Adding perennial flowers and plants to your garden makes keeping your landscaping gorgeous a whole lot easier. Once the perennials take root, you’ll just need to trim back, weed, and perhaps separate out some of your plants if they start to take over your garden.
But with literally hundreds of perennial garden plants out there, how do you choose the ones that’ll thrive—and add a little wow factor year after year? Check out the most popular perennial flowers and plants for a little landscaping inspo.
How to Choose Perennial Flowers and Plants
If you want your perennial flowers and plants to come back year after year, you’ll want to assess your local climate, soil, and sunlight exposure. “Find plants that want the exact light, moisture, and soil conditions that you have on your site, and they’ll fare the best with the least amount of fuss,” says Kevin Lenhart, design director at Yardzen.
Choose native plants
Plants that are native to where you live are the most likely to thrive in your soil and weather. That means they’ll require minimal watering, fertilizing, and upkeep to look great—and they can provide food and habitat for local wildlife, Lenhart says.
Understand the time commitment
Be realistic about how much time you have to garden—and how much time the plants you pick will require as far as upkeep like deadheading or cutting back. “Some are higher maintenance than others,” says Maureen Wright, plant expert at Fast Growing Trees. “Know your limits and research your plants before planting.”
Ensure year-round color
Look at the bloom times of the plants you pick, and try to arrange to have something in bloom throughout the growing season. “Select perennials that bloom at different times throughout the growing season.,” Lenhart says. “This will ensure that your garden has continuous color and interest.”
Don’t be afraid to experiment
Many perennials are relatively inexpensive—especially if you decide to try to grow them from seed—so go ahead and try something new. “Have fun and see everything in your garden as an opportunity to learn something,” Wright says. “Try different colors and varieties, create a theme in your garden, and look for balance and biodiversity in your garden space.”
Popular Perennial Flowers and Plants for Your Garden
These pretty (and edible!) blooms are a fun perennial to add to your garden, with those Seuss-like globe flower heads. You’ll see flowers in late spring and early summer from these drought-tolerant plants.
Also known as sagebrush, these native perennial plants are prized for their lacy, silvery green foliage, Lenhart says. You’ll get small yellow flowers in the summer, but the biggest benefit is an environmental one. “They’re powerhouse habitat plants,” Lenhart says.
If you have a dry, sunny spot, this is the perfect perennial to plant there, though they can take up some space—some cultivars can reach to three feet tall and 10 feet wide. Lenhart suggests smaller cultivars like Powis Castle if you’re short on space.
Astilbe are noted for growing in many different sunlight conditions—they do best in part shade, but can handle full sun or full shade as well. They come in a variety of shades from white to pink to purple, and do best in a moist soil.
The bee balm (AKA monarda) comes by its nickname naturally, as it’s a magnet for pollinators like bees, moths, and hummingbirds, Lenhart says.
This perennial flower features fringe-like petals and comes in a variety of colors to match any garden color scheme. You’ll want to plant it in full sun to help it thrive.
Black-eyed Susans are a native plant that thrives pretty much anywhere in the U.S.—and since deers aren’t a fan, they’re a great pick if you have deer regularly chomping away in your garden. They’re also a good pick if you live in drier areas, as they’re drought tolerant plants, Lenhart says.
Wildflowers are an excellent choice for a perennial garden, since they’re already known to thrive in that area. Lenhart suggests blanket flower for its striking bright blooms, and easy-to-grow nature. It thrives in poor soil and in prairie and meadow landscapes.
Milkweed is essential for helping butterflies thrive, as it provides both food and shelter for monarchs and other butterfly species. “Butterfly milkweed lacks the milky sap common to most milkweeds, and is generally easy to get your hands on relative to other native milkweeds,” Lenhart says.
Butterfly milkweed has pretty orange flowers, so it looks gorgeous in your garden.
This fall-blooming staple comes in an array of colors, from fall-like crimson, orange, and yellow, to white, pink, and purple. They’re easy-to-grow perennial flowers that thrive in a sunny and well-drained spot.
While many perennial flowers have a short bloom time, coreopsis is an exception, blooming from late spring all the way through the summer. Coreopsis is also an exceptionally hardy perennial. “It’s tough—able to take drought, heat, and humidity, and happy in depleted, rocky soil,” Lenhart says. That makes it an ideal addition to more arid, desert-like landscapes. And if deer are an issue, these blooms won’t attract them.
While not a true lily, daylilies—which have each gorgeous bloom last for just a single day—are a super-popular perennial flower pick. “We love them because they are so low maintenance and vibrant and have such long bloom times,” Wright says.
When you’re planning a perennial garden, don’t sleep on perennial plants. “People tend to focus on flowering perennials, but non-blooming perennials like ornamental grasses and fine-textured sagebrushes frequently dominate modern planting designs,” Lenhart says. Gulf muhly is an easy-to-grow grass that thrives throughout the Southeast, and features gorgeous pink bloom in the fall. “It looks like a fluffy pink cloud,” Lenhart says.
This shade-loving perennial plant often sprouts tiny blooms, but also has gorgeous, colorful foliage that can brighten up the darker spots in your garden. “Heuchera cultivars come in a variety of colors, from peachy orange to deep purple, but I often steer clients toward green-leafed varieties, which avoid the risk of looking garish and tend to settle in more comfortably among other species,” Lenhart says.
Shade-loving perennial flowers are hard to find, but the classic hosta is one that provides not only gorgeous and interesting foliage, but pretty blooms as well. “Hostas create an atmosphere of simple elegance in garden spaces and complement more colorful plants and trees,” Wright says.
Hydrangea bushes are a perennial favorite, producing extremely long-lasting blooms in a variety of colors. They can do well in a variety of light conditions, and are extremely low maintenance.
Irises are a dramatic choice for a perennial garden, with their bold purple, yellow, white, blue, or pink blooms showing up in late spring or early summer. “We love them because there are so many color variations and flowers has such a distinct, unique shape,” Wright says. “Pollinators love them, too.”
Add a touch of calm with this perennial flower, which features long-lasting, sweetly scented summer blooms in the sunny spots of your garden. It’s a favorite of many bees, but It is also a great plant to keep away unwanted insects that don’t particularly enjoy the scent like humans do, Wright says.
True lilies, like Asiatic lilies, Easter lilies, and Oriental lilies, are a showstopping addition to your garden—and a popular perennial flower pick. They provide long-lasting blooms during the summer.
Little bluestem is a colorful ornamental grass, starting in a blue-green hue but turning rusty red in the fall and thorughout the winter, Lenhart says. “It’s deer resistant, and an important habitat plant across much of the U.S.”
They may not bloom long, but peonies make up for it with producing dramatic flowers. “Peonies have abundant full blooms full of fragrance and staying power,” Wright says. The plant requires full sun and a drier location, and should be planted in the fall to give them time to get established.
There are a ton of different varieties of phlox, including both ground cover and taller versions that’ll add beauty to your garden. They thrive in partial shade, with tiny pink, blue, white, and purple blooms.
Purple coneflowers are a native plant that thrives in most of the U.S., producing long-lasting flowers that attract plenty of pollinators to your yard. If you’re planting a pollinator garden, this is a must-have.
Perhaps the most popular perennial flower out there is the rose, which comes in a variety of sizes (including climbing and miniature varieties) and colors to suit pretty much any garden color scheme or style, Wright says.
Roses do best in full sun, and well-drained soil to thrive in your garden.
Both Lenhart and Wright recommend this native plant, which can thrive in even tough conditions like dry, hot climates and rocky soil. Salvia attracts pollinators to its spiky, long-lasting kblooms.
Also known as the pincushion flower, these tiny blooms come in a variety of colors—red, pink, white, ivory, and purple—and bloom through the summer into early fall. You’ll need to deadhead the flowers to keep it blooming, and keep it in a sunny or partially sunny spot to help it thrive.
Sedum or Stonecrop
Sedum comes in a ton of different varietals that can work in pretty much every landscape. “It is drought tolerant and low maintenance, which makes it a favorite for areas with high temps and lower amounts of rainfall,” Wright says. “It does well where other perennials might struggle, for example, it can thrive in rock gardens and desert-like landscapes.”
If you’re looking for a great ornamental grass to round out a perennial garden, Lenhart loves this particular variety. Sideoats grama is deer and drought resistant, native to most of the U.S., and a favorite of bees and butterflies.
You may not have heard of yarrow, bit this perennial flower is a perfect addition to gardens. “It’s native to most of the United States, drought tolerant, and attractive to a wide range of pollinator species,” Lenhart says. It’s the kind of plant that can thrive in pretty much any kind of soil, and comes in an array of colors to fit garden design aesthetics.