The Gift That Keeps on Giving
Perennials, as the term implies, are plants that can live for years, even decades, adding beauty to your garden with very little care. Flowering perennials typically produce blooms by the second year, though some will burst with color the very first year. And spring perennials? Well, can you think of a better way to chase away the winter blues than with pretty pink, yellow, purple, and more hues?
Fall, with its combination of still-warm soil and cooler, wetter weather, presents the ideal opportunity to encourage root growth in new spring perennials. So admire the varieties here, pick your favorites, and set the stage for spectacular spring flowers.
Related: Solved! What are Biennial Plants?
Say Hello to Hellebores
If you get impatient for posies as the winter drags on, put in hellebores (Helleborus) now. Also known as Lenten rose, this is one of the first flowers to appear each year, often poking through the snow with big, bowl-shaped, pink, yellow, or maroon blooms. Hardy hellebores do best in slightly shaded spots and neutral soils with good drainage in Zones 5 to 9.
Power Up with Pasque Flower
Certainly no shrinking violet, pasque flower (Pulsatilla vulgaris) is a showstopper with bold, purple, bell-shaped blossoms demanding attention in Zones 4 to 8. Pasque is an old French word for Easter, and this perennial is bound to bloom in time for the holiday—and fortunately, it is also rabbit resistant. The gorgeous garden star (also known as wind flower and meadow anemone) flourishes in fertile soil with good drainage and full to partial sun for easy purple spring flowers.
Take Cover With Creeping Phlox
For colorful ground cover, consider creeping phlox (Phlox subulata). Phlox is the Greek word for fire, and this mat-forming plant will set your landscape ablaze with small, fragrant, flat blooms in purple, pink, red, and white beginning in March. It’s a favorite for filling in rock gardens and can be especially pretty draping over a wall. Plant phlox in Zones 3 to 9, choosing a spot that receives dappled sun and has sandy soil that gets good drainage.
Ring in Bluebells
For whom do these bells toll? Any gardener in hardiness Zones 3 through 8 who doesn’t like a lot of toil. Virginia bluebell (Mertensia virginica) pops out in early spring flowers that start pale and turn a rich, true blue. They thrive in moist soil and half sun/half shade conditions, eventually establishing a colony of pollinator-friendly ground cover with virtually zero care.
Prized for its graceful, nodding blooms, columbine (Aquilegia) is a woodland perennial, meaning it likes a shady or partly shaded location and consistently moist soil. Its white, yellow, red, or blue flowers appear in early spring and keep it up through mid-summer. The only caveat is that columbine is one of the shorter-lived perennials; if you love them, add a few more plants every year or so in Zones 3 to 8.
Be True to False Indigo
Tall, resilient false indigo (Baptisia) flowers in late spring through fall with thick stalks and spires of small, dark blue blooms. If blue isn’t your bag, check out hybrids in other colors, including yellow and pink. False indigo likes full sun but can deal with some shade in hardiness Zones 3 to 9. False indigo is drought tolerant, beckons bees and butterflies, and is unlikely to get nibbled by rabbits and deer.
Add in Astilbe
Must be those long, fuzzy, pale-colored flowers that give Astilbe its common nickname of false goat’s beard. This practically trouble-free plant that blooms in spring through summer is especially popular as a border in partly shady areas. Its flowers contrast well against broad, leafy foliage. Astilbe thrives in loamy, slightly acidic soil in hardiness Zones 3 to 8.
Let the Sundrops In
Attention gardeners in the Southwest who can’t abide on cactus alone: Sundrops (Calylophus hartwegii) are a perfect perennial pick, flowering in March through October. A member of the night-blooming primrose family, the flower opens with bright yellow petals around sunset and stays that way through the next day. Plant in partly shaded areas with dry soil in Zones 5 to 9.
Gotta Love Lamium
Shade happens—and that’s not a problem for lamium (Lamium maculatum). This lovely yet tough ground cover can take on bare spots, such as beneath trees, like nobody’s business. Lamium boasts variegated foliage in silver, gold, and green plus dainty pink and purple flowers that appear in late spring and summer. This rugged plant can thrive in clay and alkaline soils, and it actually prefers drier conditions in Zones 3 to 8. Tip: Deadhead flowers once they fade to encourage a new crop of blooms.
Indulge in Dianthus
For a flowering perennial that smells as nice as it looks, let Dianthus adorn your landscape. This flower family offers clusters of spunky spring-through-summer blooms in a range of hues, including pink, white, yellow, and red against blue-green leaves. Dianthus, a sun worshipper that thrives in well-draining soil in Zones 4 to 8, and is ideal in rock gardens, containers, and as borders. Its rich nectar will attract pollinators yet deer and bunnies won’t bother with it.
Weave in Spiderwort
Tap into your spidey sense with this perennial superhero, which grows in clumps and flowers in May through July in Zones 4 to 8. Spiderwort (Tradescantia) boasts three-petal purple posies that contrast strikingly with its gold-tinged, grass-like leaves. A low-maintenance lovely, it thrives in full sun to partial shade and various types of soil, including sand and clay, but it’s fairly thirsty so keep it moist, not wet.
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