Perennials, or plants and flowers that come back year after year, are found in virtually every yard. Perennial flowers work in multiple situations: in whole garden beds, in combination with annuals and bulbs, as accent to shrubs and trees, and in containers and windowboxes. In addition, perennials often increase in size each year, which means they can often be divided and added to other spots in the landscape. The Better Homes and Gardens Plant Encyclopedia contains a wealth of information to help you tend to your existing perennials as well as add new and interesting plants to your landscape. The searchable tool enables you to search by perennial common or scientific name, plant characteristics, growing season, and common uses. You'll also discover what perennial plants work well in sun or shade, USDA Hardiness Zones, growing requirements, and planting suggestions for perennials. View a list of perennials by common name or scientific name below.
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These wonderful flowers are blooming machines and essentially the tropical equivalent of the daylily. A landscape staple in warm-winter regions, agapanthus is a low-maintenance perennial that produces colorful globes of blue or white trumpet-shape flowers in summer and fall. Agapanthus' evergreen strappy leaves add texture to beds, borders, and containers, too. With that combination of attributes, what more can you ask for?
Among the most architectural plants, agaves feature bold succulent leaves that set the tone for wherever they're planted. They're incredibly heat- and drought-tolerant and most are long-lived. Many varieties bear sharp spines along leave margins and at the leaf tip, which adds to their dramatic presentation. The bluish-green rosettes naturally spread by producing offsets at the base of the plant. It is an excellent choice for sunny, hot, dry areas, especially desert regions, with good drainage.
In the world of groundcovers, there isn't a whole lot to get excited about. Enter ajuga. With a wide variety of foliage colors usually in the rich deep burgundy realm, and sometimes cream and pink edges, ajuga offers more than just a bland green mat. The foliage is generally crinkled and very glossy as well. However, if you think this is just a foliage plant, you would get quite the surprise come spring. Once spring eases into summer, ajuga is covered in little spikes of bright blue, purple, pink or white blossoms.
It's hard to believe this stunning flower is a close relative of the onion. Allium holds its stunning bloom high above the foliage, adding whimsy and drama to any planting beds. With hundreds of species available in the onion family, it is quite easy to have blooming alliums every season in the garden.
The cut flower of all cut flowers, alstroemeria is a staple flower in almost all bouquets. With blooms that can last up to two weeks and a color palette almost as wide as the spectrum itself, it is easy to see why. This South American native has made itself into a commodity for the flower markets—and has even worked its way into home gardens.
Also known as windflower, anemones are grown for their beautiful, nodding blooms on long, wiry stems. The foliage looks similar between varieties, but size and bloom times vary between spring, summer, or fall. Fall-blooming Japanese anemones are particularly noteworthy because they fill the midsummer-to-fall gap in gardens.
Angelica is a tall, hardy biennial herb with dramatic stalks that can be candied and used on cakes or cookies. The first year, the plant produces beautiful frilly green foliage. The second year, angelica sends up flower stalks and then produces seeds. The flowers and foliage make a dramatic back-of-the-border accent in perennial beds. The celery-flavor stems may be eaten raw or candied for use in baking. Use the dried root in tea. Plants might self-sow, but plant new angelica each year to ensure a constant supply. Grow it in full sun or dappled shade in rich, organic soil.
Grown primarily for its silver foliage, artemisia is a wonderful accent plant in many settings. Artemisias come in numerous different foliage shapes, sizes, and heights. A few well-known artemisias are 'Silver Mound' and the herb tarragon. Use these plants to add texture and subtle color to gardens, containers, and borders. Artemesias are also extremely versatile and drought tolerant.
Asters get their name from the Latin word for "star," and their flowers are indeed the superstars of the fall garden. Some types of this native plant can reach up to 6 feet with flowers in white and pinks but also, perhaps most strikingly, in rich purples and showy lavenders.
Not all asters are fall bloomers. Extend the season by growing some of the summer bloomers, as well. Some are naturally compact; tall types that grow more than 2 feet tall benefit from staking or an early-season pinching or cutting back by about one-third in July or so to keep the plant more compact.
A garden favorite for moist sites, astilbe can be thought of as a multi-interest perennial. Astible is a knockout plant, thanks to its ornamental, fern-like bronze-and-green foliage and its feathery plumed blossoms that look good both in season and dried for winter interest. Just make sure to keep astilbe moist, or its delicate foliage will scorch in the sun.
Showy, brightly colored flowers are saucer-shape, sometimes semidouble, over loose mounds of handsome dark strawberrylike leaves. Many of the best cultivars are hybrids between species. These plants do best in a well-drained, rich soil.
With its loose, billowy panicles of tiny single or double pink or white flowers, baby's breath provides a lightness and airiness to flower gardens. The creeping forms drape beautifully over rock walls. After bloom time, shear the plants to deadhead and for neatness. Plants prefer sweet (alkaline) soils with full sun and excellent drainage.
The inflated buds of balloon flowers are fun to pop. And they make great cut flowers. Cut them in the bud stage, and sear the base of the stems to prevent the milky sap from seeping out and fouling the water.
Most commonly available in blue-violet, balloon flowers also come in pink and white, as well as shorter forms that are better suited for rock gardens and containers. In fall, the foliage of balloon flower turns clear gold, so don't cut the plant down too early -- enjoy the show! They tolerate light shade, but not wet feet or drought.
Baptisia is one of those tall plants with beautiful spires, often in a showy blue, that draws everyone to it for an admiring closer look. It's a native prairie plant that bears long, tall spikes of pealike blooms in late spring. As the flowers ripen, they turn into interesting black seedpods often used in fall arrangements.
It is a drought-tolerant plant that forms a deep taproot. Choose its location carefully; it is difficult to transplant once established.
Add a burst of whimsy to the garden! Slightly wayward stems and loose, rounded flower clusters give Barbara¿s buttons a fun, carefree appearance. It is guaranteed to enliven a staunch border with Dr. Seuss-like spirit. Add this North American native and up-and-coming perennial to beds and borders in full sun or part shade. It grows best in moist, well-drained soil. Blooming in late spring, it is a great partner for spring bulbs. When the tulips and daffodil blooms are fading it bursts onto the scene, carrying the garden into summer.
With strawberry-like leaves and bright yellow spring flowers, barren strawberries are an alternative evergreen groundcover or edging plant. They tolerate dry soil well and colonize banks and along woodland paths and between stepping stones in light shade or sun. They spread by runners and can cover a space relatively quickly.
Barrenwort is a rare plant -- one that thrives in the dry shade beneath shallow-rooted trees! It spreads at a moderate rate, forming a graceful, dense groundcover. Almost as a bonus, it also produces dainty flowers shaped like a bishop's miter -- prompting another common name, bishop's cap. Its colorful foliage dangles on slender stalks, providing yet another moniker: fairy wings.
Basket-of-gold is one of those plants that loves to grow in the least likely of place -- cracks between paving stones, the edge of gravel paths and patios, rocky outcroppings, between the stacked stones of a retaining wall, and more. It loves a baked spot with excellent drainage but will struggle in hot, humid areas and tends not to do well in the South.
But where it does well, it's a showstopper. It will reseed prolifically in little cracks, filling an area each spring with dazzling neon yellows. After it finishes blooming, the grayish-green foliage makes an attractive mat in the perennial garden.
A culinary classic, bay's glossy green foliage is a flavor favorite in soups, stews, and meat dishes. Bay only survives to 25 degrees, so it's commonly grown in containers, sounding a steady evergreen note on patios during the growing season and gracing sunny interior windows after frost. In the landscape, established trees are fuss-free and drought tolerant. Potted bay is susceptible to scale insects; hand-pick any offenders. Protect potted bay from intense sunlight in hottest zones. If you love to cook, keep dried leaves on hand; they're an essential herb for bouquet garni.
A majestic plant, bear's breeches is like a living sculpture in the garden. It offers sturdy spires of white or pink blooms with papery purple bracts that make a dramatic statement, as does the rich-green, spiny-looking foliage.
The plants tolerate poor, dry soil once established but need regular moisture to get started. In well-drained soil bear's breeches can spread to become a large colony, but it is not invasive.