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.

SUN

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.

SHADE

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).

Hosta

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. Annie Cowherd says:

    Is there a way to print this (with the photos). I’d like to take this to my nursery and do some shopping! I do not see a print option for this article. Thank you.

    • Caleb says:

      Annie,

      I just added print stylesheet that will strip out all of the unnecessary stuff when you go to print. All you have to do is go to ‘File’ and choose ‘Print…’ using your browser.

      Let me know if that works for you.

      - Caleb

    • Jan says:

      Hey annie, just right click on picture and then click on “save as” When you have it in your picture file, print the picture just like any other picture. Jan

    • Kathy says:

      To print – Ctrl P and you will get what you need. You can do this on most anything if no print buttom. Good luck. Just so you know, this article is 15 pages long.

    • Mauricia says:

      Go to the top line and click (left) highlight what you want to print and, go to file click print when the printer page comes up click selection and then print. Hope that is clear enough….LOL. I’m not the best at explaining.

    • Linda says:

      Linda says: June 6, 2011 at 1:20 pm.
      I posted this earlier, but in the wrong section.
      I tried two different ways of printing and both worked beautifully, maybe it will work for you too.

      Suggestion #1: Highlight only what you want to print, on the “file” drop down menu click print. When the print options opens, click “selection”, and print. It will only print what you have highlighted. One plant and it’s description will take up 3/4 of your page.

      Suggestion #2: Highlight only what you want, right click and copy your selection to a word processing program. Adjust the word doc as needed. Print. This will take up as much or as little as you desire, since you can adjust the plant picture to the size you like.

      Hope this helps.

    • June says:

      Thanks for asking about having the setup for printing.

  2. Liz Betker says:

    I bought a few Hardy Cyclamen bulbs . The where bluming last fall for weeks . If I find more in a catalog I will buy more the are so beautiful late in the fall when the days get gloomy here.

    • maureen Baranov says:

      I too bought hardy cyclamen bulbs. Alas alack the squirrels loved them too- so only one lone bloom has made it! boo hoo!

  3. Amelia says:

    I tried printing but it included the comments section also. Is there a way to just print the text and pictures but not the comments. Although they are interesting I do not need to save them. It was 11 pages and two were from comments.

  4. Sallie C. Baser says:

    Hi Allen…. I, too, just finished printing this lovely article. It took 12 pages…. ONE plant picture per page, but it also had the “heading” of the next plant on the prior page! Guess I’ll just have to manually “cut and paste” with my scissors this time (big smile headed your way!) When you have time, I would love to see an article similar this this one regarding Hydrangeas. Thanks bunches for all your information and a big hug is headed your way.
    Sallie in Dallas, Texas

  5. Lou says:

    I tried the ‘file’ & ‘print’. I would have ended up with 15 pages. Any other suggestions?

  6. Pat says:

    What a great email to read during lunch at work!!!

    Thanks for the suggestions, the info and the awesome pictures!!

    Keep your emails coming…please.

  7. Linda says:

    I tried two different ways of printing and both worked beautifully, maybe it will work for you too.

    Suggestion #1: Highlight only what you want to print, on the “file” drop down menu click print. When the print options opens, click “selection”, and print. It will only print what you have highlighted. One plant and it’s description will take up 3/4 of your page.

    Suggestion #2: Highlight only what you want, right click and copy your selection to a word processing program. Adjust the word doc as needed. Print. This will take up as much or as little as you desire, since you can adjust the plant picture to the size you like.

    Hope this helps.

  8. Linda says:

    I’m so glad I’m on your e-mail list, Allen. I’ve been trying to find a pretty perennial for my shady yard. I especially like the Variegated Soloman’s Seal and Hardy Cyclamen. Now, if I can just find them at one of the local nurseries. Can you also recommend a pretty flowering perennial that blooms in red flowers for shade in zone 6?

    • Carol Empet says:

      Try astilbe for red flowers in the shade, also caladium for red or variegated foliage. We have to dig the latter up in Zone 5; don’t know if they’ll survive the witer in Zone 6.

    • Marcella says:

      I also recommend astilbe. Not only are the flowers interesting, the foliage is great. It’s sort of dainty and fernlike and a lovely contrast to many of the broad leafed shade plants.

    • velutina 19 says:

      If you have a bit of moist shade available, Lobelia cardinalis-better known as cardinal flower or redbirds bloom is so red it will knock your socks off when you see it. In addition, hummers find it irresisible! I have hundreds of perennials and it still amazes me.

  9. I’ve been seeing a lot more Russian Sage planted with Daylilies along the highways, and in the barren strips at intersections in Maryland. They look beautiful alone or together, and I can appreciate how hardy they are to handle these neglected spots. I’m glad you shared these in a list, it’s always nice to see people’s perennial collections!

  10. This is a great list and I find it amusing that two of the “plants I’ll never plant again” are on the sun list (artmesia and lamb’s ear) but that’s really because they performed TOO well. A few of my favorites are also listed, but we’re not going to let you off the hook so easily: we’re going to need lists of your favorite daylilies and your favorite hostas in the future!

    • Marcella says:

      I love artemisia, but it does grow very well. When you plant it, you have to be sure it will have plenty of room around it ’cause it’s going to get big.

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