During my 30 years in the garden center business, there is one question that is asked more than all others: “What’s the difference between an annual and a perennial?” It’s one of those questions that many are embarrassed about, because they re-ask it every year. Here is the response I give to help my customers remember: “An annual is like annual taxes, you have to do them every year. A perennial is like a perennial problem, it keeps coming back, time after time.” With that said, here are some powerful perennials every landscape should consider, and some great ground covers that are hardy, will return every year and spread, and help reduce weeds and soil erosion.

The benefits of a well-designed perennial garden can provide many years of beauty and enjoyment. Early blooms of Basket of Gold Alyssum, to mid summer’s Stella de Oro Daylily and Shasta Daisies, then finishing with fall’s Autumn Joy Sedums, offers homeowners constant color throughout the season with less maintenance, less water, and often with fewer pest problems.

Red Columbine

Perennials may serve as natural borders along fences or property lines and require less irrigation and maintenance than turf grass. Visually, perennials give depth to property, and are a great background to soften fences and walls. They also are great companions to trees and shrubs and help in the resale of a home.  Sunny, dry sites to moist shady spots have numerous perennials and ground covers that will foot the bill and thrive when properly selected for their location. Not to mention the main goal — curb appeal to impress your family, friends and neighbors. But most of all impress the folks driving by that say, “Wow, that’s a beautiful flower garden and it seems to stay in bloom all season!”

Tips for planting perennials:

  • Choose location and blooming times


  • Check plant hardiness for your neck of the woods
  • Consider factors of sun, shade, wind, soil type and water source
  • Plan it on paper, which is much easier to correct than digging plants back up to relocate
  • Prepare a list of desired plants with heights and spread, blooming time and color
  • Add organic matter to improve soil quality if needed to help with drainage and aeration
  • Early Spring: Rock Cress, Creeping Phlox, Basket of Gold, English Daisy, Lily-of-the-Valley, Candytuft, Pasque Flower, Mossy Saxifrage, Hellebores, Violas and Sandwort
  • Early Summer: Ajuga, Columbine, Sea Thrift, Forget-Me-Not, Sweet Woodruff, Iris, Dianthus, Bleeding Heart, Penstemon, Periwinkle, Flax, Snow-in-Summer and Peony.
  • Summer: Snow on the Mountain, Yarrow, Holly Hock, Agastache, Astilbe, Carnation, Coreopsis, Ice Plant, Delphinium, Foxglove, Baby’s Breath, Coral Bells, Red Hot Poker, Lavender, Shasta Daisy, Bee Balm, Poppy, Rudbeckia, Salvia, Daylily, Hosta and Veronica
  • Late Summer/Fall: Coneflower, Sedums, Fall Aster, Chrysanthemum, German Statice, Gayfeather, Tall Garden Phlox, Russian Sage and Ornamental Grasses.


Facts for ground covers:

  • Helps control weeds and soil erosion
  • Dense foliage, but some can become invasive
  • Generally, less than 12” tall and spread easily
  • Plant where grass is not practical and some tolerate light foot traffic
  • Vines, herbaceous plants and shrubs, low growing juniper and ornamental
  • Grasses and moss, are considered excellent groundcovers.

When planting ground covers, follow the same tips as perennials.

Here are a few ground cover favorites to consider:

  • Small areas (under 50 square feet): Woolly Yarrow, Pussytoes, Mt Atlas Daisy, Silver Mound Sage, Sedum, Hens and Chicks, Lamb’s Ear, Creeping Thyme, Cranesbill, Creeping Speedwell and Verbena
  • Large areas (greater 50 square feet): Poppy Mallow, Snow-In-Summer, Ice Plant, Strawberry, Creeping Potentilla, Rock Cotoneaster, Catmint, Moneywort, Ground Ivy, Japanese Spurge and Periwinkle.

Enjoy your perennial wonders of nature and they’ll reward you with years of colorful blooms.

What’s your favorite perennial, and where does it live and thrive in your garden?