Create season long color in your landscape with the help of perennials.
With a little bit of planning you can have flowers, foliage and seed heads that add interest to your garden year round. Don’t worry if things don’t turn out as planned. Perennials are easy to move. So grab a cart and get started planning your perennial garden.*
*Look for optional Plant List at bottom of article.
What You Need
- List of the growing conditions in the area where you plan to add one or more perennials. Matching the plant to the light, soil moisture and available space helps insure success.
- Compost – add a couple inches of compost into the top 8 to 12 inches of soil. This may seem like a lot of work, but these plants will stay in this location for many years.
- Low nitrogen slow release fertilizer that won’t stimulate late season growth or damage the developing roots if the weather turns hot and dry.
- Mulch – organic mulch helps conserve moisture, suppress weeds and improve the soil as it decomposes. Spread a thin layer of the soil surface at planting.
- Design with maintenance in mind.
- Increase impact and reduce workload by growing more plants of fewer varieties.
A designer once recommended take your garden design and cut the number of different perennials in the design in half. Then double the number of each type. And for those of you, like me, who like variety, we’ll just have a few more plants to identify in spring and a bit more maintenance to do.
- Use color to your advantage
- Color Echo - Repeat color from one plant to another plant for unity and continuity throughout the garden
- Complementary colors (those across from each other on the artist color wheel) such as blue and yellow, orange and purple create a focal point.
- Warm colors of red, orange and yellow make large areas appear smaller, energize the space and make it feel warmer
- Cool colors of blue, green and violet make small areas feel larger, hot areas seem cooler and to create a sense of tranquility.
- Consider texture
- Large leaves and flowers are bold and create a focal point
- Fine textured leaves and narrow flowers create a sense of depth when used in the back of the garden and make a nice backdrop for bold textured plants.
- Include plants with various bloom times, fall color and interesting seed heads
Pulling it all together
- Start gathering the plants you selected for your design. Arrange them on the cart to get an idea of how they will look together in the garden. Adjust as needed
- Make note of bloom time and fall color. Make some additions if color and interest are lacking at some point of the year
- Once home, set the plants on top of the properly prepared garden. Check the arrangement and make needed adjustments before planting.
- Plant, water and mulch. Check plants several times a week and water thoroughly whenever the top few inches of soil are crumbly and moist.
- Fill in spaces, if desired, with annuals for instant color. As the perennials grow you will need fewer and eventually no annual fillers in the future.
Just A Few Plants
Coral Bells (SH)*
Jacob's Ladder (SH)
Variegated Solomon's Seal (SH)
Bleeding Heart (SH)
Lady's Mantle (PS)
Siberian Iris (PS)
Creeping Phlox (FS)*
Pasque Flower (FS)
Prairie Smoke (FS)
Bee Balm (PS)*
Balloon Flower (PS)
Cardinal Flower (PS)
Great Blue Lobelia (PS)
Butterfly Weed (FS)
Threadleaf Coreopsis (FS)
Sea Holly (FS)*
Globe Thistle (FS)*
Garden Phlox (FS)
Russian Sage (FS)*
Blackberry Lily (FS)*
Swamp Hibiscus (FS)
Feather reed grass (FS)*
Toad Lily (SH)
Northern Sea Oats (PS)*
Japanese Anemone (PS)
Joe Pye Weed (PS)
Fireworks Goldenrod (FS)*
Sweet Autumn Clematis (FS)*
SH – shade
PS - Part Sun
FS - Full Sun
Many bloom over two seasons
Plants Listed from short to taller
* Winter Interest
Written by, Melinda Myers. Melinda Myers is a nationally recognized gardening expert with more than 30 years of horticulture experience. She is a wealth of knowledge and we are pleased to share Melinda’s Gardening How-To with you!