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. 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.
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.
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.
I’ve read many times that Darwin Hybrid Tulips are true perennials (even in zone 4) and will last for years. Maybe I’ll give tulips another chance.
#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.
#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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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