When choosing plants for your yard for the first time, it can be overwhelming without a lot of experience to try to find the best perennials for landscaping and the ones that give the highest value for your money. As we are visual creatures, we tend to pay at first more attention to external things, and that’s not always the right way to go.
Wait, what is a perennial exactly?
Perennials are plants that emerge back after winter or last from year to year in your garden on the contrary to annuals and biennials that flourish two years at most, reproduce and die after. You can read a more profound definition of a perennial here in Wikipedia
How to choose the best perennials for landscaping your yard?
There are thousands of cultivars to choose from, but which are the best ones? The answer depends on a lot of the person you ask because we all value different things. But lets to go through, what is an excellent perennial? What characteristics make some plants better than others?
Many of us prefer low maintenance perennials that are easy to care for and which survive in any condition. If that sounds something you like, look for plants that don’t require the following:
- Pruning multiple times in a season.
- Need for constant fertilizing.
- Doesn’t spread or seed uncontrollably (if it’s not what you are looking for)
- It has a weak tolerance for drought.
- Don’t need yearly dividing.
- It doesn’t need staking or complicated supporting.
- The plant is long-lived, so it doesn’t need to replaced continuously.
Keep in mind that plants thrive and stay healthy and are easier to maintain when you do the groundwork properly. You can read my step-by-step guide on how to make a flower bed, where I explain three simple ways how you can get started.
How to keep your garden interesting in all seasons?
Even though we often spend less time in the garden during the winter months, it’s a good idea to plant something in your yard that you can easily admire through the windows. Perennials with four-season interest are an excellent way to keep your yard fascinating year around.
Characters in a perennial that brings four-season interest to your garden are like:
- stunning fall color,
- exfoliating or color-changing bark
- spectacular trunk formation
- is evergreen
If you’re looking for flowering plants, it’s good to know how long is the flowering period. Some might bloom just a couple of days when others offer an abundance of flowers for months.
Perennials with a long blooming time
Hellebore multiple var., Helleborus
Also called Lenten Rose. Amazing shade-loving, evergreen perennials with glossy foliage. They remarkably flower very early spring, from 6-8 weeks, even through snow, and come in all colors except true blue. Hellebores don’t mind about the coldness, but they like to grow where they get protection from the sun in mid-summer. Deers don’t like it, and it’s low maintenance.
Gaura, Oenothera lindheimeri
This sun lover can take heat and drought and blooms all summer. It’s a vase-shaped clump, and depending on a variety, it has a white or pink-colored dancing fairy-like flowers swinging in the air on the tips of slender arching stems. Growing 2-4 ft. high and 2-3 ft. wide. The great thing is, it’s deer and rabbit resistant.
Catmint multiple var., Nepeta x fassenii
Catmint is 1-2 ft. high and 1,5-3 ft. wide-spreading clumb of stems with grayish-green foliage, and it blooms with masses of blue-purple colored flowers. With some deadheading or shearing after the blooms start to fade, it’ll keep adding color to your garden from late spring to October. It’s an excellent border plant and seeds are sterile so that it won’t take a hike through your yard. Rabbits and deers tend to leave it in peace.
Bleeding Heart, Dicentra spectabilis
Bleeding Heart is a spring-blooming sweetheart with red, pink, or white flowers that look like a heart split in two and something bleeding out. It has a bright light green foliage, and it thrives in shaded, moist areas in fertile soil. If you plant it in a protected site and you remove the fading flowers early enough before turning into seed pods, it will keep growing and blooming until September. In a too sunny or dry spot, it’ll disappear in mid-summer and might emerge again in the fall.
Up to 5 months blooming Coneflowers are fantastic because of their low maintenance and tolerance for almost anything. Only slugs might sometimes trouble them. This daisy-like flower comes in green, orange, pink, purple, red, white, and yellow.
Reblooming perennials will give a long-lasting color to your garden.
Some perennials bloom only one set of flowers during the summer when others have more than just one cycle of blooms per year. They bloom multiple times or continuously in a season, and are so-called rebloomers. Think about enjoying perennial flowering for months instead of just weeks!
Bearded Iris “Reblooming varieties”, Iris germanica
Compared to regular Bearded Iris’s, these ‘rebloomers’ give their first set of flowers in spring, and then they prepare to bloom again in late summer or fall if conditions are right. Flourishing in full or part sun, they are easy to care and are resistant to drought, diseases, insects, and deers.
Daylily “rebloomers”, Hemerocallis
Daylilies have semi-evergreen grass-like clumps of foliage, and they start blooming in midseason, but rebloomers continue to late fall. In mid-October, after some freezing nights, my reblooming Stella de Oro was turning its foliage to fall colors but still pushing new flowers every day. What a fantastic little perennial to fit in any flowerbed. Daylilies come in a wide range of vibrant colors, have low care requirements, and are rabbit and deer resistant.
Lilac “Bloomerang Collection”, Syringa x
I remember heavenly scented Lilacs from my grandmother’s spring garden and how their fragrance was a promise of arriving summer. But what? ‘Bloomerang’ flowers first in the spring, and then it loads a new set of buds and keeps firing again from mid-summer to fall. It’s a nicely round-shaped 5 feet shrub to fit almost any size of a garden and Lilacs resist deers very well.
Hydrangea’s “Endless Summer Collection”, Hydrangea
Ensures a spectacular show with re-blooming from spring to fall. In cold climates where freezing temperatures damages flower buds and prevent other hydrangeas from flowering, Endless Summer will bloom from old wood and new wood (growth created in the current season) and flower every year regardless of last winter frost damages. At the moment, five different varieties in pink, blue, or white have something for every Hydrangea-lover.
Azalea “Encore Collection”, Rhododendron
If you love Azaleas and masses of beautiful single, semi-double or double flowers in an evergreen shrub, this is something amazing! Encore collection with 31 varieties of different colors and sizes, not just blooming for a couple of weeks during the spring, they will re-bloom not once but twice and keep adding color to your garden instead of weeks for months. These have bright green foliage throughout the year and tolerate more sun than regular Azaleas but still require moist, organic, acidic soil to thrive. You can read more about the Encore Azalea collection from plantingtree.com
A thriving, happy plant always looks great.
Excellent addition to your garden are plants that are evergreen or have at least good foliage through the growing season. The best ones are also disease resistant, and healthy-looking plants will keep your landscape neat and lush looking through the year. While some perennials might be short-lived, some of the following are very long-lived like Peony with a lifespan over 100 years and camellia over 200 years.
Peony, Paeonia lactiflora
Peony is a deciduous perennial with one of the most romantic flowers and with a good appearance of the foliage through the growing season. It blooms in spring, a short time, sometimes less than a week, but it’s still highly adored. Peony is deer and rabbit resistance and has low maintenance requirements. And once this sun lover gets established, it’s also drought tolerant.
Mountain Laurel, Kalmia latifolia
Evergreen shrub with oval-shaped, leathery, glossy leaves. Interesting looking pink, white, or reddish flower clusters cover this rounded shaped bushy plant in spring or early summer. Depending on the variety, it can grow from 3 ft. to 20 ft. tall. It requires a cool, moist, acidic, organic soil for best performance, and as shallow-rooted, it might need watering in hotter periods from drying out.
Japanese Camellia, Camellia japonica
Camellia has been highly adored for hundreds of years in Japan, Korea, and China, so there are over 30,000 cultivars of this elegant shrub. It’s an evergreen with glossy foliage and has fascinating symmetrical flowers emerging between late winter to spring, and they last from 3 to 4 weeks. Camellias grow best in the shade but tolerate some morning sun, but varieties with light pink or white-colored flowers are more sensitive, especially when they’re young. Provide this queen of the winter garden with acidic soil and even moisture year-round to keep it happy. It can also be grown in a large pot on a patio.
This perennial brings something exciting to your garden shaded areas. White, pink, and deep red, through soft lavender and violet straight standing bottle-brush looking flowers, will stand out from the flowerbed in the spring and summer. It’s a shade and moisture-loving plant with fern-like foliage that looks good through the growing season. It requires very little care and is easy to grow.
An old classic is a classic for a reason. In the spring, massive vibrant colored flower clusters cover this shrub or small tree for weeks. It’s evergreen with glossy leaves and thrives in more shaded areas with partial sun. Rhododendron is a genus of 1024 species, and you can find sizes from 3′ to up 20′ and flowers come in colors pink, white, red, purple, and yellow.
Excellent ground covers
Ground cover plants are great for blocking weeds and preventing the ground from erosion on slopes. Persistent, low growing plants can easily add color to road shoulders and sites where soil can be too gravely or poor for anything else to grow. They are also useful in places where mowing is challenging, and in areas that might be too shaded for a lawn.
Candytuft, Iberis cempervirens
Pure white flower carpet covers this low growing evergreen plant in mid-spring or early summer and it often rebloom in the fall. It suits well for gravelly road shoulders, rock gardens or flower borders with good drainage while it doesn’t tolerate wet soils. Candytuft thrives in full sun and grows from 8-10″ high and 12″ wide mound. Deers or rabbits won’t trouble it.
Kinnikinnick, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi
Kinnikinnick is also known as It is an evergreen, very easy-care low growing and trailing shrub that looks especially lovely in woodland gardens. Small rounded glossy leaves turn purplish in winter and back to green in spring when also small lantern-shaped flowers show up. Tiny blossoms last for weeks and eventually switch to bright red berries. It grows in dry, sandy, and rocky soils and is drought resistant after establishing.
Bearberry Cotoneaster, Cotoneaster dammeri
A groundcover that creates tight evergreen mats by trailing and covering the soil up to 12″ high. It has small glossy leaves that get a red-bronze tint in wintertime and turn back to green in the spring when it also blooms with little white flowers. During the fall, it catches your eye with bright glossy red berries, and they remain long to the winter.
Creeping Phlox, Phlox subulata
Sweet pastel-colored, star-shaped flowers cover this whole plant in masses in mid to late spring for 3-4 weeks. Needle-like foliage grows in 4″-6″ clumps covering about 2′ wide area. A real show stopper if grown in masses! It’s an evergreen and very trouble-free and deer resistant.
Stonecrop “Angelina”, Sedum reflexum ‘Angelina‘
An eye-catching yellow to lime-green colored evergreen sedum. It has vigorous growth, and it’ll give beautiful splashes of color to border edging. Thriving also in rocky soils, it’s drought-resistant and effortless to care. Needle-like foliage gets copper-orange tones in winter, and it’s is deer and rabbit resistant.
Great perennial grasses for landscaping
Grasses give landscapes a more natural look, and they soften flower borders nicely. The best ones are sturdy enough to stand tall even with light snowfall, adding winter interest to your garden and offering shelter for birds and wildlife.
Dwarf Pampas grass, Cortaderia selloana ‘Pumila’
Only to 4-6′ high and 3-4′ wide growing smaller form of Pampas grass suites well in the background of large borders to give some lightness. It has silvery toned arching blades, sharp as well, and very showy flowers emerging at the end of summer. They last through the winter and snow and look great as dried flowers in a vase or a wreath. Thrives in full sun but survives in partial and is drought-tolerant after getting established.
Maiden Grass ‘Morning Light’, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’
Vase-shaped silvery toned grass that gracefully sways in the lightest breeze adding movement to your landscape. It’s tough as a nail and tolerates dry soils, salt, deers and rabbits growing 4-6′ high and 3-4′ wide. It blooms with 5″ long bronze-brown flowers in early fall lasting through winter.
Karl Foerster Feather Grass, Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’
Narrow and straight-up pointing grass blooms from early summer to fall with bronze-brown feathery flowering spikes. As they mature and get slimmer, the plant turns into a wheat color that looks extremely beautiful, standing tall in the winter. Grows also in heavy clay and wet soil and resists deer and rabbit.
Switch Grass, Panicum virgatum “Shenandoah”
Steely-blue compact 3-4′ erect clump of foliage that turns into burgundy-red tones in fall and persists well into winter. It grows well in full or partial sun and flowers with finely textured reddish-pink flower spikelets.
Clumping Monkey Grass, Liriope muscari
Evergreen dark green grass that reminds of turf is a great problem solver as a ground cover under shading trees. It grows to 1-2′ high dense clumps and flowers with up-ward pointing spikes with small purple flower lasting for weeks. Thriving in any sun conditions, it’s also deer, rabbit, and drought tolerant.
With ornamental shrubs, you get more with less work
Ornamental shrubs often provide year-round color and structure to your landscape, and you can use them as groundcovers, hedge plants, or eye-catching focal points. Here are my top choices that offer outstanding appearance with very little care.
Flaming Silver Pieris, Pieris japonica ‘Flaming Silver’
Handsome evergreen shrub with silvery-white variegation on leaves. New growth appears pinkish-red in early spring, and about the same time, bell-shaped flower chains show up. A truly eye-catching plant! It likes a moderately fertile humus-rich soil with even moisture and good drainage. Best in partial sun and prefers planting in a relatively sheltered site with generous mulching. Grows slowly and reaches 5′ high and same width in about in ten years.
Korean Barberry, Berberis koreana
A thorny multi-stemmed shrub with semi-evergreen leaves that have crimson red color during the fall. In spring golden-yellow flower clusters burst to bloom in this round-shaped shrub and are followed by red egg-shaped berries that persist long in the winter, adding a lot of interest in the garden. Performs best in full or partial sun and has a moderate growth rate reaching up 4′-6′ high and same wide. It’s easy to grow and to care for, and it’s deer and drought tolerant.
Heavenly Bamboo, Nandina domestica
Appealing small shrub with evergreen or semi-evergreen bamboo-like fine foliage what picks up purple and bronze tints in fall and often turns attractive crimson in winter, especially in the sun and with some frost. Large panicles of red berries delight the eye from fall long to the winter. Nandina is effortless to care and very adaptable to a wide range of soils also drought-resistant once established but best with even moisture and well-draining soil. It’s happy in any sun condition, and with a narrow, up-ward growing habit, it’s an easy fit in tight places. Heavenly Bamboo can grow from 4-8 ft. tall and 2-4 ft. wide, and you can use it as an accent plant or as a hedge.
Red Twig Dogwood, Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’
A deciduous multi-stemmed shrub with surprising year-round interest. In spring, it has tiny white flowers that turn to blueish berries in fall and green foliage change to stunning purple-red before falling and revealing coral-red current year growth, which is very showy in winter months. It grows in partial to full sun and might need regular watering to maintain evenly moist soil. Red twig Dogwood needs some maintenance because if you want to keep the appealing red color in the branches, old stems need to be cut back in early spring so that new red growth will emerge.
Glossy Abelia multible var., Abelia x grandiflora
Beautiful Abelia is a round-shaped shrub with gracefully arching branches with attractive leaf-color options. Depending on the variety dense semi-evergreen foliage can have colors of red, plum, green, and variegated ones with white, yellow, and reddish margins. In late spring, it begins to bloom with fragrant clusters of white tubular flowers with a pinkish-tint and will rebloom through summer to fall when foliage begins to take purplish-bronze colors. It’s low maintenance and easy to grow in average soil with good drainage and on top of all this, it’s deer resistant. Yippee!
Diversity adds character to your landscape.
Here I listed some excellent perennials to use for creating a stunning landscape that is intriguing year around, and I hope you found something new to consider for your yard.
Also, I think that a perfect garden embraces every sense in your body. So when creating one, don’t just look for the beauty in colors but also enjoy the charming fragrances of flowers, hear the birds singing in the trees, and feel the touch of soft grass under your bare feet. To me, it’s a combination of these that make a garden feel truly alive and complete.
I would love to hear in the comments if you have favorite perennials that you find amazing!
For easy pinning, so you don’t forget it!
photo credit: alh1 Lake District April 2019, Mirehouse, Bassenthwaite via photopin(license) daryl_mitchell Arctic Phlox Flowers via photopin(license) Sarah Gregg | Italy Arctostaphylos uva-ursi MJS707 C011 via photopin(license)