Perennials do more than provide color, fragrance, foliage and filler for the garden year after year. Choose your perennials carefully and you can have color from spring through fall.
"I like to have something that's in bloom all year," says Kathleen Brenzel, editor of Sunset Magazine. "When the spring bloomers are finished, then another palette comes on in summer, and then in fall you have plants such as asters and sedum."
Many perennials have a two- to three-week heyday of high bloom and then retreat into foliage. The following list is only a bare-bones beginning for your perennial planning. Do a little research and choose the flowers and hues of your liking.
- Bleeding heart (Dicentra), Zones 3-8
- Foxglove (Digitalis grandiflora), Zones 4-8
- Peony (Paeonia lactiflora), Zones 3-8
- Penstemon (Penstemon), Zones 7-10
- Coreopsis (Coreopsis grandiflora), Zones 4-9
- Daylily (Hemerocallis), Zones 3-10
- Foxglove (Digitalis grandiflora)
- Lobelia (Lobelia), Zones 3-9
- Salvia (Salvia), Zones 4-10
- Lavender (Lavandula), Zones 5-9
- Garden phlox (Phlox paniculata), Zones 3-9
- False sunflower (Heliopsis), Zones 4-9
- New York aster (Aster novi-belgii), Zones 4-8
- Sedum 'Autumn Joy', Zones 3-10
- Caryopteris, Zones 6-9
- Blue sage (Salvia azurea), Zones 9-10 (stalks are wispy; flowers are sky blue in color)
- Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha), Zones 10-11 (bursts into velvety purple flowers long after most perennials are dormant and blooms into winter; unfortunately, Mexican bush sage is invasive and may need measures to keep it contained)
Consider these design pointers as you plan:
- Select a color scheme carefully for plants that bloom at the same time.
- Consider the height of the plants, putting the tallest in the center or toward the back of the garden and lower-growing plants in the foreground.
- To achieve a gently curving border, lay a garden hose in a curve before breaking the sod, and use it as a guideline for digging.
- Consider using lambs' ears (Stachys byzantina), Zones 4-8, as an edging all the way along the border. The plants' fuzzy, silvery leaves capture twilight and give definition to the border.
- With the lambs' ears, or any distinctive plant that will be used along the border, repeat the planting several times to draw the eye along the edge.
- When things have gone dormant in late fall or early winter, tuck some pots of blooms among the foliage.
- In early winter tuck in bulbs among the perennials that have died down.