaceous perennials that are easy to grow and works a spectacular show in the garden. They are outrageously beautiful in bloom from spring to summer due to its exquisite, fragrant, huge flowers in white, pink to rose, red, lavender, and yellow. Even after its blooming period, its foliage is still beautiful. They grow up to 2-3 feet and works well in a sunny location with well-drained soil.

Limonium

Another summer blooming perennial favorite is limonium. It is a dense herbaceous perennial with a low-growing mound of deep green foliage rosettes. It forms a leathery leaf that comes in various sizes and tends to be lance-shaped or spatula-shaped. Limonium features airy plumes flowers with long-lasting colored tubular calyces and branching heads of tiny, light blue petals. At maturity, it will grow to about 29 inches tall with a spread of 29 inches.

Agave

Agave is a rosette-forming perennial best known as succulent plants with large leaves that end in sharp tips. The architectural foliage comes in different varieties which adds drama to any garden. A blooming agave is an eye-catcher when it is topped with a lovely flowering spike. They thrive well in full sun, though light shades for a couple of hours is also tolerable.

Lavender

Lavender is a shrubby perennial that is iconic to gardeners. It’s gray to green foliage maintains evergreen appearance throughout the year. This plant is highly regarded for its fragrance, medicinal properties, and gorgeous lavender color flowers that appear during late spring to early summer. Mature lavenders grow up to 2-3 feet tall and 18 inches wide with narrow leaves on square stems.

Yucca Plant

Yuccas are perennial plants that grow in mounded rosettes. They have long, sword-like, evergreen leaves that add a unique look to any location such as landscapes. The creamy-white flowers atop the stiff stalks that bloom during mid to late summer is undoubtedly an attraction. They are low maintenance perennials that thrive in well-drained soils and can be in full sun.

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Tried-and-True Perennials for Your Garden

Power Plants

Photo by Clive Nichols/GAP Photos

View a jaw-dropping garden and it’s likely you’re seeing the potential of perennials at work. Trees and shrubs form the bones, and annuals add bright notes to a garden, but it’s perennials—herbaceous, nonwoody plants that go dormant in fall, then return in spring—that provide the textures, forms, and calculated sequence of colorful bloom that every garden needs. Once planted, a perennial garden can endure for years, even decades. That’s why selecting them is such an important process, one that can be challenging given the myriad new species and cultivars made available every year.

To come up with a group of perennials that could be considered the backbone of any well-planned garden, we turned to horticulturists Ruth Rogers Clausen and Thomas Christopher, authors of more than a dozen books between them, including their new guide, Essential Perennials (Timber Press). They gave us a short list of plants that deliver successive bloom—early, mid, and late season—and grow well in most parts of the country with minimal care (See our US Plant Hardiness Zone Map to see what works best for your region). For new gardeners, these tried-and-true picks are a great place to start; experienced gardeners on the hunt for exceptional cultivars will find those, too. Read on to see their favorite colorful perennials.

Shown: Riotous with high-summer color, this perennial border is built to last. After the delphiniums fade, purple salvias and strappy-leafed variegated irises keep the show going till fall.

Early Riser: Hellebore

Photo by Alan L. Detrick + Linda Detrick

(Helleborus)

Among the first to flower, these blooms often provide color while there’s still snow on the ground. Four species are commonly available, along with dozens of hybrids derived from them. Plant in clusters in shaded or woodland areas. Prefers rich, well-drained soil; once established, tolerates drought. Part to full shade. Grows up to 2 feet high and wide. Zones 4-9.

Choice cultivar The ‘Royal Heritage’ strain (shown) is superhardy. 3½-inch pot, about $14; waysidegardens.com

Early Riser: False Indigo

Photo by North Creek Nurseries

(Baptisia)

This drought-tolerant native is a butterfly and bee magnet and thrives where other plants struggle. Blooms mid to late spring. Blue false indigo has bright-blue flowers; other species and hybrids bloom in shades of purple, yellow, or white. Plant with Siberian irises, peonies, and spring bulbs. Prefers rich soil but is adaptable. Full sun. Grows 2 to 4 feet high. Zones 3-9.

Choice cultivar ‘Midnight Prairie Blues’ (shown) holds up in extreme heat. 1-quart pot, about $13; avantgardensne.com

Early Riser: Siberian Iris

Photo by Bluestone Perennials

(Iris Sibirica)

Prized for its strong, upright flower stalks adorned with intricately patterned flowers in rich colors—from white to violet to near-black. Blooms from mid-May through June. Grow with foxgloves, hardy geraniums, and perennial salvias. Prefers moist conditions, but tolerates a range of soils. Sun or shade. Grows up to 4 feet tall and wide. Zones 3-9.

Choice cultivar ‘Snow Queen’ (shown) is a white repeat bloomer. 3½-inch pot, about $12; bluestoneperennials.com

Early Riser: Peony

Photo by songsparrow.com

(Paeonia)

Famously fragrant, these nearly foolproof stunners boast a life-span of 50 years or more. Peonies typically bloom in late spring or early summer. Very early-blooming cultivars, such as ‘Coral Charm,’ are best for warm-weather regions. Intersectional peonies (a cross between herbaceous and tree peonies) produce huge blooms on rounded bushes. Plant with irises, baptisias, or foxgloves. Prefers rich, well-drained soil; once established, thrives on benign neglect. Sun to part shade. Grows up to 3 feet tall and wide, depending on variety. Zones 3-8.

Choice cultivar ‘Bartzella’ (shown) is an especially vigorous intersectional cultivar. 1-gallon pot, about $90; songsparrow.com

Early Riser: Coral Bells

Photo by waysidegardens.com

(Heuchera)

Premier foliage plants with maple-like leaves in shades ranging from chartreuse to apricot, purple to pewter. Many exciting new leaf colors, variegation patterns, and leaf shapes were introduced over the past five years, including some with showy summer-blooming flowers. Plant en masse or pair with hostas, phlox, or toad lilies. Prefers well-drained, neutral to sightly acidic soil; good drainage is a must in shade. Sun or part shade; foliage may fade in full sun. Grows up to 2 feet high and wide. Zones 4-9.

Heat Seeker: Coneflower

Photo by Courtesy of Plant Delights Nursery

(Echinacea)

While the tough-as-nails purple coneflower is a classic worth growing, new hybrids thrill with lime, orange, and hot-pink blooms. These colorful perennials flower for months, are drought tolerant, and are resistant to deer and rabbits. Plant with catmint and phlox. Prefers humidity, heat, and well-drained soil but is equally cold tolerant. Full sun. Grows up to 3 feet high and wide. Zones 4-9.

Choice cultivar ‘Hot Papaya’ (shown) is a fade-resistant orange. 3-inch pot, about $14; bluestoneperennials.com

Heat Seeker: Cranesbill

Photo by monrovia.com

(Hardy geranium)

Not the annual bedding plant but a long-lived true perennial with a mounding habit and butterfly-attracting flowers. Plant under roses or with phlox or coreopsis. Prefers rich, well-drained soil; once established, tolerates periods of drought. Sun or afternoon shade in warmer zones. Grows up to 3 feet high and wide. Zones 4-10.

Choice cultivar ‘Johnson’s Blue’ (shown) is the truest blue-flowering cultivar. 3-inch pot, about $8; diggingdog.com

Heat Seeker: Phlox

Photo by aleroy4/Getty

(Phlox)

New cultivars of fragrant, tall summer phlox (P. paniculata) are more resistant to the powdery mildew that plagued older varieties. Other species, such as creeping phlox, add color to sunny slopes or woodland gardens. Plant summer phlox with coneflowers, daylilies, and perennial salvias. Prefers cool, moist, fertile, well-drained soils; few thrive in high heat and humidity. Sun to part shade. Summer phlox grows up to 3 feet high and 2 feet wide. Zones 3-8.

Choice cultivar ‘Shortwood’ (shown) is notable for disease resistance. 4-inch pot, about $9; perennialpleasures.net

Heat Seeker: Delphinium

Photo by Michael Davis/Getty

(Delphinium)

While the species is famously finicky, new strains of hybrids (D. x elatum) combine the assets of their English relatives with a more vigorous, self-sufficient constitution. Plant with bee balm and Shasta daisies. Prefers rich, well-drained soil; treat as annuals where it’s hot and humid. Full sun to part shade. Grows up to 6 feet tall and 2 feet wide. Zones 3-10.

Heat Seeker: Tickseed

Photo by parkseed.com

(Coreopsis)

Hybridizers have been working overtime in recent years to develop new colors of this prairie- and cottage-garden favorite. Cold hardy and heat and drought tolerant, most species are worth growing, especially in dry, poor soils, but it’s the hybrids that excite with larger flowers and glossy leaves. Grow with salvias, echinaceas, and baptisias; cutting back after the first flush of bloom encourages repeat flowering. Prefers average but well-drained soil. Full sun. Grows up to 3 feet high and wide. Zones 3-9.

Heat Seeker: Daylily

Photo by whiteflowerfarm.com

(Hemerocallis)

As close to fail-safe as a flower can be, but not your mother’s ‘Stella de Oro’; there are 60,000 registered hybrids, with more added daily. Hybrid daylilies are divided into several classes based on size, form, color, and bloom season. Choose yours for their aesthetics, then consider your climate to weed out all but those adapted to your region. Evergreen daylilies thrive in hot-climate gardens; dormant daylilies work well in colder zones. Tolerates many types of soil. Full sun. Grows up to 3 feet high and wide. Zones 3-9.

Choice cultivar ‘Tetraploid’ cultivars—such as the all-white, reblooming ‘Lady Elizabeth’ (shown)—are exceptionally vigorous, with larger flowers. Bare-root, about $22; whiteflowerfarm.com

Heat Seeker: Elephant Ear

Photo by John Richmond/Alamy

(Colocasia)

Unequalled for its bold foliage, a must-have for Southern gardeners or in other parts of the country as a container plant. Yes, there are flowers, but plant this for the huge leaves in shades of black, purple, and chartreuse. Frost-sensitive, but roots can be dug up and overwintered indoors north of Zone 8. Add to cannas and calla lilies. Prefers rich, moist soil but tolerates ordinary garden soil if well irrigated. Sun or part shade. Grows up to 6 feet high and wide. Zones 7-10.

Choice cultivar ‘Black Magic’ (shown) has 2-foot-long purple-black leaves. 3½-inch pot, about $17; plantdelights.com

Heat Seeker: False Spirea

Photo by Alan L. Detrick + Linda Detrick

(Astilbe)

Rugged, beautiful shade lovers that send up long and colorful spikes above divided foliage in summer, a time when color in the shade garden is hard to come by. And they’re pest-free and deer resistant. Bloom time varies by variety from mid-June to the end of August; Astilbe x arendsii hybrids are especially diverse. Group in a woodland border, mass them as a groundcover, or mix with hostas, hellebores, ferns, hardy begonias, and lungworts. Prefers rich, acidic, moist soil. Partial shade. Grows up to 4 feet high, 2 feet wide. Zones 3-8.

Heat Seeker: Sage

Photo by Burpee

(Salvia)

Queen of Western gardens, perennial salvia is invaluable everywhere for its long-stemmed blooms and tolerance of drought and heat. Of more than 750 species, the most commonly available are the hybrids (S. nemorosa) valued for their aromatic foliage and spikes of purple, white, pink, and, now, sky-blue flowers. Attractive to both butterflies and hummingbirds. Plant with shrub roses, daylilies, coreopsis, and grasses. Prefers average, well-drained soil. Full sun. Up to 3 feet high and wide. Zones 3-9 (depending on species).

Heat Seeker: Hosta

Photo by Dorling Kindersley/Getty

(Hosta)

Shade-tolerant, low-maintenance hostas are the most popular perennials in the U.S.A., with leaves ranging in color from gold to green to blue, often variegated. Along with new leaf colors and forms, plant breeders are currently focusing on creating cultivars with more-attractive and -fragrant flowers. Gold-leafed types tolerate more sun; fragrant-flower types (H. plantaginea) do best in the South. Plant with shade-tolerant shrubs such as azaleas and viburnums, or perennials such as ferns and hellebores. Prefers rich, moisture-rententive but well-drained soil. Part to full shade. Grows up to 3 feet high and 2 feet wide, depending on species. Zones 3-8.

Choice cultivar ‘Ambrosia’ (shown) is a new hybrid with very fragrant purple flowers. 1-quart pot, about $33; naylorcreek.com

Heat Seeker: Lavender

Photo by waysidegardens.com

(Lavandula)

A delight to the nose as well as the eye; just make sure to choose the right species for your climate. English lavender (L. angustifolia) is the most widely adapted, thriving in Zones 5-8; French lavender (L. dentata) is best for the Southwest (Zones 8-10). Most bloom early to midsummer, though French lavender flowers almost year-round. The hybrids (L. x intermedia) have demonstrated better tolerance to heat and humidity than most other lavenders. Prefers well-drained, alkaline soil; excellent drainage ups the ability to thrive in cooler summers and cold winters. Full sun. Grows up to 3 feet high and wide. Zones 4-10 (depending on species).

Choice cultivar ‘Phenomenal’ lavender (shown) is a new hybrid that tolerates extreme heat and humidity and is resistant to foliar diseases. 1-quart pot, about $13; waysidegardens.com

Late Bloomer: Sneezeweed

Photo by Crocus UK

(Helenium)

Blooming in autumnal shades­ of orange, red, copper, or yellow, this tall perennial is a standout in fall. Blooms constantly for six to 10 weeks from late summer till frost. Plant with catmint and torch lilies. Prefers cool, moist soil. Full sun. Grows up to 5 feet high and 3 feet wide. Zones 3-9.

Choice cultivar Few hybrids rival old-school ‘Moerheim Beauty’ (shown). 3½-inch pot, about $8; diggingdog.com

Late Bloomer: Black-eyed Susan

Photo by JTB Photo/Getty

(Rudbeckia)

With their daisy-like flowers, tolerance for drought, and months of bloom, these natives deserve their rep as must-haves for the fall garden. Plant with grasses, sedums, and Russian sage. Prefers fertile, well-drained soil but tolerates average soil. Full sun. Grows up to 7 feet tall and 2 feet wide. Zones 3-9.

Choice cultivar ‘Goldsturm’ (shown) is more compact, with larger flowers. 3-inch pot, about $9; whiteflowerfarm.com

Late Bloomer: Aster

Photo by Alan L. Detrick + Linda Detrick

(Symphiotrichum)

These late bloomers bring rich rose and lavender hues to the fall garden. Of the many species and cultivars available, it’s the taller-blooming New England aster that’s the showstopper. Prefers moist, rich soil but tolerates a variety of conditions. Full sun to part shade. Grows up to 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide. Zones 4-8.

Choice cultivar ‘Alma Potschke’ (shown) is reliably disease resistant. 1-gallon pot, about $15; monrovia.com

Late Bloomer: Sunflower

Photo by Alan L. Detrick + Linda Detrick

(Helianthus)

Smaller than their annual cousins, perennial sunflowers are robust, long-blooming plants ideal for the back of a bed or a border. Daisy-like flowers in showy shades of yellow, orange, red, cream, purple, and bronze bloom by the hundreds from midsummer into fall, attracting bees and butterflies. Plant with grasses and late-season perennials such as goldenrods, asters, and Joe Pye weed. Tolerates a wide range of garden soils, but requires regular watering. Full sun. Grows up to 10 feet tall and 4 feet wide, depending on variety. Zones 4-9.

Choice cultivar ‘Lemon Queen’ (shown) has large pale-yellow flowers on long stems and blooms for two months. 3-inch pot, about $8; diggingdog.com

Late Bloomer: Korean Mums

Photo by Ruth Rogers Clausen

(Chrysanthemum x Koreana)

Korean chrysanthemums are later blooming and have a softer form than typical garden mums. The foliage of Korean mums forms an attractive mounding shape all season long, even before the plant covers itself in daisy-like autumn blooms. The plants also tend to be pest and disease resistant and long-lived. Such a reliably hardy, late-blooming perennial should be much better known. Grow with sedums such as ‘Autumn Joy,’ goldenrods, or Russian sage. Prefers rich, well-drained soil. Full sun or part shade. Grows up to 3 feet high and wide. Zones 4-9.

Perennials – How to Grow and Design with Perennial Plants and Flowers

How to use perennial flowers and plants for year-after-year color in your garden

Perennials are plants that come back year after year. Some are evergreen and keep their foliage through the winter; others go dormant, dying back to the ground and will send up new shoots in the spring. They usually only bloom for one season each year, either spring, summer, or fall; although there are some re-blooming and ever-blooming varieties. Perennials tend to have fewer flowers than annuals, because their energy is put into developing strong roots instead of flowers and seeds. Keep reading below to learn more about growing and caring for perennials.

TYPES OF PERENNIALS

There are four main types:

  • Short-lived types last 2 to 3 years.
  • Long-lived types live 5 years or more.
  • Herbaceous types have soft green stems and die back to the ground each winter in colder zones.
  • Woody types may lose their leaves in fall or winter, but the root systems and stems stay alive.

POPULAR VARIETIES

There is a perennial to fill virtually any garden need:

Foliage:

Options ranging from plain to variegated, large or feathery, in colors from chartreuse green leaves to dark purple.

Color:

Choose perennials that bloom in colors from white flowers to almost black.

Size:

Varieties from a few inches to a few feet tall and wide.

Location:

Selections suitable for locations that get full sun to full shade.

Soil type:

Although most prefer well-drained soil, there are others suited for wetter locations.

Here are the most popular garden perennials:

  • Peony
  • Salvia
  • Hosta
  • Black-Eyed Susan
  • Daylily
  • Delphinium
  • Yarrow achillea
  • Phlox
  • Sedum/Stonecrop
  • Coreopsis
  • Bee Balm
  • Pinks/Dianthus
  • Astilbe
  • Russian Sage
  • Shasta Daisy
  • Agapanthus
  • Coral Bells
  • Catmint
  • Agastache
  • Veronica/Speedwell
  • Allium
  • Blanket Flower

Tip: Get your favorites delivered right to your door by ordering perennials online from Proven Winners. You’ll get healthy and vigorous plants shipped at the perfect time for planting.

SOIL PREPARATION

In their book, Essential Perennials, authors Ruth Rogers Clausen and Thomas Christopher stress the importance of soil prep. “When cultivating annuals or vegetables, you have the opportunity to refresh and redig the soil every growing season. With perennials, however, this is not possible, so extra care must be taken to prepare the soil well and thoroughtly before planting.”

  • Determine soil type: Performing a soil test will give you a baseline to start from. There are simple test kits that can be purchased, or more in depth testing can be done by sending a sample to your state’s Cooperative Extension Service.
  • Test for proper drainage: To see if you have well-draining soil (required by the vast majority of perennials), dig a 12 x 12 x 12 hole and fill with water. If the hole drains within 1 to 4 hours, that would be considered well-draining soil. If it drains any faster, your plants will dry out too fast; taking longer to drain would result in soggy conditions that can cause root and stem rot.
  • Amend as needed: To increase drainage, add organic material such as shredded leaves or compost, to the soil. For plants that require sandy soil, Clausen and Christopher recommend adding a 50/50 mixture of organic material and coarse sand (not regular sand which can turn to concrete in some conditions).

PLANTING

  • Plants that have gotten leggy in their containers can be encouraged to grow fuller and healthier by cutting them back by one-third to one-half before planting.
  • If plants are dry in their containers, give them a good watering the night before planting.
  • Dig the planting hole at least 2 times the size of the root ball and incorporate organic matter and a slow-release fertilizer into the hole and the backfill. DiSabato-Aust says, “This helps prevent the plant’s roots from growing into soil that has not been properly prepared while the new plant is establishing.”
  • Gently remove the plant from its container and loosen the roots if the plant has become rootbound.
  • Plant at the same depth as they were in their container.
  • Firm the plants into the soil with your hands and gently tamp the soil around them.
  • Water well by hand immediately after planting.
  • Water at the base of the plant toward the rootball and avoid wetting the foliage.
  • Add a 2-inch layer of mulch around the plant to help hold in moisture and suppress weeds. Keep mulch away from the crown and stems of the plant.
  • When done planting, check with your local nursery to see if they accept plastic pots returned for recycling.

WATERING

  • The best time of day to water is in the morning.
  • As a general rule, they will need the equivalent of 1 inch of water per week while becoming established in their first year.
  • Water newly planted perennials shallower and more frequently for the first month because their roots aren’t very deep yet.
  • After that, water deeper and less frequently to encourage the roots to go deeper; this will improve their drought tolerance.

CARE AND MAINTENANCE

In general, perennials require less work than annuals, simply because they last longer than one season and don’t require replacing every year. “Regional differences in climate and soil conditions dramatically affect a plant’s performance. A perennial can be high maintenance in one area because it grows like a weed, while in another region it can be low maintenance because it grows at a modest pace,” says author Tracy DiSabato-Aust in her book The Well-Tended Perennial Garden. Basic maintenance involves some, or all, of the following:

  • Dividing: Plants that last more than a couple of years may eventually need to be divided, but not all do.
  • Deadheading: Some will require deadheading of spent blooms to encourage more blooms, and others simply to look their best.
  • Pruning: Some may require cutting back once or twice a year, and others may need to be cut back to the ground in winter.
  • Fertilizing: To be healthy enough to grow for years, some may require regular applications of fertilizer during the growing season, others just once in spring.

Online learning from perennials expert, Kerry Ann Mendez:

  • Arrange plants according to your plan while still in their pots. This way you can get an overall view and make any adjustments before you start digging.
  • Consider the exposure (full sun, part sun, shade), soil type, drainage, and wind patterns of a location and select plants accordingly.
  • DiSabato-Aust says that planting closer together can produce a lush, full style, but may also lead to more maintenance with pruning or transplanting if plants become crowded.
  • Combine early-season bloomers with mid- and late-season bloomers for a long-lasting display.
  • Mix in annuals for additional summer flowers.

With so many to choose from in a wide variety of colors, shapes, sizes, and textures, take a cue from the gardens below for good ideas on how to design a perennial border, use them to add interest to a meadow, and more.

  • A Rustic Perennial Paradise
  • Top Perennial Plants for a Butterfly Garden
  • Piet Oudulf’s Next Wave
  • Hamptons Haven
  • A Cool, Quiet Corner of the World
  • Beautiful Foliage Plants for Your Perennial Garden

Recommended books on perennials:

Reader Questions

Q: My neighbor tells me fall is the time to divide peonies. Can this be right? Are there other perennials I should divide then?
A: Dividing Peonies & Other Perennials

Q: Is there a trick to growing perennials from seed? I’m intimidated by the process. Can you help get me started?
A: Perennials from Seed

Q: I cleared an 80 by 10 feet strip along the side of my yard for my longtime dream – a large perennial border. While I was full of optimism digging up the grass and amending the soil, I’m now overwhelmed by the process of designing the border. I have a good idea of what plants I want, but how do I incorporate them effectively on such a large scale?
A: Perennial Borders

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