Each year renews my appreciation for perennials. Perennials are herbaceous plants, which is the way of describing a plant that doesn’t have a permanent woody stem such as a shrub. They die back to the ground each fall and come back from the root system every spring. Annuals, like petunias and marigolds, need to be planted every season. They work hard for their one season, blooming continuously, but then they die with a hard frost and need to be replanted next year. I like the “plant once, enjoy for years” option that perennials offer.
Perennials come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, textures and colors. While perennials cannot compete with annuals for season-long color, the beauty of the individual flowers of many perennials is unequaled and eagerly awaited each year. Think of the unique looks of columbine and bleeding hearts and the dramatic spires of delphinium and foxglove.
We only get to see those blossoms for a relatively short time compared to annuals. Perennials do have different bloom times during the season and you can time the color scheme of your flower beds. You could begin with pinks and purples in early spring with creeping phlox and end with the golden tones of rudbeckia in the fall.
clockwise starting from the upper left: Russian sage, echinacea, rudbeckia, yarrow, coreopsis, sedum, heuchera, gaillardia
Not all perennials are valued for their blossoms. Many are prized for their foliage and the texture that they add to a garden space such as hostas, artemesias and ornamental grasses.
Some tips to keep in mind when selecting perennials for your garden:
- Choose the colors and textures that appeal to you
- Know the space you have available and the full size of your plant
- Select plants that will provide color throughout the growing season
- Select plants that are appropriate for the amount of sunlight and shade that is available
- If planting several perennials in the same area, look for companion plants that have the same light and water requirements.