Yard and Garden: All about Perennials

Perennials can be grown in nearly any garden location – sunny, shady, wet, dry, border or background. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach horticulture specialists recommend perennials to meet specifications of many gardeners. To have additional questions answered, contact the Hortline at 515-294-3108 or hortline@iastate.edu.

What are some good low maintenance perennials? 

perennials for sunAll perennials require some maintenance. Watering, fertilizing, pinching, staking, deadheading, dividing and providing winter protection are common maintenance chores. Some perennials require frequent attention through the growing season. Others require minimal care.

Low maintenance perennials for sunny locations include butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), false blue indigo (Baptisia australis), hardy geranium (Geranium spp.), hardy zinnia (Heliopsis helianthoides), daylily (Hemerocallis spp.), Siberian iris (Iris sibirica), blazing star (Liatris spp.), daffodil (Narcissus spp.), peony (Paeonia hybrids), Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), moss phlox (Phlox subulata), balloon flower (Platycodon grandiflorus), black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia spp.), perennial salvia (Salvia x superba), sedum (Sedum spp.), speedwell (Veronica spp.) and ornamental grasses (various species).

Low maintenance perennials for partial to heavy shade include lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis), Canadian wild ginger (Asarum canadense), heartleaf brunnera (Brunnera macrophylla), turtlehead (Chelone spp.), bleeding heart (Dicentra spp.), barrenwort (Epimedium spp.), hosta (Hosta spp.), creeping phlox (Phlox stolonifera), lungwort (Pulmonaria spp.), bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), foamflower (Tiarella spp.) and ferns (various species). 

Which perennials grow well in wet soils? 

When selecting perennials, it’s important to choose plants that are suitable for the planting site. Perennials that grow well in moist to wet soils include sweet flag (Acorus calamus), black snakeroot (Actaea racemosa), Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum), goat’s beard (Aruncus dioicus), swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), turtlehead (Chelone spp.), Joe-pye weed (Eupatorium purpureum), queen-of-the-prairie (Filipendula rubra), rose mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos), Japanese iris (Iris ensata), yellow flag (Iris pseudacorus), cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana) and spiderwort (Tradescantia spp.). 

Which perennials tolerate dry soils? 

Perennials that tolerate dry soils include yarrow (Achillea spp.), butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), wormwood (Artemisia spp.), false blue indigo (Baptisia australis), coreopsis (Coreopsis spp.), purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), globe thistle (Echinops ritro), blazing star (Liatris spp.), catmint (Nepeta x faassenii), sundrop (Oenothera spp.), Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), moss phlox (Phlox subulata), black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia spp.), sedum (Sedum spp.), goldenrod (Solidago spp.) and lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina). 

What are some good perennials for shade? 

Perennials suitable for partial to heavy shade include black snakeroot (Actaea racemosa), northern maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum), lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis), columbine (Aquilegia spp.), goat’s beard (Aruncus dioicus), astilbe (Astilbe spp.), Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum var. pictum), heartleaf brunnera (Brunnera macrophylla), turtlehead (Chelone spp.), bleeding heart (Dicentra spp.), hosta (Hosta spp.), crested iris (Iris cristata), martagon lily (Lilium martagon), false Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum racemosum), Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica), woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata), lungwort (Pulmonaria spp.), foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia) and toad lily (Tricyrtis hirta).