Problem-Solving Perennials for Tough Gardens

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 your site.

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Think of Perennial Possibilities

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 solution.

If you have a slope too steep for mowing, you can trade turf for 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.
Be Inspired: Hillside landscaping ideas.

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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 this list of perennials adapted to various growing conditions to draft solutions to your landscaping problems.

Perennials for Wet Soils

Cardinal Flower

Lobelia or Cardinal Flower
Brilliant red or dark pink flowers in late summer to early fall

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

Course texture; flower plumes in spring or summer

Sweet Flag
Long-lasting swordlike foliage

See more flowers for wet soil.

Perennials for Shade

Astilbe and hosta

Long-lasting flower stalks in summer

Red, pink, white, purple, or bicolor blooms in early- to midspring

White or light pink flowers in midspring

Hardy Begonia
Heart-shape foliage; pink flowers in late summer

Grown for foliage; many cultivars See our favorites here.

Hellebore or Lenten Rose
Coarse-texture foliage; blooms in late winter to early spring

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

See more fun perennials for shady spots.
Be inspired: Stunning shade-garden design ideas.

Perennials for Alkaline Soils


Late-Summer or fall flowers

Many cultivars with colorful foliage

Creeping Baby's Breath
White flowers in summer

Spring or summer flowers depending on species; foliage of many turns red in fall

Pincushion Flower
Blue flowers on wiry stems summer to fall

Dianthus or Pinks
White, pink, or red flowers in spring and summer; evergreen foliage in some areas

Perennials for Dry Soils


Blue Fescue
Ornamental grass with bluish-green foliage

Fragrant foliage and lavender-blue flowers in early summer

Baptisia or False Indigo
Pealike blue flowers in late spring followed by attractive seedpods

Liriope or Lilyturf
Dark green grasslike foliage

Desert species have bright flower colors, upright shape

Airy white or pink flower stalks from midsummer to fall

Rounded clump of upright foliage

See more perennials that thrive in dry soils.

Perennials for Full Sun


Yellow flowers all summer

Summer flowers on tall spikes early to midsummer

Campion or Maltese Cross
Silver foliage and scarlet flowers in early summer

Centaurea or Mountain Bluet
Blue-violet flowers in midspring to early summer

Flowers with paperlike petals in late spring and early summer

Large, fragrant flowers in late spring to early summer See some of our favorite varieties.

Shrublike with white, pink, or purple-pink flowers all summer

Be Inspired: Landscape ideas for gardens in full sun.

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 in summer

Liatris or Gayfeather
Purple or white flower spikes in early- to midsummer

Shiny evergreen foliage with pink blooms in early spring

Japanese Iris
Showy flowers in late spring or summer

Hellebore or Lenten Rose
Flowers in late summer

Learn how to do a soil test.

Perennials for Clay Soils


Adaptable grower for tough conditions; many colors available See our favorite varieties.

False Sunflower or Heliopsis
Yellow, daisylike flowers native to the prairie

Many species with pink, purple, or white blooms for sun to part shade

Late summer spikes of deep blue for shady sites

Obedient Plant
Rapid spreader with pink or white candles of bloom

Fragrant pink, red, white, or yellow late-spring blooms See some of our favorite varieties.

Ferny foliage and drought-tolerant; golden-yellow, white, pink, red, or salmon-color blooms

See more perennials that grow well in clay soils.

Perennials for Sandy Soils

Blanket Flower

Silvery foliage is the key feature of this perennial

Blanket Flower
Long bloom season of orange-red daisies marked with yellow

Baptisia or False Indigo
Shrubby plant with spikes of blue, yellow, white, orange-red blooms in spring

Lavender Cotton
Herb with fine texture in silvery gray or green foliage

Groundcover with pinkish-purple blooms

Adapted to full sun and dry soils with wide range of bloom colors

Succulent with spiky foliage and trusses of white bell-shape blooms

Perennials that are Salt-Tolerant


Armeria or Sea Thrift
Compact plant with grassy foliage and pink or white blooms

Blanket Flower
Bicolor daisylike blooms on mounded plants

Butterfly Weed
Brilliant orange blooms highly attractive to butterflies

White blooms in spring on mounded evergreen foliage

Tough plant for almost any situation except deep shade See some of our favorite varieties.

Succulent with rosettes of green, pink, or purple foliage

Dianthus or Pinks
Carnation relative with grassy blue-green foliage and fragrant pink, white, or red blooms

Perennials that are Deer-Resistant

Ornamental allium

Shade- and moisture-lover with feathery plumes of blooms

Shade-tolerant groundcover with delicate-looking blooms

Lobelia or Cardinal Flower
Moisture-loving plant with spikes of brilliant red or dark pink blooms

Clustered spikes of pink bells

Hellebore or Lenten Rose
Late-winter bloomer in shades of pink, white, green, or purple

Ornamental Allium
Perennial bulb with blooms or purple or white

Russian Sage
Silvery-gray foliage and purple blooms in summer

See more deer-proof plants.

Perennials for Cool Climates


Long spikes of blue, purple, pink, or white flowers

Yellow springtime blooms with feathery centers

Japanese Pimrose
Moisture-loving plant with globes of pink, purple, or white blooms in spring

Lady's Mantle
Chartreuse blooms over blue-green foliage

Upright spikes of pealike blooms in many shades

Fall bloomer for shade

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.

Trumpet-shape blooms in a wide range of colors. See some of our favorite varieties.

Hardy Begonia
Glossy green foliage with pink blooms.

Mexican Sage
Deep purple blooms on silvery plants.

Feathery foliage and white or pinkish blooms.

Threadleaf Coreopsis
Finely dissected foliage with small yellow daisylike blooms.

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