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.
gby1010_1a

gby1010_1a

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

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.

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.

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'

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'

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

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.

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

'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.

Keep Reading

Next Up

Are Mums Perennials?

Learn which mums you can count on to color your landscape for years to come.

Transplanting Perennials

Follow these tips on how to best transplant perennials.

How to Plant Perennials

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

Fall-Planted Perennials for Easy Spring Color

Get a head start on spring by planting in the fall.

How to Plant Perennial Flowers & Plants

Perennials are the mainstay of the traditional flower garden. When planted correctly, they are long-lived.

Getting the Most Out of Your Perennials

Learn how to select and then grow perennials in the garden.

How to Plant in Gardening Containers

To ensure that plants in gardening containers grow and perform as well as possible, you need to plant them properly.

1,000+ Photos

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

On TV

House Hunters

7:30am | 6:30c

House Hunters

8:30am | 7:30c

House Hunters

9:30am | 8:30c

House Hunters

10am | 9c

House Hunters

10:30am | 9:30c

House Hunters

11am | 10c

House Hunters

11:30am | 10:30c

Fixer Upper

12pm | 11c

Fixer Upper

1pm | 12c

Fixer Upper

2pm | 1c

Fixer Upper

3pm | 2c

Fixer Upper

4pm | 3c

Fixer Upper

5pm | 4c

Fixer Upper

6pm | 5c

Fixer Upper

7pm | 6c
On Tonight
On Tonight

Fixer Upper

8pm | 7c

Fixer Upper

9pm | 8c

House Hunters

10pm | 9c

Montana Home

11pm | 10c

Fixer Upper

12am | 11c

House Hunters

1am | 12c

Fixer Upper

3am | 2c

Follow Us Everywhere

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