Yard and Garden: Different Types of Perennials

July 9, 2015, 10:00 am | Richard Jauron, Kendall Evans

AMES, Iowa – Perennials are beautiful plants that live three or more years, die in the ground each fall and return in the spring. There are many different types of perennials. Depending on the perennial, it might require a certain type of planting site to grow successfully.

Horticulturists with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach identify different types of perennials and planting sites where perennials can grow successfully. 

Perennials for SunWhich perennials grow well in wet soils? 

When selecting perennials, it’s important to choose plants that are appropriate 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 species), 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 grow well in dry soils? 

Perennials that tolerate dry soils include: yarrow (Achillea spp.), wormwood (Artemisia spp.), butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), false blue indigo (Baptisia australis), threadleaf coreopsis (Coreopsis verticillata), purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), blanket flower (Gaillardia x grandiflora), showy stonecrop (Hylotelephium spectabile), blazing star (Liatris spicata), catmint (Nepeta racemosa), Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), moss phlox (Phlox subulata), black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida), goldenrod (Solidago hybrids), lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina), aromatic aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium) and ornamental grasses. 

What are some good low maintenance perennials? 

All perennials require maintenance. Common maintenance chores are watering, fertilizing, pinching, staking, deadheading, dividing and providing winter protection. 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), coneflower (Rudbeckia spp.), perennial salvia (Salvia x superba), stonecrop (Sedum spp.), speedwell (Veronica spp.) and ornamental grasses. 

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), foam flower (Tiarella spp.) and ferns. 

Which perennials are long-lived? 

Long-lived perennials include: black snakeroot (Actaea racemosa), lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis), goat’s beard (Aruncus dioicus), butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), false blue indigo (Baptisia australis), gas plant (Dictamnus albus), ferns, hardy geranium (Geranium spp.), ornamental grasses, daylily (Hemerocallis spp.), hosta (Hosta spp.), Siberian iris (Iris sibirica), blazing star (Liatris spp.), daffodil (Narcissus spp.), peony (Paeonia hybrids), balloon flower (Platycodon grandiflorus), lungwort (Pulmonaria spp.), black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida), stonecrop (Sedum spp.) and Carolina lupine (Thermopsis villosa). 

When given favorable growing conditions and good care, long-lived perennials often thrive for 20 or more years. 

Which perennials are short-lived? 

Short-lived perennials grow well for a few years and then decline and fade away.

Short-lived perennials include: columbine (Aquilegia spp.), delphinium (Delphinium spp.), pinks (Dianthus spp.), blanket flower (Gaillardia x grandiflora), baby’s breath (Gypsophila paniculata), coral bells (Heuchera spp.), hyacinth (Hyacinthus orientalis), Shasta daisy (Leucanthemum spp.), perennial flax (Linum perenne), lupine (Lupinus hybrids), Maltese cross (Lychnis chalcedonica), Iceland poppy (Papaver nudicaule), pincushion flower (Scabiosa spp.), painted daisy (Tanacetum coccineum) and hybrid tulips (Tulipa spp.).  

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