My 10 Must-Have Summer Perennials

I am a hopeless collector of perennials. I can always find a spot in the garden for new additions. While I love trying new plants I have a few mainstays that I rely on for gorgeous flowers and foliage year after year.


Daylily (Hemerocallis sp.)

Zones 2-10; size varies with species and variety; summer

I’m excited that I now have developed 2 new varieties this year out of my daylily breeding program. I can’t get enough of this old reliable favorite.

Hyssop Color Spires® Steel Blue (Agastache)

Zones 6-10; 18-24 inches tall, 18 inches wide; blooms summer through fall; heat and drought tolerant; attracts butterflies

I love this plant. It has been a tremendous performer in my garden. No staking needed. After the flowers fade I cut back the old bloom stalks and it keeps on trucking.

Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)

Zones 5-9; 36 inches tall, 24 inches wide; blooms mid-summer through fall; drought tolerant; deer resistant

The wide drift at the farm is spectacular from mid May to late June. After the bloom I cut 25% off the top and it will flower again late August through September.

Mexican Sage ‘Santa Barbara’ (Salvia leucantha)

Zones 8-10; 20-36 inches tall,24-36 inches wide; blooms summer through fall; attracts butterflies; drought tolerant; deer resistant

This plant is a mainstay in the late summer garden. It always gets comments from our visitors.

Summer Phlox (Phlox paniculata)

Zones 4-8; 24-36 inches tall, 24 inches wide; blooms mid-summer into fall; attracts butterflies

We trialed this variety Flame™ Purple last summer. It proved to be an excellent re-bloomer right through the intense heat we experienced in July and August.

Lamb’s Ear ‘Helen von Stein’ (Stachy byzantine)

Zones 5-10; 12-18 inches tall, 24 inches wide; heat and humidity tolerant

‘Helen von Stein’ has grown in the garden at the Garden Home Retreat for the last 5 years. Love the giant leaves and fuzzy texture.

Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’

Zones 6-9; 24-36 inches tall, 24 inches wide; use silver-gray foliage a bridge between colors; drought tolerant

The frilly foliage looks great with Supertunia® Royal Velvet and Superbena® Royal Chambray Verbena.

Coral Bells (Heuchera sp.)

Zones 4-9; size varies with variety; blooms in summer; good for partial shade too

Heucheras are beautiful as singular sensations in containers. Plant 1 variety per pot. Many of the newer heucheras like Dolce® Key Lime Pie can take a half day of sun.


Variegated Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum odoratum ‘Variegatum’)

Zones 4-8; 24 inches tall,12 inches wide; blooms early summer; variegated foliage adds sparkle to shady spots

The arching stems are a graceful addition to a shade border. Looks great poking up through hosta and ferns. Here I’ve combined it with Spanish bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica).


Zones 3-9; size varies with variety; the best foliage plant for shade

Hosta are such a versatile plant. I use them in containers on my screened porch.

Hardy Cyclamen (Cyclamen hederifolium)

Zones 5-9; 6 inches tall, 12 inches wide; blooms in autumn; interesting patterned leaves that persists through winter; C. persicum is the type sold by most florists and is not hardy

Subtle yet inspiring. I so enjoy seeing their pink blooms in autumn when the leaves begin to fall from the trees.

Chinese Ginger (Asarum splendens a.k.a. Hexastylis splendens)

Zones 5-9; 12 inches tall, 18 inches wide; blooms in spring; excellent ground cover

This is a great low growing plant for shade. So easy and beautiful – I love foliage plants and this is a good one.

46 Responses to My 10 Must-Have Summer Perennials

  1. Brenda Martin says:


    Russian sage smells like cat urine and attracts bees. My grandson was stung by these bees when he ventured too close to my neighbors russian sage. Its not a kid friendly plant. I know of a lot better summer perennials than you listed.

  2. Jeanette says:

    I liked your list of perennials, but how about for us in Minnesota, where are zone is 3 and 4. I too love to plant perennials but there seems to be a limitation on new plants for the area. What would be a good source to find different and unusual plants for zone 3 and 4 ?

    • That’s my question as well. I live in Wyoming. Zone 3 at best in our area. It’s June 7th and temps dropped to 31 F last night. I need plants that are real hardy to cold temps.

  3. Becky says:

    My son got me some purple salvias with bigger blooms. How can I distinguish if they are perennials or annuals? Becky

  4. Leon Mlynarski says:

    Nice selection BUT I have deer problems. Wiped out my hostas several years ago. Any body have thoughts?

    • Mary Martin says:

      Plant marigold seeds (thickly!) around any plant or flowerbed that you don’t want critters eating. Plus, marigolds add color. I’ve 3 acres and I’m covered with birds and wildlife. I can’t fence everything and rabbits will dig under wire/chicken wire – no matter how deep you put it. Last year, I read a great tip about keeping critters out of your gardens/flowerbeds. Easy and it works! Put chicken wire on the ground surrounding your garden/flowerbeds. I put newspaper under that to help keep grass and weeds down. I only lost two cantalopes and I know the very large raccoon that hangs around got them! A roll of chicken wire can be expensive, but you can use it over and over. Good Luck!

    • Norena Guerard says:

      Regarding deer problems, I have had success for the past three years by using old-fashioned Fels Naptha soap. It comes in a large bar that we get at the super market. Just shred the soap off the bar with a knife, a few shreds around each hosta. It does have to be replaced periodically, or after rain, but at $1.00 per bar, it’s a pretty cheap solution.

  5. I set out many new rose plants in the Spring. The entire garden is surrounded by a fence, and each rose bush has it’s own fence. But, those pesty rabbits still manage to eat some of my roses! I don’t know how they get in? I haven’t seen they “flying” yet! Anyone have any suggestions to save my roses?

  6. teach 5 says:

    For deer repellent, Liquid Fence, sprayed about once every two weeks, keeps deer away from my many hostas. For a shade plant that stands up to dog traffic, Brunnera,’Jack Frost’ is great. Lovely blue flowers and variegated foliage looks great in the shade.

  7. Bill says:

    for rabbits, we use a web product called “Rabbit Out” works wonders and smells great – mint and lemon

  8. Diane Morgan says:

    I just wrote down the one’s that do well in my zone…….I am curious about the lamb’s ear, that comes back in a cold climate here in the midwest???

    • Diane…yes, it sure will.I grow several varieties and I rally like the big eared nor called ‘Helen Von Stein’ . Give it a try. I use it in containers too with colorful annuals like Proven Winners supertunia Purple Royal Velvet!
      Best wishes,

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