Perennials are probably the most versatile of all the plants. It’s no wonder that we have an entire month dedicated to the celebration and planting of these exceptional flora. With proper care, they faithfully grow back every year with little fuss. It takes about three years of growth to become well established. As the saying goes, “The first year they sleep, the second year they creep, and the third year they leap!” There are many sizes, shapes, and colors to choose from where perennials are concerned, but what makes it a perennial? By definition, a perennial is a plant that normally lives more than two growing seasons and, after an initial period, produces flowers annually. Most perennials die back to the ground each fall, but their crowns and root systems remain alive (though dormant) during the winter. They regrow from those roots and crowns the next spring when the conditions are right. Although they may be more expensive than annuals initially, within a few years they have paid for themselves.
Annuals, in contrast, are plants that complete their life cycle in a single season. They offer beautiful blooms throughout the growing season, but when the frost strikes, they are gone. A great way to remember the difference between an annual and a perennial is that annuals must be replanted each year, or annually. Annuals have their place in the garden and are excellent color spots for perennial beds.
Perennial gardens are popular, not only because of their obvious benefits, like not having to be replanted each year, but because they are dynamic! They change with the season. Each perennial emerges from the ground, grows, and flowers at its own special time ~ some early, some late. Unlike annuals, which usually bloom for a long time, perennials bloom for about 1 to 6 weeks, depending on the species. By carefully selecting plants with a variety of bloom times, your garden will change throughout the growing season, and you’ll always have something in flower. In addition to a wide variety of flower colors and forms, many perennials have attractive foliage that adds visual interest even when they are not in flower. We’ve listed a few for you to explore planting in your gardens.
- Coreopsis (Coreopsis): Coreopsis, commonly known as Tickseed, is a sun-loving perennial with bright, daisy-like flowers. These plants are known for their long blooming period and low-maintenance nature. Notable species include Coreopsis grandiflora and Coreopsis lanceolata.
- Dianthus (Dianthus): Dianthus, also known as Carnations or Pinks, are beloved for their delightful fragrance and intricate petals. These perennials come in a wide range of colors and can be grown in containers, borders, or rock gardens. Notable species include Dianthus caryophyllus and Dianthus gratianopolitanus.
- Hosta (Hosta): Hostas are shade-loving perennials admired for their attractive foliage. These plants come in various sizes and leaf colors, ranging from vibrant greens to variegated patterns. Notable species include Hosta sieboldiana and Hosta ventricosa.
- Heuchera (Heuchera): Heuchera, also known as Coral Bells, are versatile perennials cherished for their colorful foliage. These plants offer a wide range of leaf colors, including shades of green, purple, silver, and bronze. Notable species include Heuchera americana and Heuchera sanguinea.
- Sedum (Sedum): Sedums, also called Stonecrops, are drought-tolerant perennials with succulent leaves and vibrant flowers. These plants add texture and interest to both garden beds and rock gardens. Notable species include Sedum spectabile and Sedum rupestre.
- Cordyline (Cordyline): Cordyline, also called Cabbage Palm, is a tropical-looking perennial with bold, architectural foliage. These plants are ideal for adding a dramatic focal point to your garden. Notable species include Cordyline australis and Cordyline fruticosa.
- Phlox (Phlox): Phlox is a fragrant perennial that emits a delightful scent, making it a favorite among gardeners. These tall, showy flowers come in a range of colors, including pink, purple, white, and red. Notable species include Phlox paniculata and Phlox subulata.
- Delosperma (Delosperma): Delosperma, commonly known as Ice Plants, are low-growing perennials that produce brilliant blooms. These plants thrive in sunny locations and are well-suited for rock gardens and containers. Notable species include Delosperma cooperi and Delosperma nubigenum.
- Pulmonaria (Pulmonaria): Pulmonaria, or Lungworts, are shade-loving perennials with charming flowers and striking foliage. These plants are valued for their ability to brighten up shady areas in the garden. Notable species include Pulmonaria officinalis and Pulmonaria saccharata.
- Alstroemeria (Alstroemeria): Alstroemeria, commonly known as Peruvian Lilies, are cherished for their elegant flowers and long vase life. These perennials come in a range of colors and are adored for their beauty in bouquets. Notable species include Alstroemeria aurantiaca and Alstroemeria psittacina.
- Peonies (Paeonia): Peonies are prized for their magnificent blooms and intoxicating fragrance. These herbaceous perennials come in a variety of shades, from delicate pastels to rich, bold hues. Notable varieties include Paeonia lactiflora and Paeonia suffruticosa.
- Veronica (Veronica): Veronica, also known as Speedwell, is a versatile perennial with spiky flowers that attract butterflies and bees. These plants are available in different heights and colors, including shades of blue, pink, and white. Notable species include Veronica spicata and Veronica longifolia.
- Hellebores (Helleborus): Hellebores, also known as Lenten Roses, are early blooming perennials that bring color to late winter and early spring gardens. These plants feature exquisite, downward-facing flowers in various shades of pink, purple, and white. Notable species include Helleborus orientalis and Helleborus niger.
- Hibiscus (Hibiscus): Hibiscus plants are known for their large, showy flowers that come in a range of vibrant colors. These perennials add a tropical touch to any garden. Notable species include Hibiscus rosa-sinensis and Hibiscus syriacus.
- Crocosmia (Crocosmia): Crocosmia, also known as Montbretia, is a striking perennial that produces fiery, sword-shaped flowers in shades of red, orange, and yellow. These plants add a touch of drama and vibrancy to any garden. Notable species include Crocosmia 'Lucifer' and Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora.
Perennial gardening brings an ever-changing tapestry of colors, scents, and textures to your outdoor space. With so many perennials to choose from that are suitable in the Northwest and the perfect season for planting them, why not get started right now? Al’s perennial selection is premium during the month of June, and we always have knowledgeable staff on hand to help you make the right selections for your landscape area. Happy gardening!