Tiptoe Through Tulips and More With Small Perennials

If you need dainty foliage or tiny blooms, look no further. Here, we give you a tour of some of the most beautiful small perennials for any garden, whether sunny and open or damp and sheltered.

Excerpted from Garden Design
  • Lady's Mantle is Popular Old Fashioned Flower

    Lady's Mantle

    Dependable and drought-tolerant, lady's mantle has frothy sprays of tiny yellow flowers, which have a long season and are good for cutting. Deadhead the plant after it flowers to prevent self-seeding. Lady's mantle does well in full or partial sun and moist soil, at the front of a border or in a gravel garden. It will grow to 24 inches tall and 30 inches wide.

  • Wood Anemones Produce Colorful Cup Shaped Flowers

    'Bracteata Pleniflora' Wood Anemone

    A striking variant of the more common wood anemone, this creeping perennial bears white flowers over a ruff of closely packed green leaves. The plant thrives in rich, well-drained or moist soil and partial sun or dappled shade, where it will grow to 3 to 6 inches tall and 12 inches wide.

  • Italian Arum Features Arrow Shaped Mottled Leaves

    Lords and Ladies

    Lords and ladies is excellent for filling in gaps in border displays. Its glossy green leaves are veined with white, and stalks of bright orange berries emerge from pale cream spathes. Lords and ladies at its best in a sunny, sheltered site with well-drained soil, where it can grow to 12 inches tall and 6 inches wide.

  • Japanese Painted Fern has Silvery Green Foliage

    Japanese Painted Fern

    The graceful, deciduous Japanese painted ferns are easy to grow and will thrive in a shady, sheltered border or woodland garden, as long as there is sufficient moisture. Their arching fronds, which are light green or grayish with a purple accents, will grow to 12 inches tall and indefinite width.

  • Morgenrote Produces Fuchsia Colored Early Blooms

    'Morgenröte' Elephants Ears

    'Morgenröte' elephant ears produces clusters of bright reddish-pink flowers above their large, rounded, leathery green leaves. The plant will grow to 18 inches tall and 24 inches wide in ideal growing conditions: full or partial sun and well-drained or moist soil.

  • Dawson's White is Superb Woodland Perennial

    'Dawson's White' Siberian Bugloss

    Siberian bugloss is a good choice for a woodland garden, or anywhere other cool area that has partial shade and well-drained or moist, rich soil. Sprays of small blue flowers appear above heart-shaped leaves in spring, to 18 inches tall.

  • Calamint is Hardy Perennial from Mint Family

    Variegated Large-flowered Calamint

    A plant for a moist woodland garden or a cool, sheltered position, the variegated large-flowered calamint has white-speckled green leaves which are aromatic when crushed. Pink-mauve, flowers emerge from summer to fall. Variegated large-flowered calamint will grow to 12 inches tall and 18 inches wide.

  • Moonbeam Coreopsis are Popular Border Plants

    'Moonbeam' Threadleaf Coreopsis

    A row of brightly colored threadleaf coreopsis make a fine edging for a border; 'moonbeam' produces a profusion of yellow, star-like flowers in early summer. A sunny position in well-drained soil will promote the best show of blooms to 20 inches tall and 18 inches wide.

  • Dianthus Noted for Striking Scent and Double Bloom

    'Bovey Belle' Dianthus

    In summer, hardy 'Bovey Belle' dianthus bears clove-scented, bright pink flowers above silver-gray foliage; these blooms last well as cut flowers. Deadhead regularly to promote further flowering. Plant 'Bovey Belle' dianthus in full sun and well-drained soil to help it grow to 10 to 18 inches tall and 16 inches wide.

  • Bacchanal Bleeding Heart is Traditional Perennial

    'Bacchanal' Bleeding Heart

    Layer upon layer of deeply divided, gray-green leaves make an effective contrast to bleeding heart's delicate, crimson, heart-shaped flowers, which appear from mid- to late spring. 'Bacchanal' is one of the darkest cultivars. Bleeding hearts are shade-loving plants and suit a moist, shady border where they can grow to 18 inches tall and 24 inches wide.

  • Barrenwort is Good Garden Choice for Color


    Strong-growing woodland plants, epimediums make excellent ground cover under trees or shrubs, or anywhere else they can get partial sun and well-drained or moist soil. Yellow epimedium has both interesting foliage – bronze when young, deep green when mature – and pretty, bright yellow flowers, and it grows to 16 inches tall and 24 inches wide. It is also drought-tolerant.

  • Oxford Blue Bears Silver Blue Spiny Bracts

    'Oxford Blue' Sea Holly

    One of the smaller sea hollies, 'Oxford Blue' is an herbaceous, clump-forming plant with silver-blue, thistle-like flowers. It does well in full sun and well-drained soil, where it can grow to 6-18 inches tall and 12 inches wide. Flower stems can be dried for indoor arrangements.

  • Cushion Spurge Produces Electric Yellow Bracts

    Cushion Spurge

    This spurge forms a loose, dome-shaped mound of lime-green stems that carry canary-yellow flowerheads from mid-spring to midsummer. The plant dies down in winter, re-emerging the next year with a batch of fresh young shoots. It stays low, at 16 inches tall and 24 inches wide, in ideal growing conditions: full or partial sun and well-drained or moist soil.

  • Kashmir White Used in Mixed Summer Borders

    'Kashmir' Hardy Geranium

    Geraniums make versatile, undemanding garden plants, as long as they get partial sun and well-drained soil. The 'Kashmir' cultivars are spreading, herbaceous perennials which grow to 18 inches tall and produce blue, pink, purple and white flowers. Divide vigorous plants in spring.

  • Pluto Hellebore Makes Superb Cottage Garden Plant

    Lenten Rose

    'Pluto' lenten rose brightens up winter with its striking purple-and-green flowers. 'Pluto' grows to 18 inches tall and 18 inches wide in ideal growing conditions: partial sun and moist soil.

  • Red Spangles Coral Bells Add Vibrant Garden Color

    Coral Bells

    Compact, evergreen perennials, coral bells are useful for year-round interest. Throughout the summer, the small, tubular, rich scarlet-crimson flowers 'Red Spangles,' shown here, add a splash of vibrant color to the garden. It matches well with 'Plum Pudding,' a cultivar with purple ruffled leaves and small white flowers, and silvery-leaved 'Pewter Moon.' The plant can grow up to 26 inches tall and 20 inches wide in ideal growing conditions: full or partial sun, and well-drained or moist soil. Coral bells look especially good spilling over onto a path, or included in a mixed or shrub border.

  • Creeping Lamium Makes Showy Groundcover

    'White Nancy' Spotted Dead Nettle

    'White Nancy' spotted dead nettle is a spreading, low-growing plant whose leaves and pure white flowers suppress weeds when used as ground cover. Plant it in full or partial sun and well-drained or moist soil.

  • Evening Primrose Bears Yellow Bowl Shaped Flowers

    'Fyrverkeri' Common Sundrops

    From late spring to late summer, the large, bright yellow flowers of 'Fyrverkeri' common sundrops appear briefly on upright stems above the purple-brown leaves. The plant will perform best in a sunny site with well-drained soil, where it can grow to 36 inches tall and 12 inches wide.

  • Green Carpet Spurge Used in Mass Under Shade

    Japanese Pachysandra

    Good for ground cover, tough evergreen Japanese pachysandra will spread freely if given enough moisture, especially in shade. It has glossy, dark green leaves and tiny white flowers, which appear in spikes to 8 inches tall in early summer.

  • Lungwort Makes a Hardy and Colorful Groundcover

    'Diana Clare' Lungwort

    An early spring-flowering perennial, 'Diana Clare' lungwort is easy to grow or use as a ground cover in partial or full shade and moist soil; it needs very little attention once established. In late winter and spring, clusters of violet-blue flowers, open above green leaves marked with silver. 'Diana Clare' lungwort grows to 12 inches tall and 18 inches width.

  • Vera Jameson Sedum is Colorful Succulent

    'Vera Jameson' Sedum

    'Vera Jameson' is a striking sedum with high impact color: purplish, fleshy leaves and stems and rounded rose-pink flowers that appear in late summer and early fall. Mix with silvers and grays to accentuate the bold coloring; grow in a rock garden or at a border edge with well-drained soil and full sun. 'Vera Jameson' sedum will grow to 8 to 12 inches tall and 18 inches wide.

  • Houseleeks Gather in Tight Red Rosettes

    Common Houseleek

    The common houseleek patterns the ground as its red rosettes of leaves hug the soil; a low plant, it doesn't get above 6 inches tall. Grow common houseleek in old sinks, troughs or terracotta pots to show off the architectural shapes. Its ideal growing conditions are gritty, well-drained soil and full sun.

  • Salvia Nemorosa Produces Colorful Flower Spikes

    Flowering Sage

    One of the tallest small perennials, at up to 3 feet tall, the wrinkly green leaves of flowering sage form a neutral backdrop to upright flowers that, when seen from a low viewpoint, create a sea of pink, purple or white. Grow flowering sage in sun or dappled shade in well-drained soil.

  • Veronica Speedwell Suitable for Front of Border


    Gentian speedwell, shown here, is grown for its spikes of pale blue flowers, which appear to float above a mound of glossy, bright green foliage. Spiked speedwell, a slightly smaller variant, features silver hairy leaves and spikes of purple-blue flowers. It is will spread, so clip back if necessary after the blooms have faded. Speedwells love full or partial sun and well-drained or moist soil.

Excerpted from Garden Design

©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2009

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