Gardening Green with Doug -10 Easy Perennials To Plant Now
By Doug Oster
June 10, 2020
Anticipation is one of the wonderful things about being a gardener. Watching plants emerge, buds swell, and flowers bloom is thrilling.
Perennials are all about that anticipation as a plant can sometimes be observed for an entire season before it puts on a show. These plants can bloom for several weeks or longer as opposed to annuals, which often bloom from first to last frost. We need our favorite annuals in the garden, but perennials are planted once and in many cases will increase in size each season.
Many gardeners add perennials year after year to reduce how many annuals they will need to purchase each spring. Mixing in some good organic matter like compost to the planting hole will help keep these plants happy over the long haul.
Here are 10 perennials that are easy to grow and many will outlive the gardener who planted them. Even though most don’t bloom all season, when they do, it’s a yearly celebration of ephemeral beauty.
This is my number one perennial for many reasons. It blooms from April until November, is deer resistant, will grow in dry shade or full sun, and makes a colony after only a few years. The nice thing is the plant spreads by throwing seeds, not invasive underground runners. It doesn’t really have a common name, just the Latin genus and species, which can make it a hard sell for “normal” gardeners. This carefree plant rarely needs anything from the gardener. It’s even perfect for containers due to the long bloom time. In the shade it holds bright yellow flowers over green foliage about 18 inches above the ground. In the sun, the plant will be twice as tall.
These vines have a wide range of colors, shapes, and sizes of blooms. Usually flowering in late spring and in some cases again later in the season, once established the vine will return for decades. It takes a few years for them to reach their potential, but once they do, the blooms are spectacular. Clematis loves full sun, but will happily bloom in part shade too. One trick in is to have the vines climb through a shrub, when the clematis blooms it will add interest to the shrub and can sometime puzzle visitors to the garden, which is always fun.
Gardeners were first introduced to this plant as the purple coneflower. Now breeders have added just about every color of the rainbow. This tough prairie plant wants full sun and is basically indestructible when grown in average garden soil. This is a plant that wants to spout, grow, flower, set seed, and go to sleep. As the flowers start to fade, deadhead the blossoms, and then water and fertilize the plant. With a little luck and the right weather, it will send another flush of blooms. Leave those to go to seed as the goldfinches love to feast on them over the winter. Photo above.
There are annual and perennial varieties of salvia available at nurseries. ‘May Night’ is a favorite perennial version for its resilience and long bloom time. It’s deer resistant and when treated like the coneflower, will re-bloom until a hard frost.
This is a shade lover offers many different cultivars. A grower sent me ‘Britt Marie Crawford’ about 15 years ago and it’s been a winner in the garden ever since. ‘Britt Marie Crawford’ was named for the woman show discovered the plant as a sport growing in Scotland. One thing to know about perennials, for most, it’s the foliage which is what’s seen most of the season. The flowers are the gravy. It has beautiful purple and green foliage, which is highlighted by orange/yellow daisy like flowers in mid-summer. In my garden it’s never been watered, but has thrived for all these years.
This is a wispy plant for dry shade. Absolutely tough as nails with spring blooms in white, yellow, purple, and other shades. Once established, it’s here to stay, but not invasive.
This is the perennial version of hibiscus, not the pretty tropicals. A late summer bloomer, which enjoys full sun to part shade, has many different varieties. Most have huge round blooms, which make a statement in the garden. Cultivars go from just a couple feet tall to towering types eight feet or taller with dinner plate-sized flowers.
It’s called the windflower for a reason as the blooms will dance in the summer breeze. ‘Queen Charlotte’ has beautiful buds, flowers, and seed heads, it’s not a one trick pony. They bloom in white, pink, purple, and other shades too. This is another plant that’s never been watered in my garden. It’s a sun lover that will be happy in part shade too. It’s wonderful to see the flowers start to open as summer fades.
The sizes, shapes, and colors of hostas are almost infinite. Don’t limit the garden to just some green foliage with a little white, look for huge leaves, red stems, and even fragrant flowers. Just don’t put this plant out in the full sun. They will survive, but be so unhappy. It breaks my heart to see them suffer in July begging for shade. Take a look at tiny varieties to tuck into the front of a shady border or a huge one like ‘Empress Wu,’ which can get four feet tall. They are fun to grow and just need a little water during dry spells.
My latest garden obsession are lilies, especially the big, fragrant Asiatic lilies, but I’m growing lots of different types including daylilies. The aroma of the large lilies hangs in the humid summer air, filling the garden with their magical fragrance. ‘Stargazer’ might be the most popular, with its orange throat purplish, deep pink petals. ‘Casa Blanca’ is a pure white and that just the beginning of all the different types. They can be planted right now and through the summer. My favorite way to buy them is at a good nursery as soon as they are done blooming. They are much harder to sell this way; therefore, they are on sale. Look at the plant tag to see what it will look like next summer when it blooms. Now that’s anticipation. Remember, gardening takes patience too. When you buy the lily as a plant in a one-gallon container, you’re getting a mature plant with lots of roots which will persist for years to come. Buy a few bulbs too that will bloom this year to make you happy.
Gardeners can make a difference:
You can help the hungry by donating extra vegetable seedlings to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. This story has information on how to find a local drop-off to donate vegetable seedlings. People need help and want to grow their own food.