Sunny perennial favorites
By definition perennials are plants that continue to bloom year after year. Annual plants only bloom once in a season, and biennials bloom every other season. Perennials are by the far the most popular of plants for most gardeners due to their ease of care and the colorful rewards. Also, perennials have many diverse cultivars, selecting them can be a challenge. Perennials begin blooming in the spring and finish as the snow hits the ground in late fall. A well selected perennial garden will allow you to have depth and variety as well as an abundance of color blooming for many of the seasons.
Perennials can be divided into two categories; herbaceous, whose stems die back to the ground each year and woody, stems that remain throughout the year. Propagation of most perennials can be accomplished by cuttings or by division. In general most of these plants benefit from division every 2 to 3 years. This process allows you to rejuvenate the flower production and multiply your plants or pass along to your gardening friends.
The Ohio State University fact sheet HYG —1242–98 lists perennials for specific sites and uses. These plants are hardy in Zone 5 and come in a variety of colors and sizes. A limited selection follows that do well in sunny Midwest Ohio conditions.
• Knock Out Rose — Rosa ‘Radrazz’ — The first Knock Out rose variety with red blooms. It’s disease resistant and will bloom continuously if deadheaded, late into the fall. They can grow 2 to 5 feet tall.
• Peony — Paeonia lactiflora ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ — An old fashioned plant that is very fragrant with large billowy light pink blooms. They average between 2 and 3 feet tall.
• Daylily — Hemerocallis minor — These dwarf daylilies are fragrant and come in a variety of colors. They bloom in the spring and summer. Dwarf varieties grow 2 to 3 feet or under.
• Hosta — Hosta plantaginea — Fragrant Plantain Lily has large greens leaves with white fragrant flowers that bloom from June to September. Hostas normally prefer high filtered shade such as an overhead tree. Hostas are available in a variety of sizes ranging from 5 inches to 4 feet in a wide range of colors.
• Thread-leaf coreopsis — Coreopsis verticillata — A delicate green fern like foliage with small soft yellow flowers that bloom most of the summer. This species only needs to be pruned twice a year to spur re-blooming. They are deer and drought resistant. This variety grows 1 to 2 feet tall.
• Oakleaf Hydrangea — Hydrangea quercifolia — Large green leafed plant with oak looking leaves and white flowers in the summer. This shrub blooms in mid June to July and is best used in a natural wooded setting. Oakleafs can grow between 4 and 6 feet tall.
• Purple Coneflower — Echinacea Purpurea — This variety of coneflower has a long stalk that can reach 4 feet tall and may need some staking. The blooms are a beautiful purple with a brown center.
• Coral Bells — Heuchera micrantha ‘Palace Purple’ — This variety has a deep purple ivy-shaped leaf with tiny white spiked flowers. It grows 15 to 18 inches tall. Coral bells come in a variety of colors and sizes.
• Shasta daisy — Chrysanthenum x superbum — Flowers are white and appear in June and July. They can reach 15 to 30 inches tall and like to be in full sun. They should be deadheaded for continuous bloom.
• Phlox — Phlox paniculata — Garden phlox pairs well with many plants. Taller varieties may need support. These plants self-sow easily and should be pruned once in the fall. They grow 2 to 4 feet tall, flowering from July to September.
Planning, growing and maintaining a perennial garden is worth the minimal work it takes to sustain. The rewards exceed the expectations when you plant perennials. These are a good choice for the backbone of your garden or as a spectacular display of color splashing into your landscape.
In order to help in the selection of perennials for your garden, plan on spending some time in the local nursery or botanical gardens to view the plants while in bloom. Perennials are well suited for borders, as a hedge or fence, against walls, in containers and are a good choice for cutting gardens. When choosing color consider the bloom colors as well as the shades of foliage for contrast in your garden. The ideas are endless, limited only by your imagination.
Dianne J. Gelinas is an OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteer.