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Your ET Self
What’s the Difference Between an Annual and a Perennial?
Should you pick annuals or perennials when planting your garden? Here's a
rundown on the differences between these two types of plants and the pros
and cons for each.
You see the words annual and perennial on plant tags and in
garden books. What do these terms mean, and why should you care?
Simply put, annual plants die in the winter season. You must replant
them every year. Perennials come back every year. You only plant
them once. Here’s a rundown of annual versus perennial.
Perennials are less work than annuals. They grow back each year
from roots that go dormant in the soil in the winter. Annuals only
grow for one season. New plants come from seeds. So why would anyone
plant annuals instead of perennials? Annuals produce more flowers
and bloom for a longer period of time than perennials. Annuals bloom
from spring till the first frost. Perennials generally bloom for a
single season: summer, spring or fall. There
are ever-blooming perennials that bloom longer, but annuals produce
the most flowers for the longest amount of time. There is no such
thing as an annual perennial. A plant either lives for one year or
it lives for many years.
Annuals produce more flowers because they have just one season to
make enough seed to reproduce. To make a lot of seeds, the plants
needs a lot of flowers. Annuals are making the most out of the short
life they have. Since annuals live for just one season, they aren’t
assigned climate zones. An annual will grow for the same amount of
time in Michigan as it will in Florida.
Perennials don’t have the same pressure to reproduce as annuals
do. They will be around from year to year, so they put their energy
into growing strong roots instead of growing lots of flowers.
Some of the most popular perennials are coneflowers, blanket
flowers, clematis, veronica, Russian sage, yarrow, peonies and
coreopsis. Popular annuals include zinnias, cosmos, sunflowers,
petunias, bachelor’s button and marigolds.
Should you pick annuals or perennials when planting your garden?
If you want showy and colorful plants for a single season, choose
annuals. Annuals also let you change the color palette in your
garden every year. If you want permanence and as little maintenance
as possible, choose perennials. You’ll have a less colorful garden
that will be the same year after year.
For a garden that has the best of both worlds, plant a mix of
annual and perennial plants. You’ll have flowers everywhere and a
backbone of plants that provide structure and reliability.
What is a Perennial?
Curious about the difference between annuals and perennials? Here's
the 411 on what it means to be a perennial plant.
You see the word perennial on plant tags and on garden web sites, but
what is a perennial? The meaning of perennial is living for a long time.
That’s what perennial plants do. They grow back every year, season after
season. You only plant them once, saving money on your
garden budget. Someone once said that friends don't let friends plant
annuals. That's harsh, but you have to love a plant that needs so little
Unlike annuals, which die each winter and must be replanted each
spring, perennials grow back from roots that go dormant in the soil in
the winter. Perennials can live as long as 15 years, or in the case of
peonies, a human lifetime. Others, like mums, are short-lived, lasting
just three or four years.
Perennials tend to be slower growing than annuals. They generally
bloom for a single season, summer, spring or fall. There
are everblooming perennials that bloom longer, but perennials are less
about flowers than they are longevity. Perennials don’t bloom as much as
annuals because they don’t have the same pressure to reproduce. They
will be around for years, so they put their energy into growing strong
roots instead of growing lots of flowers that will produce lots of
Some of the most popular perennials are coneflowers, blanket
flowers, hydrangeas, clematis, daylilies, hostas, Siberian
iris, delphinium, Veronica, Russian sage, catmint, yarrow,
peonies, liriope, baptisia, sedum, Oriental poppies and coreopsis.
Perennials are good choice for gardens because they’re low
maintenance plants that tend to be hardy. They don’t need a lot of help
from you to survive. Keep them weeded and mulched, deadhead spent
flowers and cut them back in the winter and they’ll be back in the
spring. Perennials give resilience and consistency to your garden,
providing a backbone around which you can plant short-lived flowers.
How do you grow perennials? You can buy container-grown plants from a
nursery and transplant them, or you can buy seeds and sow them directly
into the ground.
One of the best things about perennials is they grow bigger and
better each year. Once established, perennials reproduce by developing
colonies of new plants with their own roots and leaves. Dig up the new
plants and transplant them elsewhere in your garden if you want more,
give them to friends if you don’t. Some perennials reproduce so quickly
they’ll overrun a bed if you don’t dig them out. The process of pulling
clumps of perennials apart to create new ones is called dividing. The
best time to do this is spring or fall. Dividing perennials keeps them
healthy, too, by not letting them crowd themselves out.
Perennials reward each year. Pick varieties that thrive in your
climate and get growing.
When and How to Plant Perennials
Keep perennials beautiful year after year by following these expert planting
Get your garden off to a good start by planting your perennials at
the right time and handling them the right way. One guiding
philosophy: Perennial plants are all about the roots. Keeping the
roots strong and healthy is the number one consideration when
planting perennials. It’s those roots that will keep the
plants coming up year after year. Here’s what you need to know about
planting perennials to give them what they need to grow up and be
Knowing when to plant perennials is essential. Spring is
generally the best time to plant, for obvious reasons. The soil is
warming, the sun is shining, the days are lengthening and the rain
if falling. Spring is also a good time to divide existing perennials
that have gotten bigger and better and plant the smaller pieces in
Fall is a good planting time
for perennials that bloom in the spring or summer. Fall planting
gives them time to grow strong roots to prepare for the big flower
show the following year. Another plus to fall planting: Nurseries
are cutting prices on perennials at the end of the season, so you
can save a lot of money.
Do not plant in the summer. It’s too hot, the days are too long
and rain is unreliable in many climates. There’s too much stress for
a new plant to thrive. And winter? No. Just, no.
New plants come in three forms. Knowing how to plant perennials
correctly depends on which form you’re planting.
Container-grown perennial plants are the ones you buy at
a nursery or plant center, already growing in a pot. They’re the
easiest to transplant successfully. Dig a hole twice as wide as the
container but no deeper. Pull the plant out of the pot, gently
loosen the roots and place in the hole. Fill the hole
with soil mixed with compost and water well. Fertilize a week after
Bare-root perennial plants are less expensive than the
container-grown ones, but they’re a little trickier. They are just
as billed: a clump of plant roots. They’re not for beginners. Soak
them in water before planting them in the ground. Add compost to the
soil at time of planting and pamper them till they sprout leaves.
Seeds are the least expensive way to start a garden of
perennial plants. Growing from seed takes more skill and patience
than transplanting container-grown perennial plants. Perennials are
slow growing, so if you sow seeds directly in the ground after the
last frost you won’t have adult plants till late in the
season. Best to start them in the winter, indoors, in small pots and
pamper them until they are large enough to transplant outdoors.
10 Best Perennials for Shade
Looking for something to plant in that shady area of your
garden? These perennials thrive without sunlight and add great garden color in
beds, borders and containers.
That shady spot in your garden doesn’t have to be bare. There
are shade perennials that will thrive without sun. Plant them once and they will
come back every year. Most feature colorful foliage but some will produce
flowers. Most need a moderate amount of water and moist, rich soil. Plant these
shade-loving perennials in beds, borders and containers for great garden
color. You’ll have it made in the shade. And the part shade, too.
Bleeding Heart: An old garden favorite, bleeding
heart has inch-long, heart-shaped flowers that dangle from arching stems.
Blooms can be pink or white. It loves heavy shade and looks great in a
woodland garden among other shade perennials.
Astilbe: Plumes of flowers in pink, lavender, red,
white and salmon rise above fern-like foliage. Astilbe is one of the most
common perennials for shade, working well in borders or along paths.
It’s also lovely in containers.
Hosta: These shade perennials are most known for
their beautiful leaves, but they bloom, too, producing stalks of white
flowers in the summer. Hostas come in a multitude of shapes, textures and
colors, ranging from cool blue-breen to chartreuse. Some varieties are
huge and will grow to be a couple of feet in diameter.
Hydrangea: This shrub likes light shade and produces
big, round clusters of flowers in shades of pink, blue and white. It’s one
of the most popular shade perennials. Blooms can be dinner-plate sized.
Liriope: Commonly known as 'Monkey Grass', makes for
a great border though we use it more often in mass plantings as a
groundcover. tolerates full sun to light shade. It grows in 12-18” tall
clumps of strap-like leaves and produces stalks of violet flowers in late
Christmas Fern: This hardy fern has evergreen
leaves that will brighten a winter landscape. It’s good for woodland gardens
and can be planted on slopes to prevent erosion. It won’t spread but the
clumps will get larger.
Lenten Rose: Also known as hellebore, this is
one of the loveliest perennial flowers for shade. It grows in clumps of dark
green leaves and produces large, cup-shaped blooms in white, pink and
Creeping Jenny: Round, chartreuse leaves on
trailing stems creep along the ground, lighting up shady beds and providing
contrast to your other shade perennials. It roots as it grows and
spreads quickly. Plant in containers and it will spill out, beautifully.
Lily of the Valley: Another one of the shade
flowering perennials, lily of the valley produces white, bell-shaped flowers
that smell very sweet. Lily of the Valley makes a good ground cover under
Vinca: Popular groundcover with smooth leaves
and tubular, purple flowers. It spreads by creeping on the ground, putting
out roots as it goes. Plant it with your perennial shade plants and it will
keep down weeds.
10 Best Perennials and Flowers for Full-Sun
Got a super sunny spot in your garden?
These sun-loving flowering perennials thrive in the direct sunlight.
that sunny spot in your garden with flowers for the sun that thrive in
long days of bright light. Full-sun perennials need six to eight hours
of direct sun per day. They tend to produce lots of blooms, so they’ll
add flower power to your yard or garden. Here’s a list of
flowering perennials for sun that will bring zing to summer:
- Coneflowers: Heat- and drought-tolerant coneflowers are a staple
of summer gardens. These flowers for the sun produce cheerful, daisy-like
flowers. Purple is the most common color of blooms but there are also
varieties with white, orange and yellow flowers.
- Black-Eyed Susan: This iconic yellow flower blooms like
crazy from early summer to frost. It’s one of the
most drought-tolerant flowers for sun and will grow in poor soil. Pinch off
spent blooms and you’ll get armloads of flowers.
- Hardy Hibiscus: The only thing this plant has in common with its
fragile tropical cousins is a love of sun. One of the showiest flowering
perennials for sun, hardy hibiscus produces blooms the size of dinner plates
in red, pink, white and yellow.
- Lobelia: This water-loving plant produces spikes of deep red,
pink, white or blue flowers with deep green to reddish purple foliage. It
loves water, so it’s a good choice for low areas in your garden where you
want flowering perennials, full sun.
- Coreopsis: This easy-to-grow perennial thrives in dry, sunny
locations. It blooms all summer in a wide range of colors and sizes.
‘Moonbeam’ and ‘Zagreb’ varieties produce drifts of yellow or
pink daisy-like flowers in the sun. ‘Early Sunrise’ has a larger, orange
- Yarrow: This sun-lover produces clusters of flat-topped clusters
of flowers in red, yellow or pink atop ferny, silver-gray foliage. Yarrow is
drought and heat tolerant and is a good choice for a spot that’s hot and
- Butterfly Weed: With weed in its name, you might think this is a
garden nuisance, but butterfly weed is one of the hardiest flowers for sun.
Its clusters of bright, orange-yellow flowers attract monarch and other
- False Indigo: Also known as baptisia, this shrubby
perennial grows stalks of blue, white, purple or yellow flowers in the sun.
Its blue-green foliage makes plants lovely after the flowers are gone.
- Red Hot Poker: This is one of the most exotic-looking flowers
for sun. Spikes of red, yellow, white or orange tube-shaped flowers grow
from grassy, gray-green foliage. It’s striking in groupings or as a single,
dramatic specimen plant. It’s a hummingbird magnet.
- Shasta Daisy: A long-time garden favorite for those who want
perennial flowers, full sun, Shastas have white blooms that look like the
flowers children draw. It’s leggy and may need staking. Shastas are a good
flower to cut because they have a long vase-life.
10 Colorful Perennials
Add color to any yard with these beautiful red, yellow, blue, pink and white
Perennial flowers come in a rainbow of colors. Red, yellow, blue,
pink, white, you name it, there’s a perennial that will make your
color wishes come true. Here’s a list of colorful perennials that
will give you a garden of many colors.
Black-Eyed Susan: This classic flower of summer produces
armloads of sunny, yellow blooms. ‘Goldsturm’ is one of the
best yellow perennial flowers around. Plant it in masses for mounds
of color. It’s drought tolerant and will grow in poor soil.
Daylily: Daylilies come in an endless variety of colors and
flower types but if it’s a yellow flower perennial you’re after, try
‘Stella De Oro.’ It will bloom again and again as long as you cut
off the spent blooms.
Hydrangeas: One of the most popular blue perennial flowers,
this medium to large shrub bears big, globe-shaped heads
of flowers. ‘Nikko Blue’ is a beloved cultivar that makes rich,
gorgeous blue flowers that are fabulous in a vase. Hydrangeas like
light shade and need a medium amount of water.
Delphinium: This old-fashioned favorite produces spikes
of blue flowers. The biggest of these blue flowering perennials can
reach 6 feet tall, but if you don’t have room for a giant, try ‘Blue
Butterfly,’ which bears brilliant blue flowers on 12 to 18-inch
Shasta Daisy: A garden
favorite, Shastas have daisy-like blooms with white petals around a
yellow eye. These white flowering perennials look like the flowers
children draw. ‘Becky’ is one of the larger cultivars, reaching
heights of 3 to 4 feet tall.
Hardy Hibiscus: Unlike its fragile tropical cousins, hardy
hibiscus can survive northern winters. It’s a showy flower that
produces dinner-plate sized blooms. ‘Disco Belle White’ has white
flowers with pink-tinged petals around a maroon center. And how
can you not love a flower with “disco” in its name?
Hollyhock: Bring old-fashioned beauty to your border with
hollyhocks, which produce 6-foot spires of flowers. ‘Crème de
Cassis’ bears deep pink perennial flowers that fade to pale pink at
the tips of its petals.
Dianthus: This compact plant makes a good groundcover. Its
silvery foliage makes a thick mat and it’s covered with blooms
in the spring. ‘Firewitch’ bears magenta-pink blooms that smell like
Canna: Cannas are tropical-looking lilies with big,
and flowers in hot oranges, reds, yellows and bicolors. For really
red perennial flowers, try ‘Australia’ which has crimson red flowers
on dramatic black foliage.
Red Hot Poker: Hummingbirds love this exotic plant and you
will, too. Spikes of tube-shaped flowers grow from grassy,
gray-green foliage. It’s striking in groupings or as a single,
dramatic specimen plant. ‘Alcazar’ has bright red flower-spikes
fringed with yellow.
10 Tall Perennial Flowers
Whether you're looking for privacy or a dramatic garden backdrop, planting
these tall perennial flowers in your yard will do the trick.
Grow a living privacy fence. Hide an ugly view. Plant a stand of tall
perennial flowers to screen your yard from the world. These big plants are also
good to make a dramatic backdrop in a garden. Here’s a list of tall garden
- Hardy Hibiscus: This perennial shrub grows 7 to 9 feet tall, as
big as an ornamental tree. It produces showy flowers in red, pink and white,
a foot in diameter. The only thing this giant has in common with its
fragile, tropical kin is its exotic looking blooms. It can survive winters
as far north as Zone 5.
- Oriental Lily: Hardy beauties grow from 4 to 6 feet tall and bear
big, showy flowers in white, red and pink. They’re sweet-smelling, tall
perennial flowers that are great for bouquets.
- Delphinium: These old-fashioned, tall garden flowers produces
spikes of blooms in color-saturated tones of blue, pink, purple and white.
The biggest varieties can reach 6 feet tall.
- Joe Pye Weed: Butterflies love these tall perennial plants and
you will, too, if you’re looking for big. Joe Pye grows up to 7 feet
tall and 4 feet wide. It bears clusters of pale pink-purple flowers that
smell like vanilla.
- Cutleaf Coneflower: The cutleaf is not a coneflower at all. It’s
in the same family as black-eyed susans. It can grow to a towering 9 feet
tall and is covered with yellow, daisy-like flowers with coneflower-like
drooping petals and domed center disks.
- Hollyhock: A staple of cottage gardens, hollyhock will bring
old-fashioned beauty to your perennial border. Hollyhocks produce blooms in
hot pink, red, white or black on 6 to 8-foot-tall spires. Technically it’s a
biennial, but it self-sows and multiplies, so you shouldn’t need to
- Canna: Cannas look tropical, but they’re winter hardy to zone 7.
These perennial flowers grow as tall as 6 feet, with big, paddle-shaped
leaves and blooms in red, orange, yellow, cream and bicolors.
- Maximillian Sunflower: These look like their annual cousins, but
they bloom in late summer and keep making flowers
in the fall. Maximillians grow 4 to 7 feet tall and produce branches full
of sunny yellow flowers.
- Red Hot Poker: This exotic looking plant grows 3 to 4 feet tall
and works well in groupings in the back of a perennial bed. Spikes of red,
yellow, white or orange tube-shaped flowers grow from grassy, gray-green
- Foxglove: The tall spires of foxgloves are a vision. They grow as
tall as 8 feet and produce tube-shaped flowers in blue, pink or white with
deep purple spots on their throats. Technically they’re biennials, meaning
they’ll live two years and die. But they’re enthusiastic re-seeders and will
act like tall perennial plants, coming back for years.
10 Great Fall Perennials
Keep the flower power going in your garden until the first frost with these
beautiful perennials that bloom in the fall.
Summer’s ending but you want the flowers to keep coming in your
garden. Don’t worry. There are plants out there that will bloom
until the first frost. Here’s a list of fall perennials that will
keep the flower power going in your garden:
- Aster: Commonly known as New England aster, this
sun-loving plant produces dense clusters of daisy-like blooms
with purple, pink, blue and white rays and yellow centers.
Asters are one of the iconic fall perennials, blooming in later
summer and continuing through fall.
- Goldenrod: Despite what you’ve heard, goldenrod does
not cause hay fever. Ragweed is the culprit that makes you
sneeze in the fall. Goldenrod produces clusters of yellow
flowers. This is one of the autumn flowering perennials you’ll
often see along roadsides and at the edge of woods.
- Perennial Sunflower: One of the most summery looking
of fall perennials, these sunflowers look like their annual
relatives but they bloom late summer and keep making sunny
yellow flowers in fall.
- Helenium: You don’t usually think of this member of
the daisy family when you think of autumn flowering perennials,
but its yellow, orange or red flowers bring a zing of color to
your garden at the end of the season.
- Sedum: This succulent rides out the summer heat and
then bursts into bloom in the fall, closing out the growing
season with flowers in white, pink, yellow or deep purple.
‘Autumn Joy’ is a popular variety with flowers that turn from
pink to copper, just like the trees in fall.
- Chrysanthemum: A classic of fall flowering
perennials, mums look good in containers or beds. They bloom in
shades of white, purple, gold, orange and purple.
- Russian Sage: Sages are tough and lovely. Just try to
kill one. Russian sage will be one of the last plants in your
garden with blooms, its wands of blue-purple flowers atop
silvery gray foliage.
- Anise Hyssop: This one begins blooming in the summer
and keeps making flowers right through fall. It grows to
five-feet tall and is covered with spikes of blue-purple flowers
that smell like licorice.
- Blazing Star: When you’re looking for perennials to
plant in the fall, try this tall perennial that produces spikes
of fluffy, deep purple flowers. Blazing star can get as tall as
five feet so give it room to grow.
- Toad Lily: Not many shade plants bloom in the fall,
but toad lilies are an exception with their orchid-like blooms.
Its delicate, inch-long flowers are white to pale lilac with
deep purple spots. It’s one of the most
unusual looking perennials to plant in the fall.
10 Long-Flowering Perennials
Bring color to your garden all summer and into fall with these ever-blooming
perennials that produce flowers for multiple seasons.
Perennials generally aren’t known for producing endless flowers,
like annuals do. Perennials tend to bloom for just one season,
putting the bulk of their energy into growing strong roots, not lots
of flowers. There are ever-blooming perennials that bloom longer,
producing flowers for a couple of season. They’re almost always
sun-loving plants, because growing lots of flowers usually takes a
lot of sun. Here’s a list of long-flowering perennials that will
bring color to your garden all summer and into the fall.
- Caryopteris: Also known as blue spirea, this
perennial shrub blooms from late summer till early fall. Its
flowers range from blue to blue-purple and bloom in round
clusters that look like a blue cloud.
- Yarrow: This tough plant produces flat-topped
clusters of flowers in red, yellow or pink atop ferny,
silver-gray foliage. Yarrow blooms from late spring to early
fall as long as you keep cutting off the spent flowers.
- Pincushion Flower: Dainty blue flowers bloom all
summer and into the fall, making pincushion flowers,
or scabiosa, one of the longest of the long-flowering plants in
a perennial flower bed.
- Daylily: There are varieties of daylilies that
bloom all summer if you pinch off the spent flowers. Some of
most popular of these long-flowering plants are 'Stella de Oro',
'Happy Returns' and 'Stella Supreme'.
- Black-Eyed Susan: This iconic flower is one of the
most popular of the long-flowering plants. It blooms from early
summer to frost. Pinch off spent blooms and the yellow flowers
just keep coming and coming and coming.
- Hardy Hibiscus: This perennial shrub
produces showy blooms the size of dinner plates all summer long.
Flowers come in red, pink, white and yellow.
- Rose of Sharon: This small tree is
an old-fashioned favorite that has made a comeback in the world
of long-flowering perennials. A member of the hibiscus family,
it produces blooms all summer and into the fall.
- Russian Sage: This woody, shrub-like plant
produces light blue-purple flowers all summer. It has gray-green
foliage that contrasts nicely in a bed of greener plants. It
uses little water and thrives in hot, dry conditions.
- Coneflowers: Coneflowers bloom all summer, and
its flowers last a long time on the stem before fading. It’s a
native prairie wildflower that can be grown all over the
country. Its flowers come in white and orangey red, but purple
is the most common color.
- Catmint: One of the sturdiest long-flowering
plants, catmint forms a low, rounded mound of silvery blue
foliage with spikes of perennial purple flowers that keep coming
all summer long. It attracts birds and butterflies and makes a
nice cut flower.
8 Popular Perennial Herbs
Want to grow fresh herbs at home? These
much-loved perennial herbs can bring goodness to your kitchen year
Everything tastes better with fresh herbs. The best way to
avoid the dried stuff in the jars at the grocery is to grow your own fresh
herbs. You can grow them indoors on a sunny windowsill, or outdoors in a raised
bed or container. Some herbs, like cilantro and basil, are annuals in most
places. But others are perennials that can bring goodness to your kitchen for
years. Here’s a list of perennial herbs to grow at home.
- Chives: Chives are basically tiny onions,
but you grow them for their leaves, not their bulbs.
These perennial herbs grow in grassy clumps and have
hollow leaves. They’re a compact plant that does well in
containers. Snip the leaves at any time for cooking.
- Rosemary: Native to the Mediterranean,
this evergreen shrub likes hot, dry sunny spots. The
hardiest varieties can survive Zone 6 winters. Use its
needle-like leaves to flavor pork, lamb, chicken or
potatoes. It’s also a good ornamental plant
for containers or borders.
- Mint: This is the toughest of the
perennial herbs, growing where others fail. Use it for
tea, soups, baked goods and mojitos. Mint can spread
aggressively, so it’s a good idea to grow it in
containers to keep it from taking over too much real
estate in your garden.
- Tarragon: This shrubby perennial is a
classic French herb that smells and tastes like anise.
It’s the main flavoring in béarnaise sauce and is also
used to season fish, meats and eggs. Its dark green,
lance-shaped leaves can be clipped at any time and used
- Lavender: This bushy shrub has aromatic
purple flowers that are used as a culinary herb,
particularly in baked goods and teas. Its oils are also
used in cosmetics and soaps. With silvery foliage
and a mounding shape, lavender is lovely in an
ornamental bed. Give lavender dry soil and full sun.
- Oregano: You can’t cook Italian food
without oregano. It’s a must for tomato sauces, pizza
and Mediterranean cuisine in general. It’s a low-growing
herb so it works in containers. Cut its leaves at any
time to use in cooking. Pinch off flowers to keep the
leaves coming all season.
- Sage: One of the most popular perennial
herbs, sage has many uses. Besides its use as a culinary
herb, it’s also used in cosmetics, perfumes and soaps.
Burning sage gets rid of bad odors. You’ll need to
replace sage plants every couple of years because it
will get woody and produce fewer leaves.
- Thyme: The leaves of this low-growing herb
bring flavor to vegetables, soups and sauces, and it’s a
key ingredient of bouquet garni and herbes de Provence.
It likes sun and dry conditions, so plant it in a raised
bed or container to keep it high and dry.
8 Best Perennial Shrubs
Looking to plant perennial flowering shrubs? You can't go wrong
with these top picks from DIY experts.
Shrubs are a versatile group of plants, offering color, privacy and structure
for your landscape, and shelter and food for wildlife. Here’s a list of
perennial shrubs to help you pick the right plant for the right place.
- Spirea: This easy-to-grow perennial shrub grows four to 10 feet
tall and blooms in spring or summer, depending on variety. Spring bloomers
bear flowers cascading on arching stems. Summer bloomers are shorter plants
with clusters of flowers at the end of branches. Flowers can be white, blue
- Azalea: No Southern garden is complete without beautiful, beloved
azaleas. These evergreen perennial shrubs grow as tall as 15 feet, depending
on the variety, and are covered in blooms in pink, purple, white or pink in
the spring. They’re in the rhododendron family and there are varieties
that will can grow in nearly every region.
- Hardy Hibiscus: These giant perennial bushes grow to seven feet
tall and produce showy blooms the size of dinner plates all summer. Hardy
hibiscus looks like a tender tropical plant but can survive winters to Zone
5. Flowers come in jewel tones of red, pink, white and yellow.
- Rose of Sharon: This old-fashioned favorite has made a comeback.
It’s a tree-sized plant, growing to 12 feet tall and spreading to 10 feet
wide. A member of the hibiscus family, these perennial shrubs produce a
profusion of blooms in white, pink, red or purple all summer and into the
- Camellia: This gorgeous evergreen shrub grows eight to 15 feet
tall, depending on the variety. It bears rose-like blooms in red, pink or
white, depending on type. Camellias are a fixture in old-fashioned southern
gardens where they bloom midwinter. They’re a great cut flower, but only
winter hardy to Zone 6.
- Viburnum: This spring blooming shrub grows to 15 feet high and
bears fragrant flowers in pink and white. These perennial flowering shrubs
are tough plants with more than 150 species, some of which can survive
winters to Zone 3 (that’s southern Alaska.) Some varieties bear small
berries that birds love. Plant a stand of viburnum in the back of a border
for a natural screen.
- Mock Orange: An easy-to-grow shrub, mock orange grows three to 15
feet tall and up to six feet wide, depending on variety. These perennial
bushes bear white flowers in the spring with a heavenly fragrance you can
smell a foot away. They tend to be lanky and make excellent screen plants.
- Hydrangea: One of the most popular perennial shrubs, hydrangea
produces big, showy clusters of flowers on a plant that grows from three to
20 feet high, depending on the variety. They like light shade and need a
medium amount of water. Hydrangea blooms in blue, pink, white
and purple-blue. They make good specimen plants or arranged in groupings.