Perennial Plant Combinations
What blooms with what? That's one of the big questions we hear from our readers. So, we put together this list of perfect perennial pairings with some tips on how to combine these beauties for best effect.
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Pair Perennials and Roses
Add structure and beauty to your perennial border by including a generous selection of roses. Plant shrub roses in clumps or drifts to provide a solid mass of bloom where you need color the most. In this border, pink Knock Out rose is an eye-catching companion for blue perennial salvia.
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Rely on Classics
If you want a colorful garden but don't have a lot of time to fuss over it, why not select easy-care classics like coneflower and black-eyed Susan. Both of these heat- and drought-resistant plants bloom from summer to fall with minimum care. Plus, they make beautiful bouquets you can enjoy all summer.
The Best Easy-Care Perennial Flowers
Try these surefire perennials perfect for beginners.
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Plant a Surprise
When you think of perennials, yucca probably isn't the first plant that comes to mind. But besides its handsome, spiky foliage, yucca is also prized for its tall, fragrant clumps of creamy white bell-shape blooms. Its nectar-rich flowers will also lure colorful hummingbirds to your yard. In this country garden, yuccas bloom alongside a patch of bright red Asiatic lily.
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Mix Flower Shapes
Make your flower border more interesting by pairing perennials with different flower shapes. Here, for example, the skinny, bright blue flower spikes of veronica contrast nicely with the fat, rounded blooms of coneflower. Planted individually they are lovely, but grown together they put on an eye-popping show.
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Brighten the shade
Electrify the darkest corners of your landscape with colorful, shade-loving perennials. Here, the rosy-red flowers of astilbe glow when paired with chartreuse and blue-green leaf hostas. All three are super easy to grow and thrive in low-light conditions.
Top Shade Perennials
Shade doesn't have to be boring with these easy-care perennials.
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Mix Perennials with Shrubs
Flowering shrubs make ideal partners for your favorite perennials. Besides their colorful flowers, shrubs add architectural interest to your garden during the winter when perennials are dormant and out of view. In this partially shady border, 'Annabelle' hydrangea provides an avalanche of white flowers behind a colorful drift of red astilbe.
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Jump-Start the Season
Give your garden a boost of spring color by mixing bulbs with early-bird perennials. Here, Anemone blanda 'Blue Shades' pops into bloom just as the first leaves of 'Caramel' heuchera start to unfurl. To create a bulb-and-perennial partnership, tuck bulbs around existing plants in the fall. Other reliable bulbs for extra early-spring color include snowdrops, crocus, Scilla, Puschkinia, narcissus, and Eranthis.
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Beat the Heat
If you live in a hot, dry climate, choose perennials that thrive in those conditions. Here, Heliopsis and coreopsis have roots in the American prairie, so you know these flowering beauties will keep on blooming even though temperatures and rainfall fluctuate. There's no need to coddle either one.
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Don't overlook native wildflowers when you plan your shade garden. These easy-care plants might not be as showy as hostas or astilbe, but they bloom early in a variety of unique flower forms and colors. Just give them a rich, moist soil and enjoy their spirit-lifting blooms. In this shady border, 'Roseum' trillium and yellow lady's slipper are a feast for the eyes in April and May.
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Don't Forget Fall
Keep your garden looking great through the end of summer and fall by including a generous helping of late-blooming perennials. They may seem idle during the spring and summer, but when autumn comes, these hardworking plants burst into bloom. Here, Sedum spectabile and wood's purple aster provide a colorful finale in the perennial border. They also both attract hordes of colorful butterflies to your garden.
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Choose perennials that are as fragrant as they are colorful. That way, you can enjoy the plants on a summer's night as they release their scent on the warm evening air. Perennials prized for their fragrance include Oriental lilies, dianthus, lily of the valley, peony, bearded iris, and autumn clematis. In this border, Oriental lily and phlox are a double-sweet pairing.
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Invite Bees and Butterflies
Lure butterflies, bees, and other pollinators to your garden by selecting plants with nectar-rich flowers. These hungry insects add an extra dose of color to your garden and, more importantly, they'll pollinate other flowers, fruits, and vegetables in your backyard. In this bed, a gorgeous mass of pink bee balm planted next to a bed of perennial salvia attracts insects from miles around.
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Draw butterflies to your backyard with these gorgeous picks.
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Keep Foliage in Mind
Perennials with variegated leaves add plenty of color to the garden even when they're not in bloom. Look for varieties that sport foliage that's speckled or splashed with different colors. Here, 'Frosty Morn' sedum and 'Tricolor' ajuga are an eye-catching combination all season long, even though the plants don't bloom at the same time.
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Grow Some History
In the 1930s, the renowned English gardener, Vita Sackville-West created one of the most famous all-white gardens at Sissinghurst Castle in Kent. Today, you can create a similar look in your yard by teaming white-flowering perennials together in their own bed. In this border, the feathery cream-color blooms of goatsbeard pair beautifully with the cheerful, snow-white flowers of chamomile in the late spring and early summer.
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Cottage Garden Style
Learn how to capture the essence of cottage gardens with these easy tips.
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Include Flowering Shrubs
As versatile as they are colorful, flowering shrubs should play a starring role in your perennial border. Some of the best low-growing bloomers include azalea, viburnum, spirea, hydrangea, and Potentilla. Plus, some shrubs like this Spirea bumalda 'Goldflame' produce both colorful flowers and foliage. This easy-care mounding plant blends beautifully with the blue flower spikes of 'May Night' perennial salvia.
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Give your flower garden a layered look by planting tall, vertical species in the back-of-the border. They act as a colorful focal point to draw the eye and give the garden visual balance. In this border, pink mallow, which can grow 4 feet tall, teams with 3-foot-tall yellow Asiatic lilies to provide a spectacular backdrop of bloom. Other tall perennials include garden phlox, heliopsis, Oriental lilies, delphinium, allium, and lupine.
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When you design your garden, remember green is also a color; mix different shades together to make a memorable garden without relying on a circus of bright flowers. In this shady corner, tall cinnamon ferns tower over a subtle bed of white-flower tiarella, giving the space a sophisticated yet restful look. Cinnamon fern gets its name from the cinnamon-color fibers found near the frond bases.
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Add a Tropical Touch
You don't have to live in the tropics to enjoy the big, bold blooms of hibiscus. These tropical beauties have a variety of cold-hardy relatives that prefer life in the north. Hardy hibiscus is easy to care for, often growing 6 feet tall in one season and producing dinner-plate-size flowers in the late summer and fall. They'll die back to the ground each winter, but pop back up when the temperatures soar in the early summer. In this garden, 'Luna Red' hardy hibiscus and Delphinium elatum are a stunning pair.
Grow Hibiscus in Any Climate
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Double Your Pleasure
The majority of perennials come in solid colors, but some offer varieties with bicolor blooms. Bearded iris, peony, coreopsis, Gaillardia, and phlox are just some examples of perennials with bicolor options. And, by selecting bicolor varieties, you'll double the color in your beds and borders. In this spring border it takes just two plants -- purple allium and bicolor bearded iris -- to create a tapestry of bloom.
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The crowning glory of any landscape, flowering vines will quickly smother a fence or arbor in color. But left unchecked, some vines, such as trumpet vine or wisteria, may smother perennials growing nearby. Clematis, on the other hand, only grows 5-10 feet tall making it an ideal partner for perennial flowers. This sun-loving vine also comes in a wide variety of flower shapes and colors so you have plenty of options for any style of garden. In this border, 'Jackmanii' clematis and 'Harvest Moon' coneflower are a feast for the eyes.
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Consider Year-Round Appeal
Sadly, most perennials die back to the ground after the first hard freeze. This means that your border in cold climates will look bare for several months of the year. Instead of having nothing to look at during the long days of winter, team some low-growing evergreens with your perennial flowers. During the spring and summer, the evergreens will provide consistent color and in the winter, they'll keep the color show going. In this border, a variety of dwarf junipers and arborvitae stand guard over clumps of daylilies and other flowers.
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Include Tender Perennials
Large leaved cannas make a dramatic statement in any garden. These heat-loving plants are perennial in frost-free regions, but they must be dug and stored over the winter in the north. Available in standard types that can grow 6-8 feet tall and dwarfs that stay below 4 feet tall, cannas are easy to squeeze into the flower border. In this garden, a mass of red- and green-leaf cannas form a wall of color at the end of a long, serpentine perennial border.
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Building a gorgeous garden isn't like building an ark. You don't need two of everything to make a big impact. Instead, group your favorite perennials in large drifts or clumps that take your breath away when they all bloom at the same time. This border, for example, stands out because it contains a solid ribbon of more than 20 Oriental lilies behind a large clump of blue-gray eryngium.
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Grow a Living Bouquet
If in doubt of what perennials to pair in your garden, think about what flowers would make a beautiful bouquet. Chances are, if perennials look good in a vase, they'll certainly look good in your garden. In this mixed border perennial salvia, yellow Gaillardia, black and blue sage, and Shasta daisy form a living flower arrangement.