There are many reasons people choose perennial flowers over annuals. For many, it is the fact that you can plant perennials once and enjoy them year after year without replanting. If you are trying to add some permanent landscaping, want some simple no-fuss plants, or just want to add pops of color to your yard, perennials may be the ideal choice for you, too!
Now don’t panic, even if you don’t have the greenest of thumbs you can still enjoy success with perennials. Perennials are ideal for beginners as well as gardening pros with years of experience under their belt. Believe me, when I say, perennials are for everyone!
Take a look below at some helpful tips for planting, growing, and caring for perennials, and see how simple it can be to bring the beauty of perennial plants and flowers to your yard. You will hopefully learn some new tips about how to care for perennials, and fingers crossed, be convinced that perennials are the perfect plant choice for you. Let’s get started with a few basics.
What are perennial flowers?
Perennial flowers are flowers that you plant once, and they will grow back year after year. During the winter months, the plant will go dormant and protect itself, and in most cases, there is no need for you to dig it up or bring it indoors.
Over time, perennial flowers will continue to divide and grow, covering more garden space and growing in size.
Perennials are often confused with annuals because people often think that “annual” means the plant will GROW back annually. The best way to remember the difference is that annuals will need to be PLANTED annually, while perennials will not.
What does “perennial flowers” mean?
A plant must meet several qualifications in order to be considered perennial. For a plant to be considered a perennial plant, it must live for more than two years. It also typically blooms in the warmer spring and summer months, dies in the fall and winter months, then repeats the process in the spring.
During this time, the plant will maintain a rootstock under the soil that continues to live, even in the coldest of months. It simply remains dormant at this time.
If trying to classify which plants count as perennials, these qualifications are sure to help.
So what is the difference between annual and perennial flowers?
When planning your garden, it is important to know what the difference is between annual and perennial flowers. Knowing these differences can help you plan your garden accordingly and choose plants that will work well for you and your circumstances. Here are a few of the major differences between annual and perennial flowers:
Annuals bloom in the spring and summer months like most perennials, but they will die off during the cooler fall and winter months and not return. They might drop seeds while they bloom, which could possibly grow the following year, but this does NOT qualify them as a perennial.
Perennials will also bloom in the spring and summer months, and they will die in the cooler like fall and winter. They will grow again the following season, however not simply because they shed seeds. The reason perennials will regrow is due to their rootstock, which remains intact and alive during the cold months.
What are the benefits of planting perennials?
Now that you know the difference between annuals and perennials, you might be wondering about the benefits of planting perennials. Perennials do offer some amazing perks to your yard and garden, and once you know these benefits you can plan your garden accordingly.
Here are 6 benefits of planting perennials in your garden:
1. Perennials are often native plants.
In most cases, you can find perennials that are native to your growing area. Native plants are excellent for attracting bluebirds and other wildlife who are more inclined to flock, feed, and nest around native plants.
2. Perennials can be cost-effective.
Instead of buying annual plants that will grow one season and die, consider perennial plants that will grow back for multiple years. With perennial plants you get more bang for your buck, enjoying numerous growing seasons instead of just one.
3. Perennials attract pollinators.
Perennials such as bee balm and coneflowers attract pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. These pollinators can help your garden flourish and make a huge positive impact on the environment as a whole. A few other perennials that attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds include salvia, lavender, daylilies, trumpet flower, and hibiscus.
4. Perennials multiply quickly.
If you have a large garden space to fill, perennials can be your best friend! Perennials will divide quickly, and continue to spread out if they are allowed. Perennials are ideal for filling in garden beds, borders, and entire cutting gardens where you need a bulk of plants.
5. Perennials offer you FREE plants.
Most perennials will need to be divided over time in order to encourage further growth. Each time you divide a perennial you end up with additional, free plants! You can easily replant these flowers in other parts of your yard, or give them away to family and friends. Who doesn’t love free flowers?
6. Perennials can repel some biting bugs.
Perennials such as lavender can help keep biting bugs and mosquitoes away. If you spend a lot of time in your garden, you can surround the border with these repelling plants so that you can enjoy the space in peace. These perennials smell great to humans, but certain biting bugs can’t stand them!
Now that you know all about what makes a plant a perennial, the difference between annuals and perennials, and the benefits of planting perennials, let’s chat about the fun stuff! Let’s talk about which plants are perennials. This way, you know exactly what to keep an eye out for when you head to the home and gardening center.
Here are some of the easiest perennial flowers to grow:
Whether you are growing in full sun or shade, large garden plot or container, we have the perfect perennial for you. Take a look at some of the easiest perennial flowers to grow in a specific growing condition, so you can make an informed decision when choosing and planting.
13 of the Best Perennials for Full Sun:
Here are the perennial plants and flowers that will thrive if grown in full sun. Full sun means the plant will get 6-8 hours (or more) of direct sunlight per day.
1. Liatris – These tall and spiked blooms come in all shades of purple and are great for attracting butterflies.
2. Catmint – Catmint is perfect for filling in garden beds and looks just as cute as it sounds.
3. Shasta Daisy – This easy to grow daisy is perfect for a cutting garden.
4. Bee Balm – Bee balm comes in a variety of colors and is sure to attract those important pollinators.
5. Hibiscus – This tropical-looking flower will be sure to add color to your yard while attracting pollinators.
6. Sedum – This blooming perennial will put on one final show come fall.
7. Peonies – Peonies will bloom in early spring and the soft colors are ideal for any landscape.
8. Red Hot Poker – This bright blooming perennial will offer spiky blooms sure to add drama to your yard.
9. Daylilies – Daylilies spread quickly and are a great way to fill an empty space fast.
10. Coneflowers – Coneflowers are another quickly spreading perennial that can fill a small space fast while attracting pollinators.
11. Lavender – The soft purple blooms of lavender are wonderful to use in homemade bath and body products.
12. Dianthus – Dianthus is an easy to grow perennial that fares well in both gardens and landscaping.
13. Lamb’s Ear – Lamb’s ear is soft to the touch and perfect for a garden where you want to add lots of textures.
12 of the Best Perennials for Shade:
Here are the perennial plants and flowers that will thrive in shade. If you have less than 6 hours of direct sunlight in your planting space, it is considered a shade garden.
1. Bleeding Hearts – The heart-shaped blooms give this unusual perennial its name You can find it in shades of pink as well as white.
2. Hostas – Hostas come in so many shapes, colors, and even sizes. They are great for adding greenery to your space.
3. Hellebore – The petite blooms of the hellebore are sure to add interest and scent to your garden.
4. Lily of the Valley – This perennial puts on a show of tiny white bell bloom early in the spring season.
5. Foxglove – Foxglove is perfect for attracting pollinators, and it comes in a variety of soft colors.
6. Jack in the Pulpit – This perennial has such a usual shape and is perfect for the gardener who wants a modern look!
7. Dead Nettles – The deep purple hues of dead nettles are sure to stand out in flower beds and native gardens.
8. Astilbe – The petite blooms of astilbe make them perfect for window boxes and small beds.
9. Ferns – Ferns offer a billowy texture to your gardens and patios.
10. Spiderwort – If you like growing a variety of medicinal herbs, add spiderwort to your list.
11. Coral Bells – The tiny bell-shaped blooms of coral bells are sure to add interest to small garden spaces.
12. Trillium – The white blooms of trillium have pops of yellow color and are great for natural-looking landscaping.
8 of the Best Perennials to Grow in Containers:
Are you limited on gardening space? No problem! There is no need to panic just yet. Instead, look at this list of the best perennials to grow in containers. This way, you can still enjoy the beauty perennials offer even if you only have room for a patio garden.
1. Dianthus – Due to their size and root size, dianthus are sure to fare well in container gardens.
2. Coneflowers – Yes, you can still grow a cutting garden in containers and coneflowers are perfect for the task!
3. Salvia – The tiny purple blooms that salvia produces are sure to bring all the bees to your yard.
4. Hosta – Small hosta varieties like Mouse Ear are ideal for growing in small pots and containers.
5. Sedum – This fall-blooming perennial will give you one last show for the growing season.
6. Lavender – Lavender doesn’t just smell good but can be used in homemade aromatherapy products.
7. Mint – Grow your own mint so you have plenty of this herb on hand for recipes.
8. Ferns – Create a garden full of various shades of green when you plant ferns.
10 of the Best Perennials to Grow by Seed or Seedlings:
When planting perennials, you can choose to grow by seed (more budget-friendly) or seedlings which is beneficial for those with a short growing season. Here are some of the best perennials to grow by seed or seedling.
1. Coneflowers – Scatter some coneflower seeds in an empty bed for quick results.
2. Lavender – Grow lavender from seeds and you will have a medicinal garden in no time.
3. Mint – Mint seeds can be grown in windowsill gardens or even patio gardens.
4. Sage – Grow sage seeds in a windowsill garden so you have it on hand for cooking.
5. Catmint – If you love to see results fast, catmint seeds are a great choice.
6. Bee Balm – Scatter bee balm seeds in any space you wish to cover quickly while also attracting bees.
7. Poppies – Scatter poppy seeds in your cutting garden for lots of colors.
8. Salvia – Salvia seeds and seedlings can add color (purple!) to any flower bed.
9. Delphinium – Delphinium seedlings are perfect for adding fast pastels to your landscaping.
10. Phlox – If you need ground cover fast, phlox is here to help.
6 of the Best Perennials to Grow by Bulbs:
Some perennials can only be grown by bulbs. Here are some of the best perennials to grow from bulbs, which are best when planted during the fall months before the first frost of the season. This way, the bulbs will have a chance to acclimate before they bloom in the spring.
1. Daylilies – Plant daylily bulbs anywhere you want a little height and interest in your yard.
2. Tulips – Tulip bulbs are ideal for borders and flower beds.
3. Allium – Allium blooms are quite interesting to look at, and add some height to your garden space.
4. Iris – Enjoy early spring blooms when you plant iris in both purple and even yellow.
5. Daffodils – Plant these bulbs to enjoy the earliest spring blooms in a variety of shades and sizes.
6. Hyacinth – This fragrant bloom is perfect for pots and borders.
Perennial Flowers by Color:
Sometimes, we like to plan our gardens and landscaping based on color and specific color combinations. There is nothing wrong with that! If you are trying to achieve a specific aesthetic, it is important to know what your various perennial flower color options are.
Take a look below where we have listed perennials by color, so you can decide which perennial flowers will work best with the color combination you are trying to achieve. Using this information you can easily go monochromatic, or pick out an assortment of colors that will work well together!
For a classic and more traditional look, red perennials are perfect. They compliment most neutral house colors and blend nicely with other white perennials. Red perennials are popular for their ability to attract hummingbirds as well.
– Bee Balm
– Red Hot Poker
If you like a more modern look, orange perennials are perfect. The bright shades of orange can help you feel cheerful the moment you walk out of the house. They also pair well with white perennials and blend nicely with various yellow perennials.
– Red Hot Poker
Nothing says spring and summer like yellow perennials. All of the examples below are easy to grow from both bulb and seed/seedlings and make nice additions
to cottage style or cutting gardens.
– Shasta Daisies
– Tea roses
For an English garden look, try mixing a variety of green perennials. Many people think green is a color used to compliment gardens, but it has no problem being the star of the show. Try mixing various types of hostas and ferns for a sweet look.
– Lemon Balm
If you want to bring bees and butterflies to your yard, blue perennials will help. Consider a few of the blue perennials below, and you will not only have color in your yard but pollinators too.
Purple perennials are another color of perennials that bring bees and butterflies to your yard. You have many types of plants to choose from if purple is your preferred flower color.
– Bee Balm
– Dead Nettles
– Rose of Sharon
If you like a monochromatic look, white perennials are perfect. Create a clean white canvas with your yard, or pair white with another color you are passionate about. White perennials work well with most landscaping plans and compliment most house colors as well.
– Bleeding Hearts
– Lily of the Valley
Pink perennials are a great addition to a cottage style or English style garden. They pair well with purple perennials or look classic when sprinkled in with white. They may also be able to help you attract butterflies to your yard.
– Tea Roses
– Bleeding Hearts
– Bee Balm
How to Keep Pests from Eating your Perennials:
When planting any kind of flower, it is important to remember the pest situations you might encounter. You don’t want to plant perennials just to have pests come along and devour them. Trust me, you will cry!
Save your tears and instead check out these perennials that are pest-proof. Whether you are trying to keep deer or mosquitoes away, you are sure to find the perfect perennial for the job.
8 Perennials that Repel Deer:
Just because you don’t see deer doesn’t mean they aren’t lurking about, waiting for you to go to sleep so they can come and nibble on your plants. Here are a few perennials that are deer resistant. As you will notice, these are flowers with strong scents, which seem to keep deer away.
1. Sage – This fragrant herb will repel deer but is perfect for cooking.
2. Salvia – Salvia helps you repel deer while attracting butterflies.
3. Peonies – This is one spring-blooming perennial that is safe from deer.
4. Daffodils – Deer won’t want to come near this early-blooming perennial.
5. Foxglove – These petite blooms please the eye but won’t interest deer.
6. Lungwort – Add lungwort to your flower beds where they will be safe from nibbling deer.
7. Bleeding Heart – The bleeding heart offers interesting, dripping blooms but won’t attract the deer.
8. Poppies – The bright blooms of poppies are perfect for cutting gardens and resistant to deer.
4 Perennials that Repel Mosquitoes:
These perennials are ideal for planting in areas where you like to sit and relax. This way, you can spend more time chatting and less time swatting away biting bugs. Some of the perennials that repel mosquitoes include:
1. Lemon Balm – This perennial smells pleasing to humans but mosquitoes won’t come near.
2. Basil – Not only is basil great for cooking, but it keeps mosquitoes far away.
3. Lavender – Lavender is another plant that is pleasing to humans, but scary to mosquitoes.
4. Mint – Grow mint to repel mosquitoes and boost your herb supply.
5 Perennials that repel rabbits:
Rabbits might look cute and cuddly, but the truth is they can devour your plants in no time. Take a look at a few perennials that repel rabbits so you can enjoy your plants instead of watching them get nibbled away!
1. Lungwort – This herb is perfect for yards where rabbits are an issue.
2. Salvia – Salvia helps you keep rabbits at bay while attracting pollinators.
3. Iris – This is one tall bloom that rabbits can’t reach.
4. Red Hot Poker – This perennial with the hot name adds interest without tempting rabbits.
5. Catnip – Cats may love catnip, but rabbits won’t give it a second look.
How to Plant Perennial Flowers:
Once you have decided which perennials you wish to plant, there are a few planting tips to keep in mind. While planting instructions will vary from plant to plant (i.e. planting depth and spacing) here are a few tips and the answers to commonly asked questions that can help with no matter which plants you decide on.
Where to Buy Perennial Flowers:
First, let’s look at where to buy perennial flowers. You always want to buy from a trusted grower. There are many flies by the night dealers out there who offer unusual and “rare” plant seeds that oftentimes end up being duds. Don’t let this happen to you. Only buy from reputable growers who have a long history in the gardening business.
You can either buy your seeds, bulbs, or live plants via an online retailer, from garden supply catalogs, or at brick and mortar retail stores. If you head to a retail store, you may have better luck going to a store that specializes in gardening supplies. Here you can find a wide assortment and get more personalized help.
Look for a growing guarantee. Many greenhouses and brands offer a money-back promise, where if your plant doesn’t grow you can get a refund. Look carefully at all packaging and hanging tags to see if your plant comes with one of these guarantees. Then, save your receipt in case you need to get a refund.
How to choose the best perennials:
When choosing perennial bulbs or seedlings, take the time to inspect the product. Make sure there is no damage, mold, or evidence of disease such as a white powder coating. For bulbs, they should be firm to the touch, not overly dried out, and in protective packaging. Seedlings should be bright in color, in moist soil, and free from breakage or yellowing/browning.
What kind of soil do perennials need?
Most perennials will benefit from well-drained, nutrient-rich soil. Be sure you choose a planting space that doesn’t accumulate water after a storm. You never want to plant in an area that gets muddy or pools water. Instead, choose well-draining soil and give your soil a nutrient boost such as compost.
Soil should always be loose and never clumpy or compacted. Loose soil gives the roots the chance they need to grow and spread without a great deal of effort.
How do I feed perennials?
Most perennials will benefit from two inches of water per week. Soil should always be moist but never muddy. Water your perennials at the base of the plant so the liquid goes to the roots where it is needed. If you simply spray the entire plant the water may accumulate on the foliage, which can cause burning and rot.
Should I fertilize perennials?
Feeding your perennials fertilizer can help boost their growth. While feeding instructions will be different for each plant, in most cases two feedings a year should be sufficient. Liquid plant food can help give plants the nutrients they need and help you achieve bigger and brighter blooms. Most gardeners like to fertilize right after planting or at the start of the season, and again about 4-6 weeks into the season.
Should I prune perennials?
Perennials can benefit from pruning at the start of the season as well as at the end of the season. Pruning can help your plants grow bushier and keep them from getting lanky and thin.
How do I thin perennials?
After 2-3 years, your perennials may start to overgrow and can benefit from thinning. When you thin out the perennial, you simply dig into the root and dig out new growth sections. When thinning, take care not to break into the original root system. Once you remove the new root system, you can cover the original system up with soil and care for it as usual.
You can then take your thinned out pieces and replant them in other areas of your yard. As mentioned, this is a great way to get free plants for your garden!
Can mulch benefit my perennials?
Yes! You can use mulch to protect the roots of your perennial and hold in moisture. Mulch can help keep roots cool during the hot summer months, and can even help with weed prevention. Simply apply a few inches of mulch around the base of your plant to achieve results.
Mulch can help your perennials in the fall and winter months as well. Cover up your perennials before the first frost of the season to give the plants extra warmth and protection.
How do I protect my perennials from pests?
Slugs, aphids, and other pests can quickly devour your perennials if given the chance. There are some simple steps you can take in order to keep pests off your plants so they have a chance to thrive.
Crushed eggshells around the base of your plants can help keep slugs away. Slugs won’t like the feeling of the shells and will decide to go elsewhere. Another bonus is the eggshells will offer nutrients to the soil. This method is especially effective around hostas, which slugs really seem drawn to. You can also use shallow dishes of beer around the plants, which also work as slug traps.
Making your own DIY pest spray is also an answer when it comes to keeping bugs away. You can make a mixture of 2 cups of water and a tablespoon of dish soap and simply spray on your plants. This is an old fashioned pest remedy that gardeners swear by!
Finally, you can buy over the counter pest solutions. Keep in mind however that these contain chemicals that may repel if not harm your beneficial pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
Should I deadhead my perennials?
Yes. In most cases, deadheading your spent blooms can help the plant conserve its energy. Take the time to investigate your perennials daily and simply snap off any spent foliage. You can always toss the dead blooms in your compost pile when done.
As you can see, when it comes to perennials you have so many options! It doesn’t matter what your sun/shade situation is, what kind of space you have, what your gardening skills are, or even what your color preferences are. When it comes to perennials, there is honestly a flower that fits the bill for your needs.
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Take your landscaping to the next level when you choose perennial flowers for your yard. You are sure to find that they offer many benefits, color, and tons of charm. And the best part? All of the work and effort you put in now will be able to be enjoyed for years to come. I will warn you, however, that once the neighbors see all of your perennial success they will no doubt be lining up for your thinned plants!
Give these perennial planning and planting tips a try, and see what kind of success you can enjoy. Don’t forget to check back and share your success stories with us. We would love to hear them!