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Overrated Perennial Plants

Do you have a perennial plant in your garden that blooms for a short time and then it’s just there taking up valuable space. Or, maybe the plant blooms for a short time and then you’re left with ugly foliage. Perhaps, you have a perennial in your garden that you don’t even like, or maybe you’ve just grown tired of it. These are what we refer to as overrated perennial plants. 

I recently conducted a survey in a FaceBook group. I ask what perennials they thought were the most overrated plants in their gardens. The perennials included below received the most mentions as being overrated. In most cases, I’m including some alternatives to the plants mentioned. There are also mentions of perennials that are overused.

Not included in this list are perennials that are invasive or aggressive. That’s an entirely different topic which is covered in 14 Plants NOT to Grow in Your Garden (Even If They Are Free).

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the perennials included here. In fact, most of them are beautiful and very popular. It’s certainly not necessary to rid your garden of these perennials, but if you’re considering adding them to your gardens, think twice and perhaps consider an alternative, especially if your garden space is small.

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#1 Overrated Perennial – Old Fashioned Peonies

Yes, peonies go at the top of my list of overrated perennials. First, if they aren’t staked or hooped, they flop all over the place. I’m not saying they aren’t beautiful, but the blooms just don’t last. One good rain shower will take a peony bush out for the season. Or, unseasonably hot temperatures and they are done for the season. Then you’re left with a green plant that may or may not develop mildew spots on it’s leaves, especially if it’s an older variety.

Image of Peony Flower

Some Alternatives to Old Fashioned Peonies

Recently I’ve been looking into ITOH/Intersectional varieties of peonies. They have stronger stems than the old fashioned peonies, so they aren’t as prone to flopping. Plus, they bloom much longer bloom with more blooms. ITOH/Intersectional Peonies are a bit spendy, but I’ve heard that in the long run they are worth the initial investment. I’m looking for one to add to my gardens this year.

A Few Other Ways to Enjoy Peonies Longer:

  • Use the leaves to add some green and contrast to your cut flower bouquets.
  • Peonies can be cut when they are still in bud form, wrapped in damp paper towel and refrigerated for weeks. What an awesome way to be able to enjoy peony blooms well into the summer. Here is a great article, if you’d like to learn how to store peonies to bloom at a later date.

#2 Perennial to Pass On – Tulips

Yes, tulips are gorgeous and an especially welcome sight in the spring after a long winter. That being said, here in my zone 4 gardens, tulips are really iffy as a perennial. One year the tulips will be gorgeous and the next we may be lucky to see a few blooms. Once the tulips are done with their relatively short bloom time, there’s the ugly foliage to contend with. You can’t cut the foliage off until it completely dies back, because it energizes the bulb for its bloom cycle the following spring. Also, critters love to eat both the tulip bulbs and tulip buds.

Image of Tulips

Alternatives to Tulips

Plant daffodils instead of tulips. Daffodils will multiply over the years and no critter likes to eat them. There are also tons of other spring blooming bulbs that can replace the overrated tulips in your gardens.

If you must have tulips, one way to hide the dying foliage is to plant them in and around other perennials like daylilies. That way the foliage of the later blooming perennial will cover up the dying foliage of the tulips. Also look for tulips that specifically state they are perennial tulips, or species tulips.

#3 Short Blooming Perennial – Irises

When we moved to our current home, there were tons of irises everywhere. Most were the same variety, so I imagine they were divided and transplanted many times. Every gardener has different tastes and I know of another flower gardening blogger that has an amazing iris collection. Most irises bloom for 2 or 3 weeks and then you’re left with green spikes for the rest of the summer.

Perhaps, if you are in a warmer gardening zone, look into reblooming iris varieties as an alternative.

Irises

#4 Roses Are Definitely An Overrated Flower Garden Plant

Yes, I know I will take lots of flack for adding roses to the list of overrated plants, but I really think they should be #1.  Every time I read a beginner gardener say they want to grow roses, I cringe. Roses are so high maintenance and are not easy to grow. They are prone to many diseases and pest infestations. In my book, they are just not worth the trouble.

They are especially hard to grow in my zone 4 gardens and I gave up on them years ago. Okay, that’s a lie, I bought a rose bush last year that I couldn’t resist. It was really pretty for a few weeks and then some worm started chomping on it. Also, rose bushes are a Japanese Beetle magnet. I didn’t cover my new rose bush last fall, so time will tell if it survived winter.  For me they are just not worth their hassle, but I still get sucked into their beauty and fragrance.

Roses

What If You Really Want Roses In Your Garden Anyway

In the May/June 2020 edition of the Northern Gardener magazine, there is an article entitled, “Ensuring a Rosy Future.”  The article discusses a 10-year trial on several rose varieties conducted in Minnesota. I wish I could link the article here, but since it’s a magazine subscription, I cannot. It’s a really good article and it totally talked me into trying one or two of the winning, winter hardy roses in my gardens. I’m holding out hope that I can grow roses. Lol! By the way, if you garden in zones 3, 4 or 5, I highly recommend Northern Gardener magazine. 

#5 Should Hostas Be Classified As An Overrated Perennial

If you have mostly shady gardens and you’re just starting out, you can bet everyone will recommend hostas. I really hesitated putting hostas on this list, but they were mentioned several times in the survey so I’m including them. Yes, I agree, there are about 3 varieties of hosta that are way overrated and over used. They include, royal standard, lancifolia and the green variegated variety. 

However, there are so many beautiful varieties of hosta available. If you have some of these over used varieties of hostas in your shade gardens and are sick to death of them, start replacing them with some more eye catching varieties. There are also lots and lots of other shade garden plants that you can use in place of hostas. Check out: Perennials to Jazz Up Your Shade Garden and Made in the Shade Gardens when you’ve finished up here.

Royal Standard Hosta

Other Over Used Perennial Plants

Karl Forester Grass – Ugh, is this stuff way overused and yes, it does take up lots of space. It does add different interest to a flower garden, but if you’re into perennial grasses consider finding a different variety. 

What about Stella d’oro Daylilies? Yes, they are everywhere and even most gas stations have Stella d’oro daylilies planted in their landscape. I swore to myself I would never plant another Stella d’oro, but guess what, I did. When I was looking for a perennial that was indestructible, low growing, long blooming and cheery to plant around my mailbox, I resorted to Stella d’oro daylilies. Because they are used so much, I wonder if they will become invasive like the common orange ditch lilies.

Stella d'oro Daylilies

Gladiolus – several gardeners agreed that these were a pain because they have to be lifted in the fall in most gardening zones where the ground freezes over winter. While gladiolus are beautiful cut flowers, they have to be staked in the garden. Most agree that glads aren’t worth the trouble. 

Autumn Joy Sedum is another overused perennial plant. Autumn Joy Sedum resided in every garden when we moved into our current home. Not just one or two either, there were dozens of them. They are tough as nails and multiple very quickly so they are readily available. I do enjoy them in the fall when they begin to turn a pretty mauve color and that’s why a few get to stay in my gardens.

Image of Autumn Joy Sedum Plant

If you have lots and lots of gardening space perhaps many of these plants aren’t so bad. The idea with any perennial that blooms for a short time, is to be followed up with another flowering perennial close by that takes it’s place with blooms. I’ve even written a workbook/guide about this very thing called Designing with Perennials for 3 Seasons of Blooms. Check it out if you’re interested in having a perennial garden that blooms from early spring through fall.

If you would like an alternative to these over used and overrated perennial plants, Classic Perennials (That Every Flower Garden Needs) is for you. Also, Gingham Gardens has a Gardening Resource Library that includes a printable list of 50+ Long Blooming Perennials with bloom time, sun requirements and hardiness zones. 

Why would I even write about overrated perennials? There are many new gardeners (and seasoned gardener too) that will buy these plants because… well they’re overrated. So if you’re a beginner gardener, or even if you’ve been gardening for awhile, I’d like to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment if you think there’s an overrated perennial I missed.

If you have questions, or comments, please feel free to complete the comment form at the end of the post. I love hearing from and helping my readers with their gardening questions.

Happy gardening,
Joanna

p.s. Follow Gingham Gardens on Pinterest for lots of great gardening ideas and tons of gardener’s eye candy. Gingham Gardens is also on Facebook – come say “hi.”

Pins for your Gardening Board on Pinterest:

Image of a Peony flower with text overlay - 9 overrated or over used perennials

Images of Peony Flowers with text overlay 9 over-rated Perennials

Image of tulips with text overlay - 9 overrated Perennial plants

34 Comments

  1. I agree about roses and peonies. Never been able to get feather grass to come back but I like the interest it adds – especially in winter. Frustrated with my irises, but the are beautiful when they are blooming. They belong in a mixed bed in clumps so their leftover foliage can add interest to other blooming things. Completely disagree about hosta. I have a northern facing bed with redbuds, hosta, lilies of the valley and astilbe that is breathtakingly gorgeous. Cool and shady in the summer. Nothing better than a bunch of tulips in the spring. But they are dependable rebloomers here and I plant them with my daffodils along a woodland border so no worries about ugly dying foliage. However, they have to stay near the house or deer will relentlessly dig up the bulbs. Sedum is dependable and easy and also great for off season interest. Otoh I live on a farm with unlimited space and horse manure so I might make different choices if that weren’t the case. But have never heard someone say pass on roses and peonies, with which I couldn’t agree more! So thanks for that! I feel so vindicated, lol! Now how about an article on the ones that are must haves- hydrangea, baptisia, American wisteria anyone????

  2. I read your article about overrated perennials and had to laugh! I have all of them, but I live in the sticks and of course LOTS of deer! I use tomato cages for my Peonies and have many planted against my East side wall of my house. I, too; have removed most of the roses…breaks my ❤️ to see them eaten alive and never seeing them bloom!😬. I find that the Iris foliage is a great backdrop for other flowers and a great fill in. The voles cleaned me out pretty good on my beautiful Hostas…I had some older and gorgeous varieties ( they live off the roots in the winter)😬😬. If you have Hostas, DON’T mulch and make sure you remove all leaf litter in the fall, this is where they hide! I have MANY favorite perennials, but I love Coneflowers! I buy reduced plants, let them multiple and then share. It’s a living and great reminder to friends and family of you! I live in Central Missouri, so it’s trial and error on anything you plant😂😂. Thanks for your tips. Pat

    1. I use daffodils in my yard to keep moles and voles away. This really works, those little critters can eat your flower out of house and home. Try planting daffodils.

      1. Hi Carol – thanks for the great tips you left on the Overrated Perennial Plants about keeping voles and moles out of your garden by planting daffodils. Stop by Gingham Gardens again soon! Happy gardening, Joanna

    1. Hi Stella – thanks for stopping by Gingham Gardens and taking the time to leave a comment. Yes, bees and butterflies do love sedum, as well as 100s of other flowers. Happy gardening, Joanna

  3. Hello! I was surprised that roses were on this list. We used to have a rose bush that I loved. We never had any pest or disease issues with it. In the fall I liked to collect the rose hips and make tea with them. However, they do make a mess when the flowers dry up and fall off. We also used to have lilac bushes at that house. The problem with lilacs is that they are in bloom only through the month of June and then it’s all over, but I did love to bring that smell of lilacs into the house! Unfortunately, we moved so now I have to start all over with my yard plants. We are starting with a clean slate, so I am glad for this website to guide us into making good choices. The hostas are another story. My husband always wants a full hosta garden like his sisters in WI have, but we always have had bad luck with them (we live in Alaska). We don’t know if it’s our climate or if we are picking the wrong varieties, or if we are not planting them in the right spot. We’ve tried everything and are disappointed every time. I want to give up on them completely, but my husband is so impressed with his sisters’ hosta gardens that he always wants to keep trying to mimic them there. I was also surprised that irises made this list. Maybe we had a good variety, but we had a very beautiful purple iris that came up really big every year. I do miss that iris and hope to find another one like it. All of these perennials that I’ve mentioned were bought from Alaskan greenhouses so they were varieties specific to our climate, which is why we probably had good luck with them, but the hostas that we tried were always purchased at WalMart. Go figure.

    1. Hi Lisa – I put roses on the list of overrated plants because here in zone 4 they are a pain to grow. I can’t even imagine trying to grow them in Alaska. You sound like quite the gardener so maybe you can give them a go again at your new place. Good luck with your hosta garden too. Happy gardening, Joanna

    2. Hosta grow in south central Alaska where I live but they are always the last to come up in the spring. You may think they aren’t alive when they are so slow to return.

      Rugosa or Sitka roses are very hardy as well as some of the Canadian Explorer series. Rugosas are very thorny so best used as a hedge and not in a mixed border. They aren’t bothered by fungal diseases, browsing moose or our cold winters. Suckers do have to be kept under control.

      1. Hi Grace – thank you for stopping by Gingham Gardens and taking the time to leave a comment. I appreciate you weighing in on gardening in Alaska. Happy gardening, Joanna

  4. I’m new to all of this flower gardening. We have a peony in the front of our house that is beautiful, but you are spot on with your description. Heavy blooms and then one day of rain and they’re gone! I was devastated last summer when it happened. I like the other persons comment about clipping them before the rain. They’re hooped this year and I’m still excited to see them.. every day I tell them how much bigger they’ve grown! They can hear me, right?! 🙂

    1. Hi Pam – welcome to flower gardening! I hope you fall in love with gardening like the rest of us here! I know, I know I have a love/dislike relationship with peonies. In case, you haven’t already seen it, I think you’ll enjoy Flower Gardening 101. It’s chock full of helpful instruction and tips for a newbie flower gardener. Happy gardening, Joanna

    2. Poppies are another perennial that blooms so fast you might miss it, but they are glorious for that short time! I still try to squeeze in all of these even if it means planting them ony neighbor’s property!

      1. Hi Jean – thanks for stopping by Gingham Gardens. I agree with your assessment of poppies, but they are so beautiful when they are blooming just like the others in the list of overrated perennial plants. Happy gardening, Joanna

  5. Hi Joanna,
    I have tried unsuccessfully to split and transplant my ornamental grass. They have grown so much are HUGE and out of control!! The centers are barren. They are perfectly cylindrical, but no growth in the centers. I cannot budge the plants at all. I tried with my shovel this weekend but to no avail. I swear I would need a piece of mechanical equipment to separate these things. Do you have any suggestions as to how I can approach a project like this?

    1. Hi Angie – You just have to keep at it. It’s a little bit easy after rainfall. And, you might want to get a big, strong man involved. There is one tool I would recommend in case you don’t already have one and that’s a hori hori knife. You can work cutting down through the root mass from the bare center to the outside edge of the plant instead of trying to dig with a shovel. The one I linked to is the one I have and the link is an affiliate link. Good luck and happy gardening, Joanna

        1. I use a tool called a root slayer. I have over 50 ornamental grasses in my landsclpe now when 4 yrs ago I only had 4 or 5. What I do is late winter/early spring I take my hedge trimmer and wack them down to the ground. I then take the root slayer and take pieces out of the clump from the top. The root slayer makes quick work of it.(its $45 on amazon. I highly recommend it). My old way was digging the whole clump up and then taking a electric sawzal and cutting the ball into 4, 5 or 6 pieces depending on the size. That was ALOT of work. This way with the root slayer is sooo much easier and faster!! I actually will leave a small piece of the orginal clump so it wont be disturbed. Hope that makes senseand helps you out

  6. Hello,
    I live in NC and just found your garden site. I love my knock out roses and they bloom here from early spring until the fall. I dont seem to have the problems that you all seem to have up there. As far as the peonies are concerned, they are short lived but their fragrance is worth keeping them around for me. Thank you for your great articles. I will continue to read and learn about gardening from you.
    Cindy

    1. Hi Cindy – I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog. Yes, gardening sure is different in the various gardening zones. I am surprised that you don’t have japanese beetles devouring your roses though. I have peonies too and yes, there fragrance is heady. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss anything. Happy gardening, Joanna

      1. Plant geraniums. Beetles love to munch them and it is toxic to them. Your issues might be more to do with lack of biodiversity . I’ve interplanted a lot around my 100 roses and I didn’t even have aphids this year. Thst was really rare. Roses are really cold hardy but since they go dormant in winter, it isn’t much work to cut back and cover in mulch. That’s all you need to do.

  7. Hi Joanna,
    I totally agree with you on all these plants. I have every one of them. I’m moving two miles down the road and debating what I should bring with me. I’ll be 60 in the fall and my gardens are to much work for me , so I don’t want to overdue it at the new house. Last year when my parents died I was given a rose bush and want to take that with me. Do you think if I dig it up and keep it in a container it would bloom again. I would plan on putting it in the ground in the fall. I live just south of you 30 miles.
    Julie

    1. Hi Julie – it’s my year to turn the big 60 too. Yes, definitely take the rose bush with you. It should be fine in a container, just get it in the ground and protected no later than six weeks before our last frost so it has time to settle in. Good luck with your move. Joanna

  8. I am in South Ontario, it’s a little bit warmer here but roses and tulips are not doing good in my garden as well. It seems my 4 roses didn’t survive this winter. I am really happy I can get rid of them finally. They have never thrived. All the possible pests attacked them ( including rabbits…). I read last year about New Dawn and Explorer roses and I might give it a try. Just yesterday I decided to remove few tulips that I have. They look horrible this year. I planted them in slightly higher place where rabbits cannot reach but it seems they will not bloom this year anyway. I don’t like peonies but I really like iris. However, I have never tried them yet. I can’t agree about hostas because they actually save my garden. There was nothing in my garden when I moved. We have clay soil here and actually hostas filled in some spaces nicely.

    1. Hi Mirka – it’s always good to hear from you. I’m glad you agree with me on some of these. I only have one clump of tulips that look decent this year. I think I’m done with them, but then I think I say that every year about this time and then I plant more in the fall. Definitely add a few irises but only if you have the space. It takes several years for them to settle in and bloom. Stay safe and happy gardening, Joanna

  9. I have everyone of the overused plants in my garden. Yes they are boring, and were all the rage when I planted my gardens (read way too much work). The thing is these are what you find in nurseries, almost to a fault. The ones I have tried that are not as common usually don’t keep. And buying others by mail come in 2 inch pots and take 10 years to amount to anything. I am too old to start with tiny plants. So I’m not going to rip everything out and start over. I wish I could but there’s just too much to do, keeping down the bugs, deer, turkeys and weeds.

    1. Hi Paula – I have (or had) everyone of these plants in my gardens too. There certainly is nothing wrong with them, there are just better and lower maintenance plants available. I’ll bet your gardens are beautiful. Please send me some pictures sometime. Happy gardening, Joanna

  10. My Peonies are blooming right now
    and even if you are right about their problems I wouldn’t give them up for anything. The ones I have are in metal rings and if the weather calls for heavy rain( peony rain as I call it I pick a big bouquet and e joy them inside. Their fragrance is like nothing else. I agree with you about Iris and may dig up the ones I have and replace them with s flowering shrub. I have some Japenese Iris out by our stream and they are lovely. As for Hosta try June a beautiful variety and to avoid deer problems I plant them in containers and can move them if the deer start snacking.

    1. Hello Kathy – Peonies are lovely. I have two or three that I love, but the rest are huge, the flowers are singles and they get powdery mildew. I think I’m going to dig them out. I do have a couple of June hostas, funny you should mention it, they are one of my favorites. Some day I’m going to have to do a post on hosta. I don’t think most newer gardeners realize how many different varieties there are. Happy gardening, Joanna

  11. Thanks for the tip about roses being a Japanese beetle magnet. I am in the process of stripping my gardens of other plants that draw this emerald menace: Hot Papaya Echinacea (so sad, because I love them so much), an Alpine Currant bush, and a swath of Evening Primroses. Have you seen any new research about natural remedies against the Japanese beetle. I’m just sick of picking them off constantly and still watching their numbers grow.

    1. Hi Nancy – thanks for stopping by Gingham Gardens today. Japanese Beetles are such a menace and I’m sorry that you’re having to deal with them. There are some plants that are toxic to Japanese Beetles that you can add to your gardens. They are annual Four O’Clock flowers and zonal geraniums. Diatomaceous earth is an organic product that you can use on Japanese beetles. You can treat your lawn for grubs with beneficial nemotodes or milky spore and that will help some, but unless all your neighbors do the same, you’ll still have the beetles. This post – How to Deal with Garden Pests has some more helpful tips. Good luck and happy gardening! Joanna

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