Gardening with Perennials – How To Design A Perennial Garden

Gardening with Perennials – How To Design A Perennial Garden

I truly believe that the key to a lifetime of happy gardening is to have a few tried and true perennials in your gardening beds. I remember the first time I grew them: I was ten years old and seeing those green shoots poking out of the cold, hard ground in late spring was the most miraculous sight I had ever witnessed. Living in a northern climate, USDA plant hardiness zone 5, it was hard to believe that anything could survive the cold, snowy winter our mountain town had just endured. Every year since, I have been in awe when I see my golden Achillea (yarrow), orange daylilies, and white Alaskan shasta daisies growing from my perennial flower gardens strong by early May without any help of my own. Let’s learn more about gardening with perennials.

Perennial Garden Plants

When trying to decide which little miracles to plant in your perennial garden design, just take a look around you. If you have neighbors who also enjoy gardening, ask them or just observe what perennial garden plants they have grown successfully. Which ones come back year after year and require little or no maintenance? Which ones have been too delicate to survive the winter?

If you live in hot and humid climates, be sure to inquire as to which perennials tend to overrun the garden and require constant cutting back and digging up. Even in my cool mountain climate, it’s well known that planting peppermint or spearmint in the garden is asking for trouble; it will quadruple in size year after year and, like some in-laws I know, is nearly impossible to get rid of.

There are countless books and catalogs that will also be helpful in your search to find the perfect practical perennial garden plants. If you’re having trouble deciding on perennials to display in your garden, try a local gardening book written especially for your climate zone and weather conditions, or simply determine which zone you’re in and pay attention to the zone indicators in each plant’s description. For instance, in the guide to perennials I’m reading, it shows that dianthus (a happy little pink flower) enjoys zones 3 to 8, full sun, and well-drained dry to moist soil. In my zone 5 dry soil, dianthus should fare just fine.

Soil for Perennial Flower Gardens

Regardless of whether your neighbors and friends are helpful in your search, you will still need to do some digging, literally, of your own. No two gardens are ever alike. Just across the street from me lives a very lucky woman who has light, sandy soil full of organic matter that is quite fertile. At my house, however, my garden contains sticky, dense clay soil that has a tendency to be on the dry, infertile side because of the many evergreens gracing my yard.

You can determine your soil’s type by holding some in your hand and moistening it. It will either form a sticky, solid, clay-type ball, a sandy ball that easily falls apart in your hand, or something in between.

How to Design a Perennial Garden

Now that you have an idea of which plants will suit your location’s particular characteristics, the joyful process of preparing, designing, and maintaining the garden bed begins. As part of your perennial garden design process, performing a pH and nutrient soil test is a good first step. It will let you know what nutrients are lacking or if the pH is off balance. A pH range of 6.0-7.0 (slightly acidic to neutral) is acceptable to most all perennial flower gardens.

Once the soil test has been done and any adjustments have been made, add 1inch (2.5 cm.) of compost to the top of the soil, making sure the soil is not too wet (soaked) or too dry (dusty), and turn it over with a shovel being careful not to trample it after digging. If this soil preparation can be done the fall before next spring’s planting, it would be ideal. If not, wait at least a day before planting the bed.

Plant the perennials on a cloudy and cool day, if possible, to avoid shock. Make sure to give them sufficient space to double or triple in size. As perennial garden plants bloom, remove any spent blossoms by simply pinching them off with your fingers. Each spring it is also a good idea to spread well-rotted manure, compost, or organic fertilizer on the surface of the soil and cover it with a mulch such as chopped leaves or straw to keep the soil moist and fertile.

If the plants have become crowded after a few years at their location, dig up the perennial clump, divide it into two or three sections with a knife, being careful not to let the roots dry out, and replant them, either expanding the flower bed or choosing a new location–even giving them to friends. It’s easy to make friends when you have free perennials.

Gardening with perennials is fun and easy. These gardens return each year, bringing additional enjoyment with each new bloom.

Gardening with Perennials

Perennials come in every size,color and texture

Perennials are beautiful when in bloom and can make for a stunning display. The blooms last only a couple of weeks in many cases, though, so plan your design around form, texture and color of the foliage.

Related To:

Perennial plants and flowers come in virtually every shape, size, color and texture. As you observe the natural landscape, these combinations come into play without even realizing it. As we plan our gardens, perennials are the plants of choice to fill in those lower and mid layers with whatever form, color and texture desired. They are what ties gardens together in a pattern of rhythm, balance and even punctuation.

As you work with perennials in landscape or garden design, keep in mind a few important guidelines to ensure a great looking and vibrant, long lasting garden.

Perennial Gardening

The new gardener is coming to rely on perennial flowering plants to a greater extent every year. This is natural, for these plants to possess qualities, which enable them to fill satisfactorily almost all gardening needs. There is danger, however, that we may select too many plants of too many varieties and undertake to care for a larger garden than we can properly keep in the pink of condition. It is more reasonable to limit our attention to a few plants and then raise them wisely and well, rather than to spread our endeavors over too wide a field, and so, perhaps, reap only disappointment for our labor.

By limiting our selection of plants and the extent of our garden, however, we do not fail to achieve beauty and distinction, for by selecting wisely we can get a great deal of variety and surely a large amount of enjoyment.

Where to begin and what to select for a small garden is no easy task. Every nursery catalog attests to the great variety of species offered each described in glowing terms as most beautiful and quite indispensable to each and every garden. Who can, name the ten best perennials or the most interesting twenty-five for his own garden, let alone his neighbors’ Personal reference goes a long way in governing selection, but there are certain other criteria, which will guide us to a fuller realization of our ambitions. Hardiness and ease of culture should be taken into consideration. Color, height, and time of bloom are important, and above all let us practice restraint, a quality just as desirable in planning a garden as at a feast. It is far better to have a few large masses of several good varieties than a mixed collection of many inharmonious plants.

Important as is this matter of selection, design and arrangement in the garden itself are equally so. We must know where we are to plant and how much room we have before ordering plant material. Much of the effectiveness of small gardens depends on how well they serve as elements of decoration in the landscape scheme. Growing plants just for the sake of having them is all right, but it is horticulture, not gardening. Gardening depends more on the effectiveness of the display than on the size and luxuriance of individual plants. We should be sure, then, that our garden, though small and simple, is fundamentally well designed. It must have background and enclosure. It must relate properly to other parts of the grounds and to the house. It must have balance, unity of composition, and accent, for a garden is not merely a collection of flowering plants. It is more than that. It is an artistic entity, effective for its purpose just so far as it follows out the fundamental concepts of design. Luxuriant flowers are only one factor in its success there are other considerations of equal, if not greater, importance.

Having chosen our plants and designed a simple garden to contain them, our next step is to care for them in such a way that they will be contented and continue to grow, blossom, and multiply. In order to achieve this important end we must know something about the maintenance of perennial gardens, starting with soil preparation and fertility and carrying on with the proper methods and procedure of cultivation, top dressing, mulching, spraying, and all the other routine subjects recognized as important factors in gardening.

With these thoughts in mind the following URL’s have been selected in the hope that those who would garden expertly may find aid and inspiration which will help them to additional success.

How To:
Dividing A Dicentra
Dividing A Geranium
Dividing A Hosta
Dividing An Astilbe
Dividing An Iris
Planting An Etera Perennial
Winterizing Perennials

Why would you Want to Grow Perennials in Containers?

There are many advantages, over and above cost and convenience, to growing perennials in containers. Here are some you might not have considered:

  • It gives the gardener a head start of at least a month over those planting only annuals because perennials can handle colder weather. This means that instead of waiting until after Mother's Day to plant up your containers with annuals, you can have beautiful containers in April! If you just have to have annuals in your containers, you can add them after the last frost date.
  • It allows the gardener to grow things that wouldn't normally grow in their soil or climate. For example, if your native soil is clay, you can grow perennials that prefer lighter soil in containers and then place the container in your garden. Similarly, if your soil is alkaline, you can grow acid-loving perennials in containers. If you live in a northern zone, you can cheat your zone by planting non-hardy or marginally hardy plants in containers and then move them indoors for the winter months. Many gardeners are doing just that since the trend of using tropical plants in the garden began a couple of years ago. You can also use decorative pots to contain perennials that may be invasive in the garden but are still worth growing.
  • Containers can be rearranged to give the appearance of continuous bloom throughout the season. Place them in a prominent place, such as on a front porch, when they are in full bloom, then rotate them out when they are finished. If there is a spot in the garden that is all-green during parts of the season, add a pot of flowering perennials there to liven up the space and add visual interest. Design your container plantings to coordinate with the seasons, so you have something in bloom for spring, summer, and fall.
  • The container itself can add an architectural element to the garden. Sometimes it's not what you put in the pot that's most important--sometimes it's the pot itself that holds the interest. This is especially true if the container is very large, brightly colored, or uniquely shaped.

Imagine a gorgeous flower garden drenched with color from early spring to the first frost of autumn.

A daydream, you say? Not anymore! This flower garden design fills the wish list of amateur and expert gardeners alike with …

  • Constant color: Spring flowers and foliage in burgundy, pink, and blue give way to yellow, orange, blue, and ebony for summer and autumn.
  • Effortless impact: This plot is almost maintenance-free. For at least five years, it will need no staking, dividing, or pruning—only fertilizing, feeding, and maybe a bit of weeding.
  • Easy adaptability: The plot size can be reduced or expanded to suit your space (and time), and these plants tolerate most climates, whether the first freeze occurs on September 10 or November 15. (Because most of these perennials need winter chill, this garden is not appropriate for subtropical climates such as southern Florida and southern California.)

Three Seasons of Color

Spring Color

  • ‘Black Lace’ elderberry
  • Rozanne geranium
  • ‘Foxtrot’ tulip
  • ‘King of Hearts’ dicentra
  • ‘Obsidian’ heuchera
  • Wine & Roses weigela


Summer Color

  • ‘Connecticut Yankee’ delphinium
  • ‘Goldsturm’ rudbeckia
  • ‘Mardi Gras’ helenium
  • ‘May Night’ salvia
  • ‘Mönch’ aster
  • ‘Summer Sun’ heliopsis

(‘Black Lace’ elderberry, Rozanne geranium, ‘Obsidian’ heuchera, and Wine & Roses weigela will still bloom.)


Fall Color

(‘Black Lace’ elderberry, Rozanne geranium, ‘Goldsturm’ rudbeckia, Mardi Gras helenium, ‘May Night’ salvia, ‘Obsidian’ heuchera, ‘Summer Sun’ heliopsis, and Wine & Roses weigela will still bloom.)

Garden Ground Rules

  • The bed is 16 feet long and 6 feet wide.
  • The garden requires at least six hours of sunlight a day.
  • The 13 plant varieties are massed in numbers of each for maximum color and instant curb appeal. The plan is customizable to your best advantage, as a border or an island.
  • To create larger beds, double or triple the number of plants
  • If space (or time) is at a premium, cut the length of the bed to 8 feet, reduce the number of plants accordingly, and forgo the large ‘Black Lace’ elderberry shrub.
  • For a centerpiece in the middle of a lawn, place the elderberry and taller perennials in the middle and surround them with plants of shorter stature, ending with Rozanne geranium and ‘Obsidian’ heuchera at the edge of the bed.

Best Three-Season Plants List

A three-season garden requires three essential ingredients:

  1. Perennials that bloom copiously year after year
  2. Small shrubs with color-saturated foliage all season long
  3. Plants that do not spread aggressively

These characteristics are found in all of the following:

  1. Elderberry (Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’)
    1 plant
  2. Weigela (Weigela Wine & Roses)
    2 plants
  3. Bleeding heart (Dicentra ‘King of Hearts’)
    4 plants
  4. Heuchera (Heuchera ‘Obsidian’)
    2 plants
  5. Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’)
    2 plants
  6. Ox eye (Heliopsis helianthoides var. scabra ‘Sommersonne’, aka ‘Summer Sun’)
    2 plants
  7. Sneezeweed (Helenium ‘Mardi Gras’)
    2 plants
  8. Salvia (Salvia x sylvestris ‘Mainacht’, aka ‘May Night’)
    4 plants
  9. Cranesbill (Geranium ‘Gerwat’, aka Rozanne)
    8 plants
  10. Aster (Aster x frikartii ‘Mönch’)
    3 plants
  11. Tulip (Tulipa ‘Foxtrot’)
    40 bulbs
  12. Monkshood (Aconitum carmichaelli ‘Arendsii’)
    6 plants
  13. Delphinium (Delphinium ‘Connecticut Yankee’ series)
    6 plants


Tips for Success Every Season

  • Before you start digging, arrange the potted plants on the bed so that you can get a general idea of what the garden will look like. Remember to leave space between the plants to allow them to grow wider.
  • Plant from the back of the bed to the front. Set shrubs and perennials at the same depth as they are in containers.
  • For a lush look, plant tulip bulbs thickly (about 5 per square foot of bed). After they bloom, remove the dead flowers so that the bulbs put their energy into storing nutrients for the next season rather than into setting seeds. Remove tulip leaves after they brown. Don’t worry about appearances nearby perennials will cover up the aging leaves.
  • Fertilize if you want these plants to thrive. Scrape away any mulch from the base of each plant in the early spring and spread an inch of compost around the plants. In July, lightly mix bonemeal or a slow-release fertilizer into the surface of the soil above the bulbs. (Note: Bonemeal may attract rodents that will dig for bones.) Learn more about organic soil amendments.
  • Spread 3 inches of mulch over the bed. It will help to retain moisture and suppress weeds. Use an organic material (such as shredded bark or leaf mold), which adds nutrients to the soil as it decays. Cedar bark mulch is an excellent choice as well, because the resins in it repel many insects and prevent fungal diseases. Learn more about mulch.
  • Remove fading flowers to increase perennials’ bloom production. Shrubs drop their old flowers and will bloom again if conditions are right.
  • Do not remove brown foliage on perennials until early spring when new green growth appears. The dead material insulates plant roots from the temperature extremes of winter.
  • If you must prune your shrubs, do so after the shrubs flower, not in early spring.

Once your three-season plot is planted, be patient. Perennials reach their full size and beauty by the second season. Shrubs grow more slowly, reaching their mature size 3 to 5 years after planting.

Do you have a perennial garden? What’s your favorite perennial flower? Let us know in the comments below!

7 Perennial Flower Bed Design Ideas To Beautify Your Garden

Last updated on February 18, 2020 by Raymond Kartzman

So you want a low maintenance garden that doesn’t need a lot of replanting or weeding while offering a perk-me-up view for everyone. You want something that adds more splendor to your rather dry and drab surroundings. If this is what you want then, it can be presumed that you want perennials.

Before we dive into the meat of the matter, first let’s clear a doubt some people have regarding annual and perennial plants.

Difference between Annuals and Perennials

Annual plants are those with a life cycle that lasts one year only. There whole life cycle that is grown from seed, to bloom, seed production and death happen in one growing season. That’s why then need to be replanted each spring. Some of the common Annual plants are Petunias and Geraniums

Perennials, as the name implies, bloom over and over again allowing you to enjoy them all year round. Year after year, these garden blooms bring about mesmerizing color and form to your home. Some of the common perennial flower plants are Daffodils, Lilies, Chrysanthemum, Coral bells and the likes.

So if you want to have a flower garden which blooms over the year, again and again, it’s best to plant perennial flowers. To get you started, here are some perennial flower bed design ideas to begin with:

1. Tree Ringlet. Got trees in your lawn or yard? Highlight its beauty by adding a ringlet flower bed filled with clusters of perennials, annuals, and evergreens. Perennials thrive in environments where both sun and shade go together. You have the option to add pavers as edges or natural stones. Or if you may place potted succulents or evergreens as edge on a tree ringlet to give it more charm.

2. Window Boxes. Though not literally a “flower bed”, apartments, townhouses, and other high rise abodes that allow container gardening will make do by adding window boxes to house blooming perennials. Not only do these boxes prettify your home, but it also helps visitors and potential buyers (in case you’re planning to sell) to draw their eyes into your home and enhance its “face value” even more.

3. Cottage Style Wheelbarrow. Another great flower bed design idea is the use of an old wheelbarrow. This shabby chic design will help complement country or cottage style homes. Consider complementary perennials and annuals of varying color and growing style. No wheelbarrow? Use an old bicycle instead.

4. Upcycled Chair or Bench. Got an old chair or bench waiting to be collected? Why not convert it into a perennial planter slash bed. Another shabby chic flower bed design idea to hold your lovely perennials, this can prettify corners and wall in your yard. Hang a rustic sign “Secret Garden” and you have a mesmerizing area that draws an observer’s eye.

5. Tree Stump-Beds. Ditch the added expense of removing a tree stump in your yard. Instead, convert such an ugly eyesore into a flower “bed” slash planter. Simply carve a hollow in it and rest your perennials. Tree stumps are great in terms of maintaining soil moisture allowing more nutrients to seep into your blooms. No tree stumps? Have a landscape artist create one for you. Makes a great addition to rustic style homes and gardens.

6. Potted Borders. For a newbie in gardening, creating a border for a garden bed can be quite taxing. Whether perennials or annuals, borders can be hard to maintain. Luckily, you can simply buy huge pots and choose perennials to plant in them then, arranged them as border to your balcony, patio or premises where you want them to bloom. This idea also gives you freedom to move your beloved perennials, particularly during stormy weather or wintertime.

7. Tiered Flower Beds. Add more levels of charm to your garden with sturdy and functional flower beds filled with perennials and evergreens. An awesome idea for sloped lawns and yards, it allows you to add a creative structural element on your garden design. Feel free to use natural stone, brick or concrete as walls to encase those flowery blooms.

It’s high time to see your home in a whole new light. With these perennial flower bed design ideas, you can finally upgrade your abode’s landscape to highlight its architectural features as well as the natural elements therein. One key ingredient in making perennials bloom even in the heat of summer is to use a premium potting mix that helps retain water on whatever flower bed design they’re in. When done accordingly, you are not only enhancing perennials bloom factor but also improve your home’s overall curve appeal and its ambiance for the whole family to enjoy.

Easy to Grow Perennials

It can be a challenge to choose the easy to grow plants from the hundreds of perennials, especially if you’re a newbie gardener.

So here’s a list of ten easy-to-grow perennials to help you get started!

It is one of the hardy perennials that are able to withstand dry summers and coldest winter. You will enjoy the color it brings to your summer garden with its rosy purple petals surrounding a cone-shaped central seed head from which it derives its common name. It also has a yellow variant called Echinacea paradoxa which is not the common variety.

However with the hybrids that have been produced by plant breeders successfully over the years, one can choose from many that now have more colors, shapes, and sizes.

These foliage plants come in varieties of shapes, sizes, and colors and can be used to brighten up shady spots in your garden. Their heights can vary from ground-hugging 4-inch dwarfs to 4-foot-tall giants. Although these plants are mainly known for their attractive foliage, they also produce lovely fragrant pink, lavender, or white flowers during the summer, which attracts the Hummingbirds.

One thing to be aware of is that deer love hosta. So to discourage deer, use fencing. Also, you can have a talk with your local garden center about odor-based sprays that will act as deer repellents.

Black-Eyed Susan

This daisy like flowers – black-eyed Susans will illuminate your flower garden like bright rays of sunshine. This brightly colored flower can grow up to 24-36 inches tall, and blooms in its lemon-yellow, orange, and gold color for weeks with minimal care.

To encourage the plant to keep blooming clip off old blooms. In winter you can leave the seed heads for the birds to help in pollination and to provide some interesting color in the winter landscape.

Note that the black-eyed Susan doesn’t like water lingering on their foliage, so be careful about watering as lingering water can result in powdery mildew.

This easy to grow flower is one that a beginner gardener can try as her first plant as Coreopsis grows equally well in a container as well as in garden soil.

This plant can grow to be as tall as 4 feet and spread anywhere from 12 to 36 inches. However, there are many varieties that grow to shorter height as well.

Birds like Goldfinches like to snack on the seeds of this flower. It will also attract bees and butterflies to your garden.

Coral Bells

The main appeal of coral bells is its foliage varying from a deep purple or burgundy, to red and lime green. They grow well in containers even mixed with other plants and hardy enough to go without water even in summer.

The flower panicles make fine additions to cut flower arrangements. They are deer resistant and like Coreopsis will attract butterflies and hummingbirds into your garden.

Care should be taken so that the plant does not get fungus in hot and humid season. In case fungus spot is detected, it should be treated by this copper fungicide

Siberian Iris

This tall graceful plant is a great choice to grow in landscape borders as well as corners. Being another plant that is easy to grow and mature Siberian Iris plant can put out more than 20 stems of flowers at once, in a blooming season that lasts from late April to early summer.

This plant expands outwards each year by itself until eventually, the centers stop blooming. So it should be divided by carefully digging up the rhizomes with a garden fork after they finish blooming. Next cut them and replant the outermost, young rhizomes and discard the older center ones.

This carefree perennial plant can thrive even with minimum attention and hence another good plant for a beginner to start a project.

Daylilies tend to grow in large clumps, and each individual clump can produce as many as two to four hundred blooms over the period of a month in the best conditions but will last for only a single day.

You should divide the daylilies every two to four years depending on how fast they are spreading.

Garden Phlox

This two feet tall, eye-catching Garden Phlox is great to grow for sunny borders. The large clusters of pink, purple, lavender or white flowers bloom for several weeks in summer and is an excellent choice for cut flowers.

They release noticeable fragrance especially during the night and are known to attract butterflies and birds.

In the beginning, Garden Phlox should be watered weekly for the first few weeks and then in a frequency to keep the soil lightly moist. After the flower fades it is best to clip the flower stems to keep the plants looking tidy, and also prevents the flowers from dropping seeds

This hardy long-living perennial plant (known to live even for hundred years ) offers big, fluffy, fragrant flowers in a wide range of colors, forms and sizes.

With its fluff of thin ribbon petals and majestic look, even a single stem in a floral arrangement will make people believe that it has been done by a professional florist.
Unlike roses, peony bushes do not require precise pruning to thrive. Often pruning is only necessary for the event of damage or disease.

Asters will produce a carpet of daisy-like flowers on from the moth of August through October, depending on the variety which ranges from five hundred to six hundred.

Asters need very little maintenance. Caring mainly includes deadheading for more blooms and occasionally controlling the powdery mildew. This disease can be most easily prevented by autumn or spring division of aster flowers, with its middle clump removed and discarded.

As these flowers are a rich source of nectar, and they flower at the height of the Monarch butterfly migration season, they are a great way to attract these beautiful butterflies. Aster also attracts lots of bees so if you are bee sensitivities plant the Asters away from the garden path.

Combining Perennial Plants for Great Design

While designing a perennial garden it is best to put pair the flowers and shrubs to get that desired look.

For example, you can pair Hosta with Allium as they both thrive well in a shady environment and complement each other’s shape.

Similarly, you can pair Asters with Miscanthus which can give a dramatic statement to your garden with blue and purple Asters blooming in Autumn mixed with creamy plumes of Miscanthus.

Another combination could be Coneflowers with Black eyed Susan. Both are hardy drought-resistant types and can form a great bouquet to enjoy in the summertime. Similarly, you can combine black eyed susan with Daylilies and Coneflowers.

Also remember that besides their colorful flowers, shrubs add architectural interest to your garden during the winter when perennials are dormant and out of view.

Hopefully, this info will provide you with a great perennial garden design idea and will provide you many years of enjoyment since perennials come back each year, with no replanting requirement.

Watch the video: Low Maintenance Perennial Garden