The Better Homes & Gardens Test Garden tries out new varieties of favorite perennials every year to find out which ones will truly shine. Get a peek at our top picks that are sure to make a powerful statement in your garden with their eye-catching colors and textures, without needing a lot of maintenance.

By Jenny Krane
Updated July 16, 2019
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Perennials are must-haves for any garden. They come back year after year, and many of them are easy to divide into new plants that you can add to your landscape or pass along to friends. At the BH&G Test Garden, we grow both tried-and-true perennials as well as newer varieties with characteristics that make our favorites even better. For example, we especially love ones that offer exciting flower colors, more vigorous growth, and fragrance. Take a look at these five outstanding plants that have stood out above the rest for us, and consider finding a spot for them in your own garden.

Image courtesy of Walters Gardens, Inc.

1. 'Francee' Hosta

Hostas thrive in shady areas of the garden, making them a great filler plant under trees. 'Francee' is a medium-sized variety that can tolerate more sun than other hostas, but it still would appreciate afternoon shade. It has dark green leaves with a thin white edge. In summer, light purple flowers on long stalks will appear. This variety is hardy in Zones 3 to 9.

Carson Downing

2. 'Mighty Chestnut' Daylily

This bold, beautiful daylily variety has bright orange, ruffled petals with a burgundy center and yellow throat. The blooms appear on tall stems above sword-like foliage in midsummer, and are even fragrant. Like most daylilies, this variety is low maintenance, can be easily divided to create multiple plants, and attracts pollinators. 'Mighty Chestnut' is hardy in Zones 3 to 9.

Matthew Benson Photography

3. 'Helene Von Stein' Lamb's Ears

If you're looking for a low-growing ground cover, try lamb's ears. Kids especially find its velvety silver foliage irresistible to touch. 'Helene Von Stein' does best in areas of full or part-sun, and will keep its good looks through summer's heat and humidity. This plant is deer- and rabbit-resistant and is hardy in Zones 4 to 8.

Blaine Moats

4. Coneflowers

Coneflowers have many great qualities such as beautiful, long-lasting blooms that attract birds and butterflies, a high tolerance for drought and poor soil, and not being tasty to deer. A multitude of varieties offer a dazzling array of flower colors that range from pastel to bright hues. A few of the Test Garden's favorite varieties are multicolored 'Cheyenne Spirit,' scarlet 'Sombrero Salsa Red,' and vibrant 'Sombrero Lemon Yellow' (all are hardy in Zones 4 to 9).

Image courtesy of Walters Gardens, Inc.

5. 'Rocketman' Russian Sage

Bring pale blue and light purple hues to the garden with the blooms of Russian sage. Its flowers will continue to look lovely from summer into fall and attract pollinators. 'Rocketman' is a variety with strong stems and gray-green foliage that is more compact than the species so less likely to need staking. It does best in full sun and is hardy in Zones 5 to 9.

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