Perennials offer possibilities for every growing situation. As you contemplate digging into perennial gardening, approach it from the standpoint of solving landscape problems. There's a perennial that will thrive in every growing situation.
If you have a slope too steep for mowing, you can trade turf for a perennial groundcover. Near downspouts and low spots in your yard where water gathers after downpours, moisture-loving perennials can transform an eyesore into a beauty spot. Where lower rainfall dictates water restrictions, tap into the world of xeriscape plants, which grow and flower profusely with little moisture. Natural deposits of acidic soil can support lovely perennials that will make you grateful for the locally low pH. Stop fighting to grow grass beneath shade trees -- plant shade-loving perennials instead.
You can even find perennials that serve as lawn stand-ins -- tidy, ground-hugging plants that withstand foot traffic and stay green year-round. In municipalities where surface runoff adds charges to your water bill, incorporating a rain garden filled with moisture-loving perennials will dissipate roof, driveway, or patio runoff into the soil and can reduce your water fees. Use the listing of perennials adapted to various growing conditions, below, to draft solutions to your landscaping problems.
Perennial plantings transform an outdoor living area into a garden escape. Mingling flowering shrubs, such as hydrangea and shrub roses, with long bloomers, such as black-eyed Susan, stages a season-long color show. For every problem area in your landscape, you'll find perennials that not only survive but also thrive in the conditions available. Simply match the preferred growing conditions of each perennial to the site.
Perennials for Wet Soils
- Cardinal Flower Brilliant red flowers in late summer to early fall.
- Goatsbear Lacy, white flower plumes atop 3- to 5-foot-tall plants from early- to midsummer.
- Joe Pye Weed Large mauve blooms; up to 6 feet tall in late summer (pictured).
- Rodgersia Coarse texture; flower plumes in spring or summer.
- Sweet Flag Long-lasting swordlike foliage.
Perennials for Shade
- Astilbe Long-lasting flower stalks in summer (pictured).
- Barrenwort Red, pink, white, purple, or bicolor blooms in early- to midspring.
- Foamflower White or light pink flowers in midspring.
- Hardy Begonia Heart-shape foliage; pink flowers in late summer.
- Hosta Grown for foliage; many cultivars.
- Lenten Rose Coarse-texture foliage; blooms in late winter to early spring.
- Lungwort Early-spring flowers and variegated foliage.
- Old-fashioned Bleeding Heart Heart-shape pink flowers in spring.
- Woodland Phlox Fragrant blue, purple, pink, or white flowers in late spring.
Perennials for Alkaline Soils
- Anemone Late-summer or fall flowers.
- Coralbells Many cultivars with colorful foliage (pictured).
- Creeping Baby's Breath White flowers in summer.
- Geranium Spring or summer flowers depending on species; foliage of many turns red in fall.
- Pincushion Flower Blue flowers on wiry stems; summer to fall.
- Pinks White, pink, or red flowers in spring and summer; evergreen foliage.
Perennials for Dry Soils
- Blue Fescue Ornamental grass with bluish-green foliage.
- Catmint Fragrant foliage and lavender-blue flowers in early summer (pictured).
- False Indigo Pealike blue flowers in late spring followed by attractive seedpods.
- Liriope Dark green grasslike foliage.
- Penstemon Desert species have bright flower colors, upright shape.
- White Gaura Airy white or pink flower stalks from midsummer to fall.
- Yucca Rounded clump of upright foliage.
Perennials for Full Sun
- Coreopsis Yellow flowers all summer (pictured).
- Hollyhock Summer flowers on tall spikes early to midsummer.
- Maltese Cross Silver foliage and scarlet flowers in early summer.
- Mountain Bluet Blue-violet flowers in midspring to early summer.
- Oriental Poppy Flowers with paperlike petals in late spring and early summer.
- Peony Large, fragrant flowers in late spring to early summer.
- Tree Mallow Shrublike with white, pink, or purple-pink flowers all summer.
Perennials for Acidic Soils
- Bear's Breeches Tall flower spikes in late spring to early summer and texture-rich foliage.
- Cinnamon Fern Reddish-brown fronds in center of plant.
- Fringed Bleeding Heart Finely cut foliage; flowers all summer (pictured).
- Gayfeather Purple or white flower spikes in early- to midsummer.
- Heart-Leaf Bergonia Shiny evergreen foliage.
- Japanese Iris Showy flowers in late spring or summer.
- Lenten Rose Flowers in late winter.
Perennials for Clay Soils
- Daylily Adaptable grower for tough conditions. Many colors available.
- False Sunflower Also called heliopsis, this daisylike flower is a prairie native.
- Geranium Many species with pink, purple, or white blooms for sun to part shade.
- Monkshood Late summer spikes of deep blue for shady sites.
- Obedient Plant Rapid spreader with pink or white candles of bloom.
- Peony Fragrant pink, red, white, or yellow late-spring blooms (pictured).
- Yarrow Ferny foliage and drought-tolerant; golden-yellow, white, pink, red, or salmon-color blooms.
Perennials for Sandy Soils
- Artemisia Silvery foliage is the key feature of this perennial.
- Blanket Flower Long bloom season of orange-red daisies marked with yellow.
- False Indigo Shrubby plant with spikes of blue blooms in spring (pictured).
- Lavender Cotton Herb with fine texture in silvery-gray or green.
- Thyme Groundcover with pinkish-purple blooms.
- Yarrow Adapted to full sun and dry soils with wide range of bloom colors.
- Yucca Succulent with spiky foliage and trusses of white bell-shape blooms.
- Armeria Also called sea thrift, this compact plant has grassy foliage and pink or white blooms (pictured).
- Blanket Flower Bicolor daisylike blooms on mounded plants.
- Butterfly Weed Brilliant orange blooms highly attractive to butterflies.
- Candytuft White blooms in spring on mounded evergreen foliage.
- Daylily Tough plant for almost any situation except deep shade.
- Hens-and-Chicks Succulent with rosettes of green, pink, or purple foliage.
- Pinks Carnation relative with grassy blue-green foliage and fragrant pink, white, or red blooms.
- Astilbe Shade- and moisture-lover with feathery plumes of bloom.
- Barrenwort Shade-tolerant groundcover with delicate-looking blooms.
- Cardinal Flower Moisture-loving plant with spikes of brilliant red blooms.
- Foxglove Clustered spikes of pink bells (pictured).
- Lenten Rose Late-winter bloomer in shades of pink, white, or purple.
- Ornamental Allium Perennial bulb with blooms of purple or white.
- Russian Sage Silvery-gray foliage and purple blooms in summer.
Perennials for Cool Climates
- Delphinium Long spikes of blue, purple, pink, or white.
- Globeflower Yellow springtime blooms with feathery centers (pictured).
- Japanese Primrose Moisture-loving plant with globes of pink, purple, or white blooms in spring.
- Lady's Mantle Chartreuse blooms over blue-green foliage.
- Lupine Upright spikes of pealike blooms in many shades.
- Monkshood Fall bloomer for shade.
- Oriental Poppy Crepelike blooms in spring in shades of orange, red, pink, or white.
Perennials for Hot Climates
- Blackberry Lily Orange blooms turn into black seed clusters.
- Blanket Flower Adaptable daisy for tough sites.
- Daylily Trumpet-shape blooms in a wide range of colors.
- Hardy Begonia Glossy green foliage with pink blooms.
- Mexican Sage Deep purple blooms on silvery plants (pictured).
- Muhlygrass Feathery foliage and white or pinkish blooms.
- Threadleaf Coreopsis Finely dissected foliage with small yellow daisylike blooms.