Tried and True Perennials - and Some New Ones Too

March 21, 2011
Purple coneflower is well suited for full sun areas while providing interest to your landscape. Check out the rest of the recommendations below.

Perennials are often the backbone of beautiful and long-lasting ornamental plantings. As a group they provide colorful flowers and foliage, a variety of shapes and forms, and a mix of textures from the fine, delicate leaves of ornamental grasses to the bold, coarse texture of large leafed hostas. Perennials can also grow in a variety of light and soil conditions. This means there is a perennial, or two or three or more, for just about any location in the landscape.

Compared to annuals, perennials are less expensive in the long-run because they don’t need to be replanted each year and most tend to bloom well with minimal to no additional fertilizer, provided they are planted in good soil to start with. And, they only need a little attention in the spring to cut back the previous year’s foliage before they start growing again.

Spring is a great time to think about designing and installing a new perennial bed. Maybe you want to draw attention to the clubhouse, a tee box or the entry to your facility. Or maybe you have an existing bed that needs to be reworked to give it a little more pizzazz. Regardless of your situation, matching the right perennial to the growing conditions is important for the planting to be a success.

Below is a short list of tried and true perennials that thrive in our Midwestern climate. Many of these plants are familiar and used frequently in the landscape because they are easy to find in the trade and easy to grow.

Black-eyed Susan

Perennials for Sun

  • Rudbeckia fulgida; Black-eyed Susan
  • Echinacea purpurea; Purple coneflower
  • Achillea; Yarrow
  • Asclepias tuberosa; Butterfly Weed

Perennials for Shade

  • Astilbe;
  • Hosta;
  • Heuchera; Coralbells
  • Mertensia virginica; Virginia Bluebells

Here are some lesser know perennials that also do great in the Midwest. These plants may be a little harder to find, but they are well worth including. Most of these provide summer long interest either because of their unique foliage or because of their one to two month flowering period. Including any of these plants will give your planting a fresh look and be a nice change from the ordinary.

Lesser-Known Perennials for Sun

  • Amsonia hubrichtii; Narrow Leaf Blue Star, Arkansas Amsonia
  • Stachys officinalis ‘Hummelo’; Wood Betony
  • Stachys grandiflora 'Rosea'; Big Pink Betony
  • Allium 'Summer Beauty'; Summer Beauty Allium


Ann Marie ZanDerZanden

Professor & Associate Director for ISU Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching
Iowa State University