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Everything You Need to Know About Perennials


Everything You Need to Know About Perennials

October 11, 2017

Flowering perennials are the backbone of any garden. But not all perennials are created equal. Some have a brief bloom season and others flower for months. Short-lived perennials such as poppies, lupines, or columbines may die after two or three years.

Use our new garden design guide, Perennials 101, to learn everything you need to know about our favorite perennials. Whether you’re designing a landscape from scratch or adding a few flowers to fill out a garden bed, our guide offers tips on when to expect a particular perennial to bloom, the size it will reach at maturity, how much water it needs, if it’s happy in your growing zone, and whether it’s long-lived or finicky.

Perennials 101 is part of our new Garden Design 101 section, offering design tips and practical advice on Hardscape 101 topics as well as growing guides for Trees, Shrubs, Vines & Climbers, Tropical Plants, Edibles, Succulents & CactiBulbs & Tubers, Annuals, Grasses, and Houseplants.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll find in our Perennials 101 guide:


Above: Yellow Yarrow (Achillea) mingles well with other perennials in a flower bed. Photograph by Cristina Sanvito via Flickr.

Butterflies rejoice when they spot yarrow (Achillea), a long-blooming perennial with flattened poufs of flowers for them to use as landing pads. See more in our Yarrow Field Guide.


Photograph by Britt Willoughby Dyer.
Above: Photograph by Britt Willoughby Dyer.

But late summer and early autumn is when perennial asters can save the day, and the garden. See more in Field Guide: Asters.

Coral Bells

Heuchera americana &#8
Above: Heuchera americana ‘Dale’s Strain’ grows alongside a path on the High Line in New York City. Photograph by Josiah Lau Photography via Flickr.

“Fuzzy-leafed hairy alumroot (Heuchera villosa), which European colonists noticed upon arrival in the 1600s, is one of about 35 to 50 different Heuchera species native to North America and Mexico,” writes Jeanne. “These plants have a subdued appearance, compared with hybridized Heucheras widely available today in garden centers in a mind-boggling array of colors from orange to brown to burgundy to chartreuse to purple so dark it looks black.” Read more in our Coral Bells Field Guide.

Japanese Anemone

Photograph by Erin Boyle.
Above: Photograph by Erin Boyle.

Early European plant explorers first discovered windflowers in Japan, where they had been imported and cultivated by gardeners for generations. (The anemones, which frequently like to grow where they want instead of where you plant them, had escaped into the wild and naturalized.)  The Europeans labeled the plants Anemone japonica. See more in our Japanese Anemones Guide.


Photograph by Mimi Giboin for Gardenista.
Above: Photograph by Mimi Giboin for Gardenista.

The rose is the most widely loved flower—both in garden beds and in bouquets—and much of the woody perennial’s popularity is due to its wide variety. There is a rose for you. With more than 100 species and thousands of cultivars, Rosa comes in many variations to suit: climbers, shrubs, ramblers, floribundas, and hybrids. See more in our Field Guide: Roses.

Our curated Perennials 101 guide also covers Bugleweed, Euphorbia, Lavender, Hellebores, and more. We’ll be adding new perennials every week. If there’s a perennials you’d particularly like us to add to our guides, please let us know in the comments section.

Finally, get more ideas on how to plant, grow, and care for various perennial plants with our Perennials: A Field Guide.

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