Perennial Plants

Discover reasons why you should add perennials to your yard.

Penstemon isophyllus  (01) Habit

Penstemon isophyllus (01) Habit

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Count on perennial plants to do more than look good in the garden. These workhorse plants also pull their weight in the problem-solving arena. Because perennial plants hail from every corner of the globe, it’s possible to find ones that suit specific growing conditions, such as a gravelly basin, steep slope or shallow soil. By looking at your landscape through the lens of problem-solving, you can design areas with perennial plants that address your most challenging issues.

If you’re dealing with drought, you might want to focus on water-wise perennial plants. These beauties put on an eye-catching show even when water is scarce. Perennial plants that grow in dry soils include low-growing catmint, which forms a mound of grey-green leaves topped with purple blooms. Penstemon and gaura add upright forms to dry spaces, and they both open flowers that beckon hummingbirds and butterflies. Many ornamental grasses thrive in droughty soil, as do prairie natives, like false indigo.

On the flip side, you might need perennial plants that can take excess moisture. For drama, consider rodgersia, a perennial plant with leaves that are larger than life. Sweet flag also has dramatic foliage that’s sword like and may be variegated. Native joe-pye weed and butterfly weed, which butterflies can’t resist, thrive in moist soil, as does the native wildflower cardinal flower. All of these perennial plants lure butterflies and pollinators to a garden.

As you design with perennial plants, don’t forget to follow basic principles, such as tall plants in back, shorter ones in front. Perennial hibiscus makes an excellent choice for a back-of-the-border planting, as does Morning Light Japanese forest grass, goatsbeard, meadow rue and swamp sunflower. For the edge of your beds, focus on shorter perennial plants, such as heart-leaf bergenia, coreopsis and pincushion flowers.

One important key to remember is that most perennials typically flower for a two- to four-week timeframe. Outside that flowering window, the plant brings leaves to the garden scene. This is where seasonal garden center visits come in. By visiting your local garden center in different seasons, you’ll discover which perennial plants come into bloom when.

Some garden centers even have a display garden that can help guide your choices. Or visit a local botanic garden for planting ideas. You can also find ideas for combining perennial plants by making note of plants in your neighborhood that look good during certain times of the year. Stop and ask folks what the plants are. Everyone loves to hear that their plantings look nice. At the very least you’ll meet a new friend, and you might even score a division you can plant in your own yard.

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