Some of us are perfectly content with just trees, shrubs, and groundcovers, but many of us also want the luxury of perennials, for their beautiful and colorful blossoms, foliage interest, fragrance, wildlife attraction, or the way they soften the edges along paths and boundaries. Perennial borders, whether sunning themselves all day, or keeping cool in the shade, add both sensory and tangible benefits to our outdoor existence.
There are far too many different perennials to mention in a single blog, even if we just focus on sun-lovers, which is what today’s blog is about. Beyond that, there are too many different types of settings into which perennials make substantial contributions, and we’ll have to talk about those some other time.
Since we are (usually) blessed with an abundance of warm, sunshiny weather, let’s look at some perennials, of different types, that can hold their own in the long hot days ahead. Again, this is by no means a comprehensive list, and there are far more perennials currently available at the nursery. You know how to find us, right?
Agastache (ag-ah-STAK-ee) is one of those perennials with a difficult name, and almost too good to be true – it’s very low maintenance, loves the heat, isn’t a water hog, and grows rapidly to its mature size and shape. And get this, hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees love it, but deer don’t! Actually, deer don’t like ANY of the perennials listed here. Agastache is a great filler plant, has aromatic leaves, and comes in a range of colors from purple to fiery orange-red. Sizewise, they’re anywhere from just over one foot to three feet tall at the top of their bloom stalks, and they spread up to 50% wider than they are tall. While there are some agastaches that can grow in shade, if you have one that requires full sun, make sure it is planted accordingly.
Canna is a globetrotting distant cousin of culinary ginger, and makes a real statement wherever it is planted. It’s the plant version of Carnivale, showing off flamboyantly bold styles and colors in both its leaves and flowers. Canna is a vertical plant, ranging from two to eight feet tall, and generally just over half as wide as it is tall. As with many showy things, Canna is very high maintenance, a heavy drinker (and even likes to soak its feet), and must have full sun. Canna must be cut back and mulched before winter arrives.
Daylilies are so low maintenance, they’re almost indestructible. However, we all know someone who’s managed to kill them, bless their little hearts. Daylilies come in every color except pure blue, and have flowers that are single, bomb-types, or doubles. Many daylilies are fragrant, and some bloom almost continuously. Since they also come in a wide range of sizes and bloom times, they make great filler plants that transform from clumps of grass into thrillers when in bloom. While they prefer full sun, they’ll also do well in partial shade. Other than that, they’re not very particular about anything, and they’ll stick around for about 10 years, unless you’re one of those infamous daylily killers.
Echinaceas have evolved over the years from the single old-fashioned “purple coneflower” to knockout flowers in bold colors and unusual forms. How many of you remember all the hoo-ha when the first white echinaceas were introduced? Echinaceas spread about as wide as they are tall, and measure from around 18 to 36 inches to the tops of the flowers. Echinaceas are sturdy, low maintenance plants that attract butterflies. Some of the shorter cultivars produce dense foliage all the way down the stems, so they can be planted at the front of a border. And, are you ready for this? Some of them are even fragrant!
So many flowers are called daisies, but we’re talking about the ones from the Leucanthemum genus of the aster family, usually referred to as Shasta daisies. Shasta daisies generally remind one of fried eggs, with their large yellow centers and (usually) white petals, which, for some reason makes us smile. So much so that for many people, Shasta daisies are their favorite flower. Shastas are upright plants, and once established, just don’t seem to stop blooming. There is a buttery yellow Shasta daisy, and there are frizzy Shastas as well. Like echinaceas, Shasta daisies have evolved quite a bit. In bloom, Shastas range from 12 to 36 inches tall, and spread as wide as they are tall. They do require a little maintenance in the fall to keep tidy. Shasta daisies attract butterflies, and should be situated so that they blend in with other plants when out of bloom.
Gaillardia are relatively low maintenance plants requiring full sun and well-drained soil. They work best in mass plantings, and do well in rock gardens. Gaillardias really don’t like having wet feet all the time. They range in height from 12 to 16 inches, and spread from just over one half as wide to as wide as they are tall. They do need a little tidying up in spring, and attract butterflies and bees. Happy gaillardias live about five years.
Yarrow (or achillea) spreads about as wide as it is tall, ranging from one to three feet tall. Yarrow loves sunny, hot and dry. It doesn’t do too wet well at all. High maintenance? Yes, it’s a floppy sort of wanderer that will need shepherding into place. It attracts bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. It can be somewhat overzealous in spreading throughout the garden, which will keep one on their toes. Great as a spiller in containers, where it may require a little more watering than if it were in the ground.
Coreopsis are generally seven-24 inches tall, with blooms in mostly warm colors with some white cultivars. Here’s another remember when moment – Moonlight, a pale buttery yellow coreopsis caused quite a fuss when it was introduced about 30 years ago. Perennial coreopsis generally form mounded filler plants with lacy, delicate structures. They are low maintenance, require a clean up in spring, and attract butterflies. Coreopsis is another plant that does well in rock gardens. Their foliage is dense to ground, so they can sit up in the front seat of the border. Coreopsis grows best in poor soil in full sun, and prefers consistent or mostly moist soils, but no wet feet.
Rudbeckia cultivars grow to heights of one to three feet, spreading less than the height of plants. Preferring full sun, rudbeckia forms vertical, sturdy plants with coarse dark green foliage, used to best effect in groupings. Rudbeckias are low maintenance, not too fussy about soil, but shouldn’t dry out completely. They require fall cutback and attract butterflies. They’re also good for container plantings. Plant life expectancy for some rudbeckias is 15 years. When used in a container, it should be the central feature in the planting.
For more information on these perennials, and many, many more, check out our plant finder at randysnursery.com. Even better, come into the nursery while there’s still time to take home some real perennial treasures.
Header Image: This planting of different colored single echinacea cultivars is simple and breathtakingly beautiful.