Perennial Stars

Have planting to do? Master gardener Paul James suggests some interesting plants you may not be familiar with that will increase the variety and beauty in your garden.
Similar Topics:
gby1010_1a

gby1010_1a

After the Siberian iris' flowers fade, the foliage will look good until the first hard frost.

Siberian Iris

Paul's first challenge is to fill a large bare spot where soil doesn't drain well. To fill the void, he chooses a Siberian iris, a perennial that thrives in moist conditions. Hardy to USDA Zone 3, its foliage is more slender and its flowers smaller than the more common Dutch iris.

The variety he selects is 'Caesar's Brother'; deep purplish-blue flowers bloom in late spring to early summer. After the flowers fade, the foliage looks good until the first hard frost. If planted about 18 inches apart, they'll knit together in about three years. The Siberian iris is resistant to the iris borer.

gby1010_1b

gby1010_1b

By planting in a container, master gardener Paul James can move the tree indoors if temperatures drop.

'Peter's Honey' Fig

A fan of figs, Paul next plants a small fig tree, 'Peter's Honey.' Because the tree is only marginally hardy in his climate, he pots it in a container. "If temperatures drop below 10 degrees or so," he says, "I can move it into the garage for safe keeping."

Since 'Peter's Honey' is a self-pollinating fig tree, Paul plants only one. Figs need full sun and a fair amount of room to grow because they'll slowly reach a height of 15 to 25 feet tall with a nearly equal spread. Fig trees aren't bothered much by disease or pests, but birds will strip a fig tree of ripe fruit; Paul suggests putting bird netting over the tree once the fruit starts to ripen.

gby1010_1c

gby1010_1c

Planting 'Twisty Baby' in a pot will contain any suckers.

'Twisty Baby' Black Locust

The curvaceous 'Twisty Baby,' a variety of dwarf black locust, grows up to 15 feet wide and tall. Since this large shrub or tree suckers (produces secondary shoots from the base or roots that can form new plants), James plants it in a container. "I'll also prune it once a year to keep its growth in check and to encourage more contorted branches."

gby1010_1d

gby1010_1d

Brunnera macrophylla  'Jack Frost'

'Jack Frost'

Paul brightens the shady areas of his garden next, first planting Brunnera 'Jack Frost.' Brunnera is a perennial that grows well in shade and produces sky-blue flowers. This particular variety is hardy to -25 degrees and its silvery foliage can grow to 10 inches in height and width. It flourishes in moist, rich, well-drained soil with a good deal of shade, or even a few hours of sun if in the northern U.S.

gby1010_1e

gby1010_1e

Aconitum  x cammarum  'Bressingham Spire'

'Bressingham Spire' Monkshood

Another great plant for shade, monkshood produces gorgeous blue flowers. 'Bressingham Spire,' a bit stockier version of the species, can grow up to 24 inches if planted in cool, fertile soil with plenty of moisture.

gby1010_1f

gby1010_1f

Japanese spurge

Japanese Spurge

A variegated form of pachysandra, Japanese spurge is an unusual ground cover that grows well where few others will — beneath the shade of mature trees. Its silvery-white leaf margins also brighten up otherwise dark, shady areas.

gby1010_1g

gby1010_1g

The flowers of the carnation of India have no scent.

Carnation of India

For a tropical feel Paul adds the carnation of India, a real beauty with green glossy leaves and white ruffled flowers.

gby1010_1h

gby1010_1h

'Black Scallop' bugleweed

'Black Scallop' Bugleweed

A member of the ajuga family, 'Black Scallop' has chocolate-colored foliage, grows to only 4 inches tall, and is hardy to Zone 3. Can be invasive.

Next Up

Q&A: Best Time to Plant Perennials

Plant large-sized perennials in early fall, and they'll perform better in the garden come springtime.

Perennial Plants

Discover reasons why you should add perennials to your yard.

Propagating Plants: Dividing Perennials

Use this method to propagate most herbaceous perennials and to rejuvenate large, tired clumps that no longer flower well.

Supporting Perennial Plants

Supports aren't always necessary when growing plants, but when stems are weak or exposed, stakes prevent significant damage.

Selecting and Planting Perennials

Discover how perennials can brighten your garden with this guide on how to choose the best ones for your outdoor space.

Planting With Perennials

Learn how to use perennials throughout your garden design. 

Plant a Rose and Perennial Garden

Create a contemporary display using disease-resistant roses and pretty perennials for a modern mix of flowers and foliage.

When to Divide Perennials

Learn how to tell if your perennials need dividing—and when to do it.

How to Plant Perennials

Learn how to grow perennials in your garden with this step-by-step planting guide.

Keep On Keeping On With Colorful Foliage Perennials

Grouping various leafy perennials together can add a few months to the life of your garden design.

1,000+ Photos

Browse beautiful photos of our favorite outdoor spaces: decks, patios, porches and more.

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.