Gardening with perennials

The charm of perennials is that each month brings new blooms to enjoy. These plants are the backbone of your flower garden because they have staying power.

Their leaves usually die back as winter approaches, but with luck, they will come back each year. Some are short-lived, but old favorites like daylilies, hostas and peonies can thrive for decades.

Garden design

The right plants for your garden

When designing your flower garden, there are many choices to make. Some are purely aesthetic (such as match-making plant combinations and colors), and others are horticultural (what grows best in conditions on your property and in your climate).

The more closely you base decisions on meeting the needs of your plants (light requirements, hardiness, soil and moisture levels), and on which plants look good together, the more successful your garden will be.

Plant information: In the left-hand column, you’ll find links to many flower garden favorites for sun and shade, complete with growing and care tips.

Perennial-pink peony

Peonies thrive in full sun

Starting a flower garden

When you start out, you may think that all you have to do is get your plants into the ground, and with the exception of weeding, watering and cutting them back each season, your garden will be done.

But here’s what really happens:

The first year your new perennials are underwhelming – the clumps small, the flowers sparse.

By the second year, you’ll see more flowers and better growth. But in the third season – watch out – your plants look like they’re on steroids, and you look like an accomplished gardener.

After that, many plants get bigger each season, while the odd one does a disappearing act. Responding to inevitable change is the challenge – and that’s why veteran gardeners often say that no flower garden is ever really finished.

Shade garden

What you can do with perennials in a shady site

More flower garden tips:

Flower garden care– What to do in the garden as the seasons progress

Easy-care perennials – A list of good easy plants to grow

Big bold plants – Add drama to your garden with bigger, bolder plants

Damp spots in the garden -Native plants that thrive in moist sites

Fall-bloomers – The season may be coming to an end, but why should your flower show stop early?

Plants with attractive foliage – Why leaves matter in your garden design

Perennial ground covers – Plants for those challenging spots on your property

Rock gardening tips – Easy alpine plants for beginners

Oriental poppies

Patty’s Plum poppy – a lovely perennial for sun


Bearded iris – Modern cultivars with better color, more blooms

Cranesbill (perennial geraniums) – Charming garden plants

Cushion spurge – Spring flowers with Euphorbia polychroma

Daylilies – Hardy, easy-to-grow favorites

Dianthus ‘Firewitch’ – perfect low-growing spring charmer

Echinacea – New-look coneflowers

False blue indigo – A gorgeous, easy-care native

Geranium Rozanne – 2008 Perennial Plant of the Year

Heucheras – Terrific foliage plants

Lady’s Mantle – Attractive garden edging plant

Lavender – An elegant edging plant

Lilies (Lilium) – Blooms that mix well with other flowers

Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ – Handsome catmint

Oriental poppies – Dazzlingly beautiful flowers

Peonies – Colorful, fragrant and fabulous

Primroses – Spring-bloomers that suit moist soil conditions

Roses – Discover the allure of rose gardening

Russian sage – Here’s one for hot, dry gardens

Shasta daisy – Classic flower, easy-care plant

Siberian iris – Easy early-season flowers


Ferns – Terrific foliage and deer-proof too

Helleborus × hybridus (lenten rose) – Long- blooming for spring

Hosta – Must-have plant for the shade

Japanese Painted Fern – Attractive, low- maintenance

Virginia bluebells – Woodland native with blue spring flowers

Variegated Solomon’s Seal – 2013 Perennial Plant of the Year

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