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Perennial Flowers – 8 of the Best to get You Started

If you’re new to flower gardening, and you don’t know what perennials are:  they’re plants that continue for many growing seasons. Some can be short-lived, but many of them will stay in our gardens for decades.

Although not all perennials are hardy in every planting zone there’s ample to choose from no matter what zone you’re in.

I’ve grown  a lot of perennials over 35 years and some stand out as being exceptional performers even in the face of adversity.  These same plants are easy to propagate and usually after you buy or start one from seed you’ll easily have as many as you want with little effort.  If you have 6 to 8 hours of sun in your yard and live in a zone where they’re considered hardy — you can’t go wrong with any of the ones mentioned here.

Seven of the eight I’ve had in my borders for more than 30 years, growing successfully in clay soil, sandy soil or the improved versions of both.   The other – Oneothera –  I’ve had for 12 years

Here are the 8 Perennials I recommend to get you started.

  • Oenothera
Oenothera blossom is bumblebee.

Bumblebee in Oenothera blossom,

I chose Oenothera because it’s a plant that will give you colorful pink late spring bloom quickly  (and lots of it by the second year ) — while you’re waiting for your other spring perennials to establish themselves.

It’s a sun lover that’s hardy and drought resistant  – blooming for almost two months.

Although it spreads quickly it can be easily controlled with a minimum of attention.

  • Anthemis tinctoria

Other names for this sun lover are Golden Marguerite and Yellow Chamomile. It blooms in late spring through a good part of the summer.

Anthemis  grows about 18″ to 30″ high and spread 2 to 4 feet, producing lots of small yellow daisies.  This will be a nice compliment to the other taller perennials I’m recommending.

  • Daylily

Daylilies are one of the easiest plants to grow.  They’re pretty much unstoppable!

Before you’re finished with your border you’ll want varieties that bloom starting in May —- with others finishing the season in October.

Why not start off with a lemon yellow that will rebloom — like Happy Returns.  And a brillant red to start the season — like Lady Scarlet.  Red Vols is a an excellent choice for mid season bloom.  And for late summer bloom, it’d be hard to beat Crimson Shadows.

Happy Returns and  red backing them up.

Happy Returns and red backing them up.

  • Echinacia

All Echinacia and the hybrid varieties are commonly referred to as coneflowers.  I can’t imagine a garden without them!

I recommend starting with Echinacia purpurea which is native to eastern North America.  The species angustifolia is another good one especially for more northern regions.

Echinacia just starting to bloom.

Echinacia just starting to bloom.

Hybrid coneflowers are very tempting and gorgeous. Sooner or later you’ll want to allow yourself the pleasure of trying some.  But be aware that in most cases  the hybrids are not strong growers like the original purpurea or angustifolia. In order to have a dependable Echinacia in your gardens start with purpurea or angustifolia first.

  • Rudbeckia

I recommend your first Rudbeckia be the variety Rudbeckia Goldsturn.  Once mature these clump-forming perennials with deep-yellow, daisy-like flowers with a brown/black center really put on show.

L1190334copyrightTendingMyGarden.comRudbeckia

Years ago at our previous residence I used Rudbeckia Goldsturn along a 60 foot border beside one of our gardens. I direct seeded zinnias and the annual snow-on-the-mountain into them. The results was breathtaking in mid-summer.

We’ve all seen and enjoyed the beautiful black-eyed-susans along the roadways.  They’re usually short lived biennials. Goldsturn on the other hand is a perennial that will return again and again and be a plant you can depend on.

  • Shasta Daisy

When you’re looking for Shasta daisies you can find them under two names:  Chrysanthemum maxium or Chrysanthemum Leucanthemum. These large white daisies with yellow centers grow 2 feet to 4 feet depending on the variety you chose.

I recommend starting with single bloom varieties like Amelia.  (Alaska is good too, but shorter.) The “fluffy” blooms of some of the newer hybrids are beautiful and appealing —- but like the echinacias — they are not as strong.

The abundance of bloom starts in late spring and can continue through summer when conditions are best.

Shasta daisy in bloom

Shasta daisy in bloom

  • Sedums

You’ll be amazed at the variety of sedums available.

Sedum Autumn Joy is a great variety to get you started with sedums.  After Autumn Joy try Sedum Matrona for a slightly different look.

Since the heads don’t turn color until the fall, the plant itself is very complimentary to your other perennials during the summer.  And in the fall there is nothing more beautiful than sedum with mums and/or solidago.

  • Chrysanthemums

I’ve sung the praises of Mums in another post.  These are plants that even with minimum attention — you’ll never regret having in your garden.

The daisy mums seem to me the strongest growers.  They might be your best choice for your first mums.  But try as many varieties as you are able.  With mums — you never know what will grow exceptionally well for you until you try them.

How Many Plants of Each

Most perennials make a better display more quickly when planted in groups of threes.  But don’t worry if your budget doesn’t allow for three.  All of these plants are strong growers and reproduce quickly or can be propagated easily.  You’ll have as many as you want before you know it.

Final Thought

All 8 of these perennials are easy care sun-loving perennials that will make a good base on which to build the borders of your dreams.

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A WORD OF CAUTION in case you ever want to try  the annual snow-on-the mountain ((Euphorbia marginata) that I mentioned above. The sap is toxic. Although I grew it for 20 years and never had problems — some people do.  You definitely don’t want to get that sap in your eyes or your mouth.  So if you don’t feel you can handle it — don’t.  And — if you have small children — you might want to pass.)

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Related Posts:

Oenothera – A Wildflower for your Fower Border

Herbs – A Perennial to Attract Beneficials to Your Garden

Flowers to Help Bees Help Your Garden

Your Gardens – Perennial Flowers – Midspring bloom

Daylilies – An Asset to your Landscape

Sedum – a Top 10 Perennial

Mums – Flowers – The Crowning Glory of Falls Display

Phlox and Mums – A Timely Tip

Chrysanthemums – One of the Top 10 Perennials for Flower Borders
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8 comments to Perennial Flowers – 8 of the Best to get You Started

  • MaryAlice Dobbert

    Theresa, I just love your sister site!! This is exactly what I was needing! The pictures are very helpful, not to mention beautiful, to identify with the name of the perennials. Perfect in every way!

    Now, this summer I am hoping to have the borders of my dreams too. It certainly helps to know what to plant and in our zone. I’m so excited for Spring planting!

    MaryAlice

  • Theresa

    Sure glad you like the FlowerBorders site MaryAlice! I have a lot of good posts coming up that I think you’ll find helpful. So stay tuned.
    Theresa

  • Sandra

    Theresa, What I like is that each one of your photos is from YOUR garden. That tells me that YOU have personally grown each of these plants. So you are not just giving me generic advice, but actual real information based on your own extensive gardening experience.
    That is worth a lot.

  • Theresa

    Thank you Sandra. Hands on advice in my opinion —- is the best!
    Theresa

  • GardenDmpls

    When I was growing up in South Texas, Oenothera, or as we called it, evening primrose, was a wildflower. We used to pull off the petals and taste the drop of nectar at the flower base. I remember trying to move some into my flower garden and someone wondering aloud why I would want to grow a weed, which is why I laughed when I first saw it in a seed catalog several years ago.

  • Theresa

    I hear you GardenDmpls. It seems to be part of human nature to overlook the “greatness” in something that is around all the time or grows without any special care. (Like a weed. 🙂 )

    Had it not been a “weed” in Texas —- and had folks heard about its impressive features from afar — they would have been more excited about it. You were the one who saw past the common thinking and saw the value.

  • Jack

    Hi Theresa
    I got a grow light set up in basement I live in zone 5b can I start perennials early before early veggies and put in garden when I start early veggies ?

  • Theresa

    Hi Jack,
    I have no experience with grow lights. I’ve never had grow lights — or a place indoors to put it all — which is why I came up with my method of starting and growing everything outside in jugs or various containers. Outside I know they will get enough light.

    Why not go ahead and try your hand at a few perennials under your grow light. I think the main concern would be hardening them off before planting outside. So just make sure you introduce them to the outdoors — a little bit at a time — until they get use to it.

    Some perennials need a period of cold before they’ll germinate. If you’re not sure about the ones you have — just Google it. (That’s another reason I like wintersown — nature takes care of the cold period.) You might have to refrigerate your seed for several weeks before planting if they need cold stratification.

    Good luck with this. Keep me updated on how you are doing.
    Theresa

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