I have a long list of perennial flowers that I love! I most definitely prefer perennial plants to annuals, even though the flower display isn’t QUITE as impressive. Perennials are planted once, and come back year after year, whereas annual flowers must be planted…you guessed it…annually!
Perennials tend to double in size with each passing year, and may need to be divided periodically to prevent over-crowding and to revitalize tired plants. This is a good thing, as far as I’m concerned, since that means that you have a never ending supply of plants to relocate throughout your yard!
The perennial flowers available to you are extensive, and I won’t be able to cover them all here. I will hit the highlights for popular perennials in the mid-west, and will provide you with information to help you decide which plants are right for you.
When deciding on your perennials, the key is to create a design for the area that you wish to focus on, taking into consideration the height, shape, color, and texture of the plants that you’d like to include. Be sure to educate yourself about bloom time and color. It will be important to have flowers blooming on different plants throughout the season, so that when one plant is dying back, another one is coming into full bloom. Carefully select colors that will compliment each other when they are in full bloom.
Climbing vines such as clematis, fill up empty spaces quite nicely, particularly when placed in full sun. A friend of mine has a clematis vine just like this one, along the east side of her home, and it is in full glory by mid-summer. This vine grows well with little maintenance once it’s established, and can tolerate a wide range of soil conditions. Clematis is definitely one of the easier flowers to grow in the yard, and is a good choice for beginners and pros alike.
How I love these! I have Zebra Ornamental Grasses planted in my garden design, and have also worked with fountain grass, blue fescue, and others. Grasses are typically very low maintenance and make a nice balance amount other perennials, annuals and bushes in a garden design. Be sure to keep the grasses up throughout the winter, and wait to cut them back until spring. Perennial ornamental grasses are known for providing beautiful winter interest in the garden…plums are often full and foliage has turned color during the fall. Plant grasses in clusters to maximize their impact.
Daylilies are a favorite in many gardens throughout the Midwest. I have a row of Stella Doro daylilies planted along with the garage, but mass plantings of daylilies can sometimes be an “over-utilized” design. Try some of the more unique daylilies with varying heights and colors, and plant them as specimen plants in the garden among your other perennials. These perennials should be dead headed on a regular basis to encourage repeat blooms. Pull the entire flower stalk out once it has bloomed, and get rid of any brown foliage. While dead-heading isn’t a necessary step, it will help keep these plants looking their best.
If you’ve not had experience with lamb’s ears, you’ll quickly figure out how they got their name…soft, fuzzy foliage! These have got to be one of the hardiest perennials I’ve ever seen! This plant grows relatively low to the ground – about 6 inches tall – but has tall flower stalks that shoot up throughout the summer. The stalks can be over 2 feet tall.
This perennial gets mixed reviews from me and from others. The foliage is somewhat interesting, but the flower shoots make the plant look a bit sloppy in my opinion. It can also spread fairly easily throughout an area, which may or may not be a good thing. I’ve used lamb’s ears for areas in the yard where literally no other plant will grow well. The first time I planted them, it was in very dry, gravely soil next to my driveway. And….I’m ashamed to admit….I drove over them numerous times. Oops! But they survived regardless, and kept coming back year after year. I simply cut down the flower stalks when they would appear, and it functioned as a nice ground cover. The foliage is interesting, and filled up a space where most other plants would have quickly perished.
There are several different cultivars of black-eyed susan, and Goldstrum is one that should be avoided! Unfortunately, Goldstrum is HIGHLY susceptible to a fungal disease called Botrytis. Botrytis affects the foliage and the flowers of the plant, and can spread relatively quickly across an entire planting.
It cannot be cured, and the entire planting will need to be removed. In addition, Botrytis can be spread to other flowers via pollinators. A safer bet is to purchase a different variety of black-eyed susan other than Goldstrum. Black-eyed susan is a dependable perennial with long-lasting blooms. Plants can tolerate a variety of soil conditions and is relatively low maintenance. Plants grow to be about 2-3 feet tall and produce yellow daisies with brown centers. Due to their spreading habits, they do a fairly good job of keeping weeds at bay. Plants will need to be divided every couple of years to maintain their healthy appearance.
These perennials are just so pretty to me! As they establish themselves, they can look so graceful in groupings. I ordered blue and white Balloon Flowers and I just love the way they look in my garden! You may want to consider providing support for them as they grow to over 3 feet tall. While their stems are sturdy, they tend to lop over a bit due to their weight.
Delphiniums are another beautiful, graceful perennial that exhibits some of the most wonderful shades of blue and pink. Unfortunately, I have not been terribly successful with these plants. They tend to be a little more delicate than the others I work with. They like the right amount of sun, nutrient rich, well-drained soil, and the right amount of water. If you go with delphinium, be sure to choose the right location and you will not be disappointed! Depending on the variety you select, they range in height from about 18” to over 3 feet.
How do you like my Nikko Blue Hydrangea?? No, your eyes don’t deceive you, and the picture isn’t bad…the flowers are in fact…pink. The flowers of this plant are affected by the acidity/alkalinity of the soil.
Many people choose to increase or decrease the acidity of the soil in order to produce the flower color of their choice, but I find that to be a little too high maintenance for me, so I enjoy the color that the plants produce naturally in my yard.
If you’re interested in learning more about this phenomenon, or have a desire to change the color of your hydrangea, check out the information at Growing Blue Hydrangeas.
Peony bushes come in all different colors, and grow to be about 3 feet tall, and 2 to 3 feet wide. These plants need full sun to perform at their best, however I have been able to grow them in partial shade. The peony makes my list of perennial flowers because of how amazingly reliable and hardy these bushes are once they’re established.
On an interesting side note, however…they do NOT transplant well. (Trust me, I’ve tried!) I had one bush growing next to my house with no sunlight and very little water. That trouper survived for years until I decided that it was time to transplant it to a healthy, sunny spot in my garden. That was the beginning of the end for that sad plant. 🙁
Flowers bloom in early spring and plants grow into temporary bushes, dying back at the end of the season every year. Flowers are good for cut arrangements, however be sure to cut no more than 1/3 of the flowers off every year, or flower production will suffer in subsequent years.
Consider establishing a basic herb garden in your own yard. Many herbs are perennials, such as this oregano plant I’ve had for years. They make interesting foliage and contribute to the garden design…in addition to being just plain old delicious!
You can’t beat fresh herbs for cooking, and you’ll be delighted to find out how many perennial herbs return, and quickly spread, each year! Try oregano, chive, Echinacea, lavender, sage and mint. Mint is one of my favorites for teas and drinks, but it takes over a garden area if you let it! For that reason, be careful where you establish your herb garden, as it may spread more than you want it to.