Hooked on Perennials

Annette Ipsan
Frederick County Master Gardener Program

I confess. I'm hopelessly hooked on perennials. What's not to love? You plant them once and they bloom year after year. The forms and colors are endless. And in a few years, you can divide and share them with friends. To get you started, here are my top 10 that love the sun, take minimal care, and sport lovely flowers.

Topping my hit parade are daylilies. Hemerocallis are hands-down the easiest things to grow with the greatest rewards. They are drought-resistant, pest-resistant and bloom in every color of the rainbow. Single, double, and ruffled forms flourish at heights from one to four feet. Most bloom for a month between May and August, but July is their time to shine.

The real stars of the May garden, iris are wonderfully carefree, especially the bearded or German varieties. Hundreds of colors and varieties are available including Siberian and Japanese cultivars. Look for the new reblooming varieties that give you a second bloom in late summer or fall.

Pincushion flowers or Scabiosa come in dozens of pastel shades and bloom all summer long. All are appealing, but a standout is the butter yellow Scabiosa ochroleuca. The slightest breeze sets its 3-foot blooms dancing. I like to plant this jewel in drifts throughout my garden.

Speedwell is a must-have in any perennial garden for vertical interest. Whether you choose the petite rose Veronica "Giles Van Hees" or yard-high Veronica longifolia "Lilac Karina," you will be rewarded with colorful flower spikes from June to September.

My favorite drama queen is the tall, airy Brazilian verbena, Verbena bonariensis. This beauty adds height and motion to my garden from June to frost. Its clustered purple blooms dance on four-foot stems and last well in fresh cut arrangements.

Another cut flower classic is the Shasta daisy. Bright white daisies stand 2- to 4-feet tall in mid-summer and come in single and ruffled double forms. Try Chrysanthemum "Becky" x superbum which stands strong through summer storms unlike some of its weak-kneed cousins.

Purple Cone Flower
Echinacea purpurea

Purple coneflower, Echinacea purpurea magnus, is a charmer. Its deep pink daisy-like flowers stretch to three feet from June to frost. Butterflies love it. Let the cone-shaped seed heads ripen to feed the birds and provide winter interest.

The other end of the spectrum is the dainty threadleaf coreopsis,. Tiny pink (Coreopsis rosea) or yellow (Coreopsis verticiliata ) daisies bloom above fern-like foliage from mid-summer to fall on this petite plant that barely reaches a foot tall.

Could you have a perennial garden without yarrow? Yes, but I wouldn't recommend it. Throughout the summer, clusters of tiny flowers form the distinctive flat tops we know so well from dried arrangements. Try a delicate pastel, deep raspberry or the striking yellow Achillea "Moonshine" with its silvery fern-like foliage.

What are those purple spikes in everyone's garden? Liatris. This great garden plant sends up striking 3-foot purple or white rods in July that last about a month. Don't cut back the flower stems. The birds love the seeds and the dried stems look interesting in winter

There you have it, my top 10. All of these gems make me stop, smile, and touch their blossoms. All are easy to care for and boast long lives. So, pick a few, grab your trowel and get started. You will be rewarded with years of beauty and blooms.

Read other articles on plants and gardens 

Read other articles by Annette Ipsan