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Classic Perennials (That Every Flower Garden Needs)

I love flowers and since you’re here, I’m betting you do too. Perennials are the backbone of most flower gardens. A perennial is a plant that lives more than two years. Some are short-lived, meaning they only stick around for 2 or 3 years, but my favorite, Classic Perennials are those you plant once and they just get bigger and better every year.

There are hundreds and hundreds of perennials of different shapes, sizes, colors, sun requirements and different growing zones. In this post, I’m sharing Classic Perennials for sun that I have grown in my gardens over the years. If you need perennials for shade, I will share a link at the end of the post.

Classic Perennials

The Difference Between Perennials, Biennials and Annuals

First let’s get a few elementary facts out of the way.

Again, Perennials live longer than 2 years.

Biennials are a little trickier. A few good examples of biennials are foxglove and hollyhock. Let’s say you see a gorgeous foxglove at your local garden center that is blooming and you just have to have it. So you bring it home and plant it, you’re diligent about deadheading, and enjoy the blooms all summer. The following spring, you eagerly await it’s appearance and nothing comes up, nada, zilch.

Remember this, if you purchase a blooming biennial plant, it is a second year plant. If you purchase a starter biennial plant with no blooms, chances are it is a first year plant and if it survives winter in your zone, it will make it’s appearance in your garden and bloom the second year. Just to make it even more tricky, biennials will produce seed their second year and you may get some plants from seed the third year. I hope that makes sense and I don’t have you completely confused.

Annuals are planted every year and generally live only one season. If you’re lucky, many annual flowers will go to seed and come up again the following year.

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Hardiness Zones for Perennials

Hardiness zones means a certain geographic region and the climate conditions for that area. If you don’t know what your hardiness zone is, you can check by clicking on this link. I have added the hardiness zones to the perennials listed in this post, but please note different species or varieties of the same perennial can be hardy in different zones. For instance, there are varieties of delphinium that are only hardy to down to zone 4, but other varieties of delphinium that are hardy to zone 3. It’s always a good idea to check the tag of a perennial you want to purchase. You can find your hardiness zone here.

What Determines a Classic Perennial or the Best Perennials

The Classic Perennials that made the list in this post: 

  • are super easy to grow,
  • have a bloom time of 4 weeks or longer,
  • they reliably come back every year,
  • they are relatively easy to find at a local garden center,
  • are fairly low maintenance, and
  • aren’t vigorous spreaders or can be easily managed.

These classic perennials are so awesome because they just get bigger and better every year. Plus, if you don’t like where you planted a perennial, in most instances, you can move it. If you really love a certain perennial, once it’s established, you can divide it and spread the beauty all around your garden.

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The Best Perennial Flowers Every Garden Needs

Shasta Daisies (Leucanthemum) are most definitely classic flowers. What’s not to love about Shasta Daisies. There are many, many varieties of Shasta Daisies and the variety in the picture is Becky.  Hardiness Zones 4 – 9.

Classic Perennials - Shasta Daisies

If you need a low growing or short perennial, check out Blue Clips Bellflower (Campanula). This is not the weedy bellflower, Blue Clips stays put and the clump just gets bigger each year. Blue Clips also have a very long bloom time. White Clips, Birch Hybrid and Blue Uniform are also tidy, short, long blooming varieties of campanula. Hardiness Zones 4-9.

Blue Clips Campanula - A long-blooming, low growing perennial.

Introducing – Designing with Perennials for 3 Seasons of Blooms

Would you love to have a Perennial Flower Garden that has
flowers blooming from early spring right through fall?

Designing with Perennials for 3 Seasons of Blooms is a Workbook/Guide
to help you create a perennial flower garden that has a succession of
continuous blooms from early spring through fall.
The Guide walks you through each step from designing your dream
3-season perennial garden on paper to executing your plan in the garden.
The Plant Lists in the Guide include over 90 Perennial Flowers
categorized by bloom time, sun requirements, zone, deer resistant,
rabbit resistant, cutting flowers and pollinator friendly.
The Guide is very reasonably priced, so stop by and get your copy soon.

 

Many varieties of Catmint (Nepeta) are very long blooming perennials. I like to shear mine back to about six to ten inches a couple of times during the summer to get beautiful robust rebloom within about a week to ten days. Bees love catmint too.  Pictured below is a stunning perennial combination of Walker’s Low Catmint, along with Shasta Daisies and Asiatic Lilies. Hardiness Zones 3-9.

Stunning Perennial Combination of Walker's Low Catmint, Shasta Daisies and Asiatic Lilies

Blanket Flower (Gaillardia) is a fun flower is sunny colors and blooms the entire summer into fall. I even like the fuzzy ball seed heads it makes. Hardiness Zones 3-9.

Blanket Flower (Gaillardia) is a Perennial that blooms the entire summer and into fall.

Tickseed (Coreopsis) is another great flowering perennial that blooms the entire summer. The best performing variety in my Zone 4b gardens is Zagreb. I’ve grown many varieties, but Zagreb seems to be the most reliable year after year. Hardiness Zones 4-9.

Tickseed (Coreopsis) Zagreb

Balloon Flower (Platycodon) is a very charming perennial that every gardener should have the pleasure of growing. It’s super easy to grow and once it starts flowering, if deadheaded regularly, it just keeps putting out little balloons that burst into flowers all summer long.

Balloon Flowers are very slow to emerge in spring, so it’s important to mark where they are planted. Balloon Flowers also do not like to be moved, so be sure to plant them where they can stay. Hardiness Zones 3-8.

Balloon Flowers - Classic Perennials That Every Garden Should Have

Yarrow (Achillea) comes in a ton of varieties. This beauty is Saucy Seduction and yes, all those different shades of pink are one plant. This baby just keeps putting out blooms all summer and into fall, plus the foliage is lovely too. Hardiness Zones 3-9.

Saucy Seduction Yarrow

Many varieties of Cranesbill (Geranium) bloom all summer. My favorites are Rozanne and Jolly Bee, which is pictured below. Hardiness Zones 4-8.

Classic Perennials - Jolly Bee Cranesbill

Some gardeners shy away from Yellow Loosestrife (Lysiamachia Punctata) thinking that it is invasive like it’s terrible cousin (gooseneck loosestrife). This Alexander variety is one of my favorite early blooming perennials. The variegated foliage looks amazing all summer even when the plant has finished blooming. Hardiness Zones 4-8.

Variegated Yellow Loosestrife (Lysimachia Alexander)

A perennial garden isn’t complete without Tall Garden Phlox. Phlox comes in a variety of colors and most varieties have a light, sweet fragrance. Look for varieties that are mildew or fungus resistant. Hardiness Zones 4-8.

Tall Garden Phlox

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) is an old-fashion perennial garden classic and would probably win the vote for cheeriest flower. Hardiness Zones 3-9.

Black-eyed Susan

If you don’t have at least a few Daylilies (Hemerocallis) in your Perennial Garden, just add some. I’m not talking about ditch lilies (my sympathies if you have those). There are so many amazing varieties of daylilies that are much more deserving of your garden space. Pictured below is cheery Happy Returns Daylily, a very long blooming daylily.  Check out lots more pictures and Tips for Growing Daylilies. Hardiness Zones 3-9.

Happy Returns Daylily

Speedwell (Veronica) is an underused perennial and I’m not sure why. It blooms pretty much nonstop throughout the growing season especially if deadheaded. Its gorgeous and bees love it. Hardiness Zones 3-9.

Speedwell (Veronica)

As far as I’m concerned, a Perennial Flower Bed can never have too many Lilies. Okay, Lilies blooming four weeks is stretching it, but if you plant different varieties you can definitely get more that four weeks bloom time out of lilies. If you’d like some tips for growing Lilies, stop over and check out How to Grow and Care for Lilies. Hardiness Zones 3-8.

Yellow Asiatic Lilies

Coneflowers (Echinacea) are one of the easiest perennials to grow. They are another flower that bees and butterflies love. In my Zone 4b gardens they are a little late to emerge in spring, so I’m always sure to tag them. This little PowWow Coneflower is one of my favorites. For a list of flowers pollinators love, see How to Attract Pollinators to Your Garden. Hardiness Zones 3-9.

PowWow Coneflower

False Indigo (Baptisia) is an amazing perennial and another one that is underused in perennial gardens. Even if the bloom time is on the shorter side, the foliage on the plant is amazing and the dry seed pods make a little rattle sound when the wind blows. Baptisia plants do not like to be moved, because they have a very long tap root, and they get quite large, so be sure to plant them where they will live permanently. Hardiness Zones 3-9.

False Indigo (Baptisia)

If you can work a Clematis into your perennial garden, definitely add one or two. Oh heck, add a bunch, cause they are gorgeous! This pretty lady’s name is Ramona. Unfortunately, she now belongs to the owner of our former home. Hardiness Zones 3-9.

Ramona Clematis, A Classic Perennial

Delphinium is one of those stunning, old-fashioned perennials. The stalks of Delphinium get very heavy, so they do need staking to avoid breakage on a windy day. Most Delphinium will bloom early in summer and then again at the end of summer. Hardiness Zones 3-7.

Classic Perennials - Delphinium

How to Extend the Bloom Time of Perennials

To get the biggest bang for your buck, most of the perennials listed here will bloom an extended period of time if they are deadheaded. To deadhead a plant simply means to cut off spent blooms. If you need tips for maintaining your gardens to keep them looking great, be sure to pop over and check out, Flower Garden Maintenance Tips.

One of the most challenging things to do when planning and planting a perennial bed, is to have three seasons of continuous blooms in your garden. To help you with this, I have put together an extensive Guide/Workbook, called Designing with Perennials for 3 Seasons of Blooms, to help you design a perennial garden that blooms from early spring through fall. You won’t want to miss this opportunity. 

If you’re looking for ideas for Shade Garden Perennials, be sure to check out: Made in the Shade Gardens.

How to Get Free or Cheap Perennials

If your garden budget is running low or on empty, you can shop from your own gardens by dividing your existing perennials. This article, Tips for Transplanting Perennials, will tell you how to divide perennials too.

Let your friends and neighbors know you’re looking for perennials. Always be sure you know what you are getting. You don’t want to end up with any of these Perennials Not To Grow In Your Garden (Even If They Are Free).

Check Facebook for perennial exchange groups in your area. In case you’re in the Twin Cities, Minnesota, I belong to this group.

Check Craigslist for Local Garden Club, or local gardener’s plant sales.

What is your favorite, classic perennial? Is it one on my list, or another one? Please leave a comment and let me know. Also, if you have a question about this post, or a gardening question, I’d love to help, simply leave a comment and I’ll answer it.

Thanks a bunch for stopping by Gingham Gardens today. I hope you enjoyed your visit and will come back soon.

Happy gardening,
Joanna

A few of my favorite perennial gardening necessities and fun things:


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p.p.s. You can pin these pictures by hovering in the upper left-hand corner. Pin away!

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Image of Flowers with text overlay - 20 Classic Perennials

29 Comments

    1. Hi Connie – that is bee balm. That picture was taken at our former home and I’m not 100% positive, but I think it’s Purple Rooster variety. Thanks for stopping by Gingham Gardens! Happy gardening, Joanna

  1. Favorite perennials for shade is Heuchera ( Coral bells) and Hellebores ( Leten rose)
    For sun I have a few, including Russian sage, dayliles, and Penstemons..

    1. Hi Tina – thank you for your question! It helped me to realize that I had not included that information and I’ve updated the post to include hardiness zones on each plant I mention. You’ll be happy to know there are several on this list that are hardy to Zone 3. There is also a list of perennials available in the gardening resources library that includes even more. Happy gardening, Joanna

  2. I retired to a new home in a zone 4 two 1/2 years ago. Since I now have lots of free time, I am enjoying making my perennial gardens along the fence of my smaller yard. Your article has been very helpful. I love having something blooming from Spring to Fall!

  3. I think I saw it on your site. You recommend a smaller Russian sage. If you did recommend this could you send me the name of it. Thank you

    1. Hi Lynn – I have Blue Jean Baby Russian Sage and Little Spire. Both are shorter varieties of Russian Sage and aren’t as floppy. They do emerge late in the spring, so be sure to mark the spot with a plant marker. Happy gardening, Joanna

      1. Hi Joanna,

        I am also looking for a smaller Russian Sage. Is there one you prefer over the other (Blue Jean Baby or Little Spire)? I absolutely love this plant but I don’t like plants when they get large and floppy. I am told that I am a “neat and tidy” gardener:). I was also told that in the spring/summer, when the sage gets to be about half, that I should cut it back to help it grow in fuller and this will prevent some of its floppiness? Do you believe this to be correct? I am in zone 7A.

        Thanks so very much!!

        Kim from New Jersey

        1. Hi Kim, thanks for stopping by Gingham Gardens. I highly recommend Blue Jean Baby Russian Sage. The color is much more intense blue that other Russian Sage varieties I’ve seen and even more so than Little Spire. Yes, there are lots of perennials that benefit from clipping back in summer and taller Russian Sage plants are included. Stop by again soon! Good luck and happy gardening, Joanna

  4. Hi,
    Thank you for this very helpful article on perennial gardening! My husband and I are moving to a place in the country in Minnesota and I want to grow a large perennial garden. What are you thoughts on limelight hydrangeas…sun vs shade? Are they quite hardy?
    Thank you!
    Lavon

    1. Hi Lavon – yes, limelight hydrangeas are amazing! I had one at my last house that was in full sun and it was huge. Definitely one of my favorite hydrangeas. I purchased another one last year for a new space I’m working on. You can’t go wrong with a limelight. Good luck at your new home! Joanna

  5. Regarding your comments about bi-annuals – those general rules don’t always apply to so-called “bi-annuals” in zone 7 and southward. Many bi-annuals will give a repeat performance for multiple years. Much like the success or failure of any plant, there are a number of variables involved, such as the severity of the winter, IE extended periods of low temps or milder temps, as well as the amount of rainfall. The severity of the summer heat and rainfall (or lack thereof) during the summer months also plays a role in the variability of extended, multiple-year success with bi-annuals.

    1. Hi there, Becky – so glad you stopped by and took the time to leave a comment. Thanks for the little lesson on biennials in the south. Happy gardening, Joanna

  6. My favorite perrennials are periwinkle and callas. Periwinkles are hardy, love sun or shade. Seed themselves and create new plants. Callas are from a bulb
    They are tall, showy, and multiply. I am in Florida so sunshine is king.

    1. Hi Kathryn – thank you for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment. So interesting! If we plant calla lily bulbs here in zone 4, we have to lift them in the winter. They will not survive our winters in the ground. They are beautiful though. Periwinkle here is referred to as vinca vine and some say it’s very aggressive. We also have an annual flower called vinca and I think that is what you might be referring to. I love reading all the different comments from varying gardening zones. Happy gardening, Joanna

  7. Pleased with myself that over the last 10 years I have been garden, i have most of these! In Western Canada however Shadta Daisies are considered invasive species even though some places (especially big box stores) still sell them. They spread really fast here over large distances and displace native plants in greenspaces. Just an FYI. I wonder if any of the others are considered invasive in other parts pf the continent

    1. Very interesting, Laurie. Here in Minnesota, ox-eye daisies are considered invasive, but not Shasta daisies. Happy gardening and thanks for stopping by.

  8. Wow this was very informative. Looking forward to seeing my perennials blooming. I must admit that I don’t always get out and deadhead them so I will try harder so I can have repeated blooms!

    1. Hi Liz, thanks for stopping by. I’ll be happy to share my first garden tour soon… hopefully. We’ve had an insanely crazy spring so far. Last night we had to run out and cover everything and move plants into the garage. Happy gardening!

  9. Joanna, what an informative and delightful post. I love seeing your beautiful perennials. I planted blanket flower this spring and I love its colorful blooms. Happy Gardening 👩🏻‍🌾

  10. Love your selections of perennials to grow. I have most but some dislike our heat and humidity here in the southeast. I usually have some type of material for arrangements. eleven months of the year. Have tried to do a cutting garden but this year the slugs got my zinnias😠 so I will replant this week in another area. Have some great Dahlias and Glads growing well and will add some Sunflowers this month. Come August they will be beautiful in a big green pitcher on the kitchen counter.

    1. Hi Kathy, thanks for stopping by. I hate slugs! Have you ever tried a product called Sluggo? If I’m diligent and get it down in the spring around my hostas, I have very minimal slug damage. I too love having fresh cut flowers indoors. Happy gardening!

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