A Sunday Question: What Perennials Could You Not Garden Without?

Fall is fast approaching us here in Tennessee whether it feels like it or not (to me it feels like September) and I’ve started thinking about what to plant. Perennials are perfect for fall plantings since their roots grow slowly over the winter to become established root systems by spring. Then in spring the root systems are ready to go and the plant can send forth new fresh growth. If you plant the same kind of plant in spring it will have a slower growth process since it has to work hard on developing roots and making new foliage as well.

I’ve been collecting and adding new plants to our gardens as I can all year but I’d like to know what other gardeners view as “indispensable perennial plants.” What perennials are the “must haves” in your garden? If you were starting a new garden which plant would you choose to begin with? I want to add some new things to my garden this fall and would like to hear some suggestions. Soooo….what should I plant?


Dave has written GrowingTheHomeGarden.com since 2007. He gardens on an acre and a half where he raises his 4 children. He enjoys growing vegetables, herbs, and propagating plants. Dave has a side business growing and selling heirloom vegetables and herb plants through Blue Shed Gardens and works as a real estate agent in Spring Hill, TN.

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. If I were starting a new garden, I would make sure I had it planned out so that in the spring there were tulips, daffodils and hyacinth spread out so that there was color in all directions. I would also have to have a lilac bush so I can bring the flowers into the house in a vase. There is nothing like the springtime air flowing thru the house with the smell of lilac. Then I would want to make sure that I had tried and true summer perennials like shasta daisies, purple coneflowers, hydrangeas and clematis climbing on a trellis. I would also need to have an arbor that is covered in sweet smelling honeysuckle and a Butterfy bush to bring the swallowtails and monarchs to add even more color to my space. To keep my garden colorful from end of summer to fall, I would have to have Black Eyed Susans, Mums and Asters. Everything would be spaced and planned so that at each change of season, there was color in each part of the garden.
    Also in there would be herbs, containers with annuals and hanging baskets dripping with deep crimson verbena and million bells.
    Ok….so you asked for what one plant would you begin with….I went off track.

  2. I would definitely have Hydrangeas and various spring & summering bulbs. I would start with the backbones such as the ornamental shrubs & trees that would work in your area and go from there.

  3. An interesting and timely question for me Dave! I am looking at all I have planted… quite a few natives that can outlast the dry summers and a few that require more moisture then I want to work to provide! I am trying to decide what stays and what goes! So far, I would say…the native wildflowers will stay…they are for the most part ephemeral and fine, it’s nearly impossible to kill the tulips and narcissus, so many are from mountainous and dry regions. But for summer perennials…I know, it is taking me forever to get here! …I wouldn’t garden without Coneflowers, rudbeckia, TX salvias, Salvia azurea, Little Bluestem grass, Mexican Feather Grass, Goldenrods, Native asters, Baptisias, Hellebores, Clematis, Phloxes…pilosa and paniculata, Stargazer lilies, my dallilies, Epimediums, Villosa Heucheras and the crosses, hardy native ferns and Verbena canadensis….On the fence are the monardas and malvas…they need more water then makes sense with the summers getting hotter and dryer. If I can redo the garden to have a rain garden area…they can move there! I do admit I am totally crazy for a few good annuals! Zinnia, Cosmos sulphurius and Lantana! Dave as soon as I hit post more perennials will come to mind!

    btw, thanks for asking!


  4. Fantastic Sunday question. Hmmm…first and foremost I could not and would not do without my knockout roses. No care and bloom all of the time..plus the new foliage is a beautiful dark red and mauve color which is fantastic in fall. Like the others…coneflower, black eyed susans and daisies are a must. Phlox…oh you must have Phlox. Rose of Sharon is a must. I could not live without the Purple Homestead Verbena and I love my Agastache Blue Fortune..even though they are only suppose to be 3-4ft and are 5 ft now after 3 prunings…they flowers bring, bees, butterflies and hummingbirds in droves. I don’t think any perennial garden can survive without blue liriope and daylillies, but I have some daylillies I’m not at all fond of. My favorite big time bloomer is Happy returns. The tulips and daffodils are a must for spring..but don’t forget flowering trees if you have the room. The redbuds and Dogwoods are my faves. I love the Monarda..but they are slow to establish, the baptisia is beautiful, but 2 years in they haven’t yet bloomed. The Lambs ear is my favorite for just playing with..I love the feel of the thing and everyone oohs and aahs over them. Some things I’m not partial to…the azaleas which seem to be more trouble than they are worth. Go with holly if you want an evergreen shrub. Okay, I can keep going, but enough of this..let us know what you decide..I love seeing your projects come together.

  5. This is such a fun post! We can learn from each other as there are so many good suggestions already! I would do like the others have said, put in the backbone thinking of the tolerance of the plant to no water and extreme conditions. Then work my way out looking at heights. I would plan for all seasons like Laurie said. Some true winners here I have found are: peonies, irises, amsonia, hardy geraniums, coneflowers, brown eyes, Russian sage, mums, hostas, sedum, salvias, eupatoriums, and daylilies. You didn’t say we had to narrow it down:), though I did try!

  6. Those are some great suggestions so far! I’ll do a sum up post of what has been mentioned for Tuesday. I’ll leave this post up to see if there are any other suggestions.

  7. Hi Dave,

    I could not live without my daylilies especially the simple ones; my pink garden phlox; Mexican feather grass; showy goldenrod; my various penstemons; balloon flower; maidenhair fern (the one with the black stems;) lady in red fern; oh, the list goes on and on.~~Dee

  8. Lantana is my choice. It blooms and thrives from late spring to the frost and is drought tolerant. It attracts bees, butterflies and hummers galore! Not sure it is considered a perennial in TN but I took one to Tina last year and it has indeed returned for her this year… Purple Homestead Verbena also but you have plenty of that!

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