Perennial Garden Design

Dig into the wonderful world of perennials. These come-back plants boast beauty that just gets better year after year.

Purple Fountain Grass, Black Eyed Susan, Hardy Hibiscus

Perennial Border

An eye-catching perennial border packed with season-long color makes any landscape sing.

Photo by:

An eye-catching perennial border packed with season-long color makes any landscape sing.

Discover the joy of growing perennials by devoting a planting bed to these terrific plants. Perennials are the original come-back kids, returning year after year to grace a garden with beauty. Having a good perennial garden design doesn’t mean you have to hire a professional. You can conquer the learning curve on mixing and matching perennials by mastering a few key concepts.

Before jumping into perennial garden design, review some basics about these plants. Perennials are non-woody plants that, unlike annuals, live for more than two years. The top growth usually dies back once a hard frost arrives, but growth resumes from roots or stems the following spring.

From year to year, perennial clumps tend to increase in size. In favorable conditions, a modest few stems of garden phlox may multiply into a two-foot-wide clump over two growing seasons. Some perennials, like yarrow or bee balm, gradually claim more and more garden real estate as stems spread underground. An effective perennial garden design must consider mature plant size and include some wiggle room to accommodate plant spread.

Unlike their annual cousins, perennials don’t usually provide a season-long flower show. Most perennials bloom for a two- to four-week window and then display foliage for the rest of the growing season. To create a perennial garden design with non-stop color, choose plants that flower in sequence throughout the growing season. You can also count on perennials with colorful foliage and annuals tucked among perennials to extend the color display.

Mixing and matching perennials may seem daunting, but if you follow a few basic rules, you can craft an eye-catching perennial garden design. Start by choosing two or three colors you want to see in your garden, and find plants that deliver those hues in either flowers or foliage. Explore flowering windows, and select perennials that open blooms at different points in the growing season.

Also consider how the plants’ leaves will look side by side. Aim to create a plant partnership that’s visually appealing when perennials are in and out of bloom. Above all, make sure the plants you intend to pair have similar growing requirements.

Focus on creating two or three plant combinations for a perennial garden design, and then contemplate how to bring those combinations together into a cohesive whole. You might count on white-flowering perennials or foliage plants to bridge the gap between combinations. Repeat combinations along a planting bed to create continuity in your perennial garden design. If you have a favorite plant or color, repeat that throughout your planting bed to draw the eye through the design.

In a one-sided planting bed, stair-step plant heights—tall plants in back, short ones in front. If your perennial garden design is a free-standing bed that will be viewed from all sides, put the tallest plants in the middle of the design and stair-step heights to bed edges.

To have an attractive perennial garden design year-round, don’t forget to consider the winter appearance of your planting area. Incorporate structures, such as a trellis, birdbath, sculpture or bench, to interject a design element that will hold it own in every season. You might also select perennials that retain sculptural seedheads through winter, such as ornamental grasses, black-eyed susan or coneflowers.

Next Up

Growing Monarda: When to Plant and How to Grow Bee Balm

Your garden will be buzzing—with helpful bees and compliments—when you plant colorful monarda, or bee balm.

Planting and Growing Garden Phlox

Learn how to plant, grow and care for this perennial charmer in your garden.

Planting and Growing Milkweed

Welcome endangered monarchs and other beautiful butterflies to your yard with milkweed. We tell you how, when and where to grow different types of milkweed — including butterfly weed, common milkweed, swamp milkweed and showy milkweed — as well as where to get milkweed seeds.

Egyptian Walking Onions

These perennial onions travel across the garden over the years as their ingenious top-set bulblets take root to create new plants. Learn more about this perennial vegetable, including how to grow it in your garden and use it in the kitchen.

Planting and Growing Joe Pye Weed

Forget the "weed" in this plant's name. Joe Pye weed is actually a wildflower that invites lots of lovely butterflies to your garden.

What Is an English Garden?

Learn the elements of enchanting English gardens, and discover ways to translate that style to your yard.

How to Plant and Grow Anemone Flower

Looking for brilliant blooms to take your garden from spring to summer to fall? Easy-to-grow anemones are the answer.

How to Design a Container Garden

Follow this simple design concept and boost the impact of your container gardens with plants of various sizes, textures and color combinations.

Celebrate Birthdays With Birth Month Flowers

Like gemstones, birthday month flowers have different meanings. Which one is yours?

How to Plant and Grow Chinese Evergreen

Caring for Chinese evergreens is easy, and these pretty houseplants brighten rooms with low light, or even no natural light, with their leaves of pink, green, creamy white and red.

Go Shopping

Get product recommendations from HGTV editors, plus can’t-miss sales and deals.

Follow Us Everywhere

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