Perennials are the work horse of just about every garden. Trees and shrubs provide structure, but perennials provide a consistent impact. Annuals are great for an instant punch but perennials give you a repeat performance year after year. Some perennials bloom consistently through the season while others give a nice show for a short period of time. Narrowing down the list of perennials to a few favorites is extremely difficult. There are so many and each plant has traits that make it unique and useful in the garden. I’ve attempted in this post to list 5 favorite perennials but please realize that these favorites are just 5 of many!
5 Favorite Perennials
Heucheras or coral bells are really great plants for dry shady areas. I just recently experienced root rot on on of mine due to a semi-wet location but generally heuchera are extremely trouble free. They are also an American native plant. The efforts of plant breeders (like Terra Nova) have made some spectacular varieties available to gardeners and have even developed plants that thrive in sun. Heucheras are a great alternative to hostas if you have trouble with deer and rabbits as they are much less palatable. Deer do graze on my heucheras in the winter but their nibbles act as a winter pruning session and in the spring the heucheras come back refreshed.
I like hostas a lot but they can be more torublesome than heucheras. Still I find that they are worth it. Hostas have a great range of appearances and sizes. Some are miniature and others like ‘Empress Wu’ are huge. Their colors can be blue to green or have variegation. Hybridizers are even trying to bring red coloring found in the stems of certain hostas into the leaves to introduce new colors. Hostas are a favorite food of deer but mixing them with less palatable plants like heuchera or hellebore can offset the damage.
Coneflowers are great plants for any sun filled garden. They attract bees and butterflies while adding a great deal of color to the garden. When you allow the seed heads to form in the fall they provide nourishment for the birds. Any seeds that happen to drop in the garden could self sow. When planting make sure you leave the crown of the plant slightly above the surface of the soil to avoid potential crown rot issues. Coneflowers can also be infected with the disease Aster Yellows.
Salvia is one of the highest impact and most trouble free plants I have. Whether it’s an annual like Salvia coccinea or perennial like Salvia farinacea all salvias add a tremendous amount of value to the garden. Hummingbirds in particular love our ‘Black and Blue’ salvia (Salvia guarunitica) which tends to spread into a large mass via its running roots. Salvia is also a great plant for beginning propagators to try.
Irises are a very neat perennial with the only downside being their short bloom period. The varieties available are staggering and more become available every year. Irises are a favorite of gardeners who like to experiment with plant breeding because of how easy it is to cross pollinate. They are extremely reliable performers but can be susceptible to borers. Some are fragrant and when well placed can cover a whole garden with their scent.
Those are five favorite perennials of mine but really are just a few I picked out from a much larger pool of favorites. I do have to reiterate that the salvias are one of the best plants for the garden for their low maintenance and high impact but all of these plants have a place in the garden!