Better Homes and Gardens Perennial Gardening

Better Homes and Gardens Perennial Gardening

Grow your favorite flowers right outside your door. The inspiring Step and easy to follow planting, growing, and care advice on the following Article will yield a bountiful display of beautiful blooms. Make a Better Homes and Gardens Perennial Gardening

When it comes to garden favorites, it’s tough to beat perennials.

In contrast to their annual cousins, these long-lived jewels grace a garden without fail for years. A perennial is a nonwoody plant that lives for more than two years and typically dies hack as hard frosts embrace foliage. New growth emerges in spring, either from the ground or from remnants of woody stems. Some perennials, like heart-leaf bergenia or mondo grass, retain foliage year-round and in warmer regions stand as evergreen sentries amid seasonal change.

Multi-talented performers

Perennials fill several of roles in the garden: star, supporting player, or chorus member. A clump of torch lilies with bold tint blooms commands attention, as does a full-size rodgersia leaf. Diminutive and feathery silver mound artemisia quietly complements other perennials, such as Autumn Joy sedum, while also inviting closer inspection with its distinctive foliage. As these versatile beauties grow through the season, plants alternate taking center stage. The swordlike foliage of crocosmia is striking in any season, yet it leaps to life when set ablaze by fiery flower spikes. The silver stems of Russian sage handily anchor a garden bed through the growing season, then when late summer blooms sparkle purple among the silvery haze, the effect stops traffic.

A celebration of variety

Diversity earns perennials a faithful follower Lacy, strappy, chunky, wispy-choose an adjective, and there’s a perennial leaf to may Some perennials tower to 6 feet or more; other hug the ground with neatly sprawling stems. others nestle in sumptuous billows in the garden awaiting their turn in the seasonal spotlight. Count on perennials to stage garden drama no matter the growing conditions. Plan a garden around deep shade, standing water, desert heat, a steep slope, or heavy clay soil, and you’ll find the perfect perennial. In outdoor living settings, perennials dress views with seasonal charms that may include flowers, fragrance, or butterfly-attracting blooms. For many gardeners, visions of rich, sweeping borders showcase these comeback bloomers in their best form, but perennials also draw a crowd when tucked into mixed borders, pots, or edible plantings. Perennials can stand alone or play a counterpoint to shrubs, bulbs, annuals, or even hardworking vegetables. They fit just as easily in tight quarters as they do in spacious environs.

Long-lasting beauty

Perennials keep time with the seasons. Anemone and bleeding heart awaken with the earliest rays of spring sunshine, greeting the arrival migrating robins with their pastel shades perennials, like monkshood and aster, bid growing season farewell with brilliant tin Some, like Lenten rose, never take a crust lingering through winter with deep green that stand out in snow.

The seasonal show is just one aspect o perennials long-lived splendor. These play grow stronger by the season, increasing  size and flower number as they age. Like i seasoned performers, mature perennials  each scene they grace. While many live as each scene they grace. While many live as long as 15 years in a typical garden setting, others, like peony, hosta, and false indigo, forge a legacy that can last up to too years. Perennials promise—and deliver—versatile, dependable, and adaptable beauty.

Charming beauty and limitless potential top the list of reasons to grow perennials.

These reliable plants can be orchestrated to play symphonies of seasonal color that delight and inspire. Hidden in the midst of perennials’ wonderful attributes, however, lie a few challenges. Knowledge needed To grow perennials successfully, you need to conquer a learning curve. Unlike annuals, which demand only one season’s worth of attention, perennials’ comeback personalities require a more sustained focus. Many gardeners mistakenly believe that perennials promise low maintenance and are a plant-it-and-forget-it package. While some plants feature easy-growing personalities, shrugging off disease or unfurling self-cleaning blooms, most perennials need attention. Ongoing care, such as staking, removing spent flowers, soil building, cutting down spent stalks, and dividing, makes perennial gardening a multitasking delight—and a great caloric-burning workout. Many plants demand specific techniques you’ll need to master to savor the fullest growth. Conversely, some care tactics apply to various perennials, allowing you to perfect newly acquired techniques throughout your garden. Because perennials require knowledge to grow, tending them easily becomes a lifelong pursuit filled with fresh learning opportunities. Color isn’t constant Most perennials flower for a two- to four-week period. Beyond that color filled time frame and without careful planning a perennial garden is mostly foliage. The trick is to compose a blend of perennials that flowers in sequence so your garden becomes an ever-building crescendo of seasonal beauty. This process isn’t hard to perfect, and you can always count on annuals tucked among perennials to sound steady notes of color throughout the growing season.

Elbow room required

Elbow Because perennials live for more than one season, they’re constantly growing and enlarging their borders. A ‘Jack Frost’ brunnera may start as a tidy clump of stems, but in ideal growing conditions can easily double in size from one year to the next. One false indigo stern can magically transform into a multistemed shrub over the course of several growing seasons. Some plants, like spotted bellflower, run rampant through a planting bed, trading a puddle of color for a river of bloom. It’s this changeability that gives a perennial garden its charm. From year to year, the dynamic nature of the plants maintains a lively scene and keeps gardeners busy. When you design a perennial garden, avoid the temptation to overcrowd young plants and instead plan for growth. You’ll also need to increase the volume of plants you use if you want season-long color. Where three or four annuals will brighten a bed with nonstop blooms, you may need at least a dozen different perennials to ensure long-lasting color. That many plants need a larger planting bed than a few annuals, which also adds more garden chores. In the long run, perennials are worth any extra effort you make to learn, plan, or tend. When you arrange a planting that combines individual perennials into a harmonious blend of color, texture, and bloom, you’ll savor the beauty and discover the inspiration only perennials can give.

Perennials for beginner to experienced gardeners

Some perennials take off when planted in soil and multiply quickly without overtaking planting beds. Other perennials aren’t necessarily difficult to grow; they just have specific demands or slow-growing natures that make success less certain. In the right region or where growing requirements are met, these plants would be called easy.






DAYLILY (shown)





CLEMATIS (shown)




Perennials solve problems

Internationally diverse, perennials hail from every part of the globe. You can grow agapanthus from South Africa, campanula from Russia, meadow rue from Spain, or peonies from China. If you prefer North American natives, look for bleeding heart, cardinal flower, coral bells, evening primrose, or hyssop. Layered onto this geographical array of homelands, perennials also originate from a variety of growing conditions. Some, like Japanese water iris, rose turtlehead, and sweet flag, grow in standing water. Pinks and yellow corydalis thrive in fast-draining, slightly alkaline soil, while astilbe and primrose flourish in moist, well-drained soil and shade. Perennials offer possibilities for every growing situation. As you contemplate digging into perennial gardening, approach it from the standpoint of solving landscape problems. There’s a perennial that will thrive in every There’s a perennial that will thrive in every growing situation. If you have a slope too steep for mowing, you can trade turf for a perennial ground cover.

Near downspouts and low spots in your yard where water gathers after downpours, moisture-loving perennials can transform an eyesore into a beauty spot. Where lower rainfall dictates water restrictions, tap into the world of xeriscape plants, which grow and flower profusely with little moisture. Natural deposits of acid soil can support lovely perennials that will make you grateful for the locally low pH. Stop fighting to grow grass beneath shade trees—plant shade-loving perennials instead. You can even find perennials that serve as lawn stand-ins—tidy, ground-hugging plants that withstand foot traffic and stay green year-round. In municipalities where surface runoff adds charges to your water bill, incorporating a rain garden filled with moisture-loving perennials will dissipate roof, driveway, or patio runoff into the soil and can reduce your water fees. Use the listing of perennials adapted to various growing conditions on the opposite page to draft solutions to your landscaping problems.

Perennial solutions For every problem area in your landscape you’ll find perennials that only survive, but also thrive in the conditions available. Simply match the preferred growing conditions of each perennial to the site.

Perennial solutions
Perennial solutions


CARDINAL FLOWER:Brilliant red flowers in late summer to early fall.
GOATSBEARD: Lacy, white flower plumes atop 3- to 5-foot tall plants from early to midsummer.
JOE-PYE WEED: Large mauve blooms; up to 6 feet tall when in late summer bloom (pictured above).
RODGERSIA: Coarse texture, Bower plumes in spring or summer.
SWEET FLAG: Long-lasting sword like foliage.


ASTILBE: Long-lasting flower stalks in summer (pictured above).

BARRENWORT: Red, pink, white, purple, or bi color blooms in early to mid spring.

FOAM FLOWER: White or light pink flowers in springing. HARDY BEGONIA Heart•shape foliage; pink flowers in late summer.

HOSTS: Grown for foliage; many cultivars.

LENTEN ROSE: Coarse-texture foliage; blooms in late winter to early spring.

LUNG WORT: Early spring flowers and variegated foliage.

OLD-FASHIONED BLEEDING HEART: Heart-shape pink flowers in spring,

WOODLAND PHLOX: Fragrant blue, purple, pink, or white flowers in late spring.


ANEMONE Late summer or fall flowers.
CORAL BELLS Many cultivars with colorful foliage (pictured above).
CREEPING BABY’S BREATH White flowers in summer.
GERANIUM Spring or summer flowers depending on species; foliage of many turns red in fall
PINCUSHION FLOWER Blue flowers on wiry stems appear summer to fall,
PINKS White, pink, or red flowers in spring and summer; evergreen foliage.


BLUE FESCUE Ornamental grass with bluish green foliage
CATMINT Fragrant foliage and lavender• blue flowers in early summer (pictured above).
FALSE INDIGO Pealike blue flowers in late spring followed by attractive seedpods.
LIRIOPE Dark green grasslike foliage.
PENSTEMON Desert species have bright flower colors, upright shape.
WHITE GAURA Airy white or pink flower stalks from midsummer to fall.
YUCCA Rounded clump of upright foliage.


COREOPSIS Yellow flowers all summer (pictured above).

HOLLYHOCK Summer flowers on tall spikes early to midsummer.

MALTESE CROSS Silver foliage and scarlet flowers in early summer.

ORIENTAL POPPY Flowers with paper like petals in late spring and early summer.

PEONY Large, fragrant flowers in late spring to early summer.

MOUNTAIN BLUET Blue-violet flowers in mid spring to early summer.

TREE MALLOW Shrublike with white, pink, or purple-pink flowers all summer.


BEAR’S BREECHES Tall flower spikes in late spring to early summer and texture-rich foliage.
CINNAMON FERN Reddish brown fronds in center of plant
FRINGED BLEEDING HEART Finely cut foliage; flowers all summer (pictured above).
GAYFEATHER Purple or white flower spikes in early to midsummer.
HEART-LEAF BERGENIA Shiny evergreen foliage.
JAPANESE IRIS Showy flowers in late spring or summer.
LENTEN ROSE Flowers in late winter.

Perennial solutions Perennial plantings transform an outdoor living area (at left) into a garden escape. Mingling flowering shrubs, such as hydrangea and shrub roses with long bloomers like black-eyed susan stages a season-long color show. Here are more site-specific perennials.


DAYLILY Adaptable grower for tough conditions. Many colors available.

GERANIUM Many species with pink, purple, or white blooms for sun to part shade.
FALSE SUNFLOWER Also called heliopsis, this daisylike flower is a prairie native.

MONKSHOOD Late summer spikes of deep blue for shady sites.

OBEDIENT PLANT Rapid spreader with pink or white candles of bloom.

PEONY Fragrant pink, red, white, or yellow late spring blooms (pictured above).

YARROW Ferny foliage and drought-tolerant; golden yellow, white, pink, red, or salmon color blooms.


ARTEMISIA Silvery foliage is the key feature of this perennial.

BLANKET FLOWER Long bloom season of orange-red daisies marked with yellow.

FALSE INDIGO Shrubby plant with spikes of blue blooms in spring (pictured above).

LAVENDER COTTON Herb with fine texture in silvery gray or green.

THYME Groundcover with pinkish purple blooms.
YARROW Adapted to full sun and dry soils with wide range of bloom colors.

YUCCA Succulent with spiky foliage and trusses of white bell-shape blooms.


ARMERIA Also called sea thrift, this compact plant has grassy foliage and pink or white blooms (pictured above).

BLANKET FLOWER Bicolor daisylike blooms on mounded plants.

BUTTERFLY WEED Brilliant orange blooms highly attractive to butterflies.

CANDYTUFT White blooms in spring on mounded evergreen foliage.

DAYLILY Tough plant for almost any situation except deep shade.

HEN AND CHICKS Succulent with rosettes of green, pink or purple foliage.

PINKS Carnation relatives with grassy bluegreen foliage and fragrant pink, white, or red blooms.


ASTILBE Shade and moisture lovers with feathery plumes of bloom.
BARREN WORT Shade-tolerant groundcover with delicate looking blooms.

CARDINAL FLOWER Spikes of brilliant red blooms on plants that love moisture.

FOXGLOVE Clustered spikes of pink bells (pictured above).

LENTEN ROSE Late winter bloomer in shades of pink, white or purple.

ORNAMENTAL ALLIUM Perennial bulb with blooms of purple or white.

RUSSIAN SAGE Silvery gray foliage and purple blooms in summer.


DELPHINIUM Long spikes of blue, purple, pink or white.

GLOBEFLOWER Yellow springtime blooms with feathery centers (pictured above).

JAPANESE PRIMROSE Moisture-loving plant with globes of pink, purple, or white blooms in spring.

LADY’S MANTLE Chartreuse blooms over bluegreen foliage.

LUPINE Upright spikes of pealike blooms in many shades,

MONKSHOOD Fall bloomer for the shade.

ORIENTAL POPPY Crepelike blooms in spring in shades of orange, red, pink, or white.
HOT CLIMATES BLACKBERRY LILY Orange blooms turn into black seed clusters.
BLANKET FLOWER Adaptable daisy for tough sites.

DAYLILY Trumpet-shape blooms In a wide range of colors.

HARDY BEGONIA Glossy green foliage with pink blooms.

MEXICAN SAGE Deep purple blooms on silvery plants (pictured above).

MUHLY GRASS Feathery foliage and white or pinkish blooms.

THREADLEAF COREOPSIS Finely dissected foliage with small yellow daisy like blooms.

Once you begin to discover perennials to grow in your garden

it’s time to leap into the pool of plant taxonomy, the naming of plants. The reason you need to understand plant names is simple: Some plants, like coneflower, have several named varieties. If you want a coneflower with backward-curving orange petals, you need to understand the name in order to purchase the right one. Some perennial names, like Campanula portenschlagiana, are curiously long and complicated, or short and sweet, as in Alcea roses. The purpose of plant names is to organize the world of plants. Most perennials have two types of names: a common and a botanical. Common names The common name of a plant is easy to pronounce and, at times, wonderfully descriptive.

Names like blackberry lily, bleeding heart, goatsbeard, and fountain grass offer glimpses into a plant’s personality or appearance. A common name can also reveal clues about a plant’s origin, such as Ozark sundrops, or it can paint a picture of a flower, like rose turtlehead. Common names are often confusing because the same plants may have different common names in different places. Liatris spicata, which we list as gayfeather, is also known as blazing star or button snakeroot. Bugbane (Actaea mcemasa) is also sold as black cohosh, autumn snakeroot, or black snakeroot. The same common name can also refer to completely unrelated plants. Gayfeather and bugbane are from two unrelated plant groups, but share a same common name, “snakeroot.” Botanical names A botanical name consists of two parts: a genus and a specific epithet. The genus is a closely related group of plants. It always begins with a capital letter and is written in italics. Think of a genus as a surname, for example, Sedum. The second part of a plant name, the specific epithet, is written after the genus and is also italicized. In the Sedum genus, there are specific members with identifying characteristics—such as Sedum acre, Sedum spurium, and Sedum reflexum. Within a species, sometimes there are plants that are very similar but have one or more outstanding differences. These plants arc called a variety of that species. Sedum hispanicum has a variety known as Sedum hispanicvar minus, which grows only 4 inches tall.

A variety can be cultivated for a specific growth characteristic that occurs through natural mutation, plant selection by breeders, or hybridization. In these cases, the cultivated variety is called a cultivar. Cultivars for Sedum spurium include ‘Dragon’s Blood’, with bronze-tinged leaves, and ‘Red Carpet’, with red tinted leaves that turn burgundy in the fall. Cultivar names are typically capitalized and set off with single quotes. For easy reading, plants are listed by their common name throughout most of this book. But in the encyclopedia, the full botanical name for each plant is also used, so you can find the same plant at nurseries, catalogs, and in other books.
Name changes As taxonomists study plants, they sometimes conclude that a plant is named incorrectly and belongs to a different genus or species. An example of that is bugbane. Now listed as part of the Actaea genus, it was previously—and still is, in some cases—known as Cimicifuga. If you see two names listed for a perennial in a catalog or on a website and you plan to find the plant at a local garden center, be sure to record both names. Sometimes grower nurseries have a stock of plant tags on hand, and they’ll use what they have, which might use an older name.


Botanical latin Plant names are often pronounced differently. Clematis might be KLEM-uh-tiss or kluh-MAT-iss. For Phlox paniculata, the species may sound like pa-nik-ew-LAH-ta or pa-nik-ew-LAY-ta. Don’t worry about pronunciation rules. The bottom line on botanical names is that they are the key to getting the right plant.

Plant names at a glance

Cultivar name

The cultivar name is assigned by the plant breeder. Popular cultivars are commonly referred to by their cultivar names in garden centers and mail order catalogs Example: Goldsturm.

Genus name

The first word in a plant’s botanical name is the genus. Think of this as a surname. There are several members of the Rudbeckia plant genus.

Species name

The second word in a botanical name is the specific epithet, commonly called the species. This identifies the plant specifically, separating it from all other plants in the genus. It is meaningless unless used in combination with the genus name. Rudbeckict fulgida is a specific species.

Common name

Common names fluctuate. One person might call this plant rudbeckia, while another calls it black-eyed susan.

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