Like many of you, I want colour in my gardens throughout the season without much fuss. I don’t have time to tend to perennials every day so I need ones that will thrive on their own and be work-horses in the garden. They need to be tough, colourful, long blooming, with little care or deadheading, and have low water needs.
As requested by a few of my Facebook followers, I’ve created a list of my ’10 Best Perennials’ for mostly sunny locations, that are long blooming and easy-care for Zone 4+ gardeners. As a side note, you will find many of these perennials in my 2020 garden designs, so I know they work.
What you need to know before you begin
If you are looking for low maintenance perennials that thrive in sun, remember they need to be well-established before you can consider them low maintenance. All newly installed perennials need water in their first two growing seasons to establish strong roots. This means watering at least 3 times per week in the first season and twice a week in the second growing season and during times of drought. Letting perennials wilt results in tissue damage to the plant. See my blog ‘Plant Science! Why do plants wilt in your garden?’ from March 25, 2020 for more details.
Here are a few of my favourite perennials for sun, that are long blooming, and low maintenance, in no particular order:
1. Purple Sprite Hybrid Phlox (Phlox Hybrid) New 2019
This hybrid phlox forms a low, mounding habit of bright purple flowers with a tiny white halo in the center. It blooms about a week or so after Phlox subulate (creeping phlox) and does not spread aggressively. This plant is salt tolerant so works great along walkways and attracts bees and butterflies. I started installing this little beauty a couple of summers ago and was really impressed with the length of bloom time and the great flower colour. Zone 4. Late spring and early summer blooming.
2. Cat’s Pajamas Catmint (Nepeta) New 2019
A long blooming perennial that’s perfect in small areas of the landscape. Indigo blue flowers are produced all the way from the soil to the tips, providing an intense splash of color when it’s in bloom. Rosy purple calyxes extend the color when the blooms are past peak. Cat’s pajamas catmint has fragrant flowers and foliage, is heat tolerant, drought tolerant and attracts bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Zone 4. Early summer blooming.
3. Little Goldstar Brown-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) Old Favourite
This introduction is more compact, standing just knee-high. It offers more blooms on a tighter habit and is excellent for containers as well as the sunny border. Loads of yellow daisy-like flowers surrounding a prominent brown cone that in winter provides a healthy snack for birds. Flowers are great for fresh or dried floral bouquets and are very attractive to butterflies and bees in the summer. It attracts butterflies, hummingbirds, and songbirds. Zone 4. Blooms from August into the fall.
4. ‘White Wands’ Speedwell (Veronica) Old Favourite Favourite
Pure white flower wands are borne prolifically atop the short, dense clump of dark green foliage. This attracts bees and butterflies, is long blooming and salt tolerant so great along a walkway. Zone 4. Blooms in June and July.
5. Pardon My Pink Beebalm (Monarda) New 2019
Looking for a magnet for hummingbirds? Try this petite selection of Beebalm from the Pardon My Series. Reaching only 12 inches in height, this compact selection forms medium pink flowers, measuring 2-3 inches across. With fragrant flowers and foliage it attracts butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. Zone 4. Blooms in August. Side Note: growing beebalm near tomatoes in the garden is said to improve the health and flavour of the tomatoes.
6. Rainbow Rhythm ‘Going Bananas’ Daylily (Hemerocallis) Favourite
I don’t usually list daylilies, however, this one I really like. One of the very best yellow reblooming daylilies. Lightly fragrant, lemon yellow flowers open fully just above the relatively short clump of attractive green foliage. Blooms early in the daylily season and continues through the heat of summer into fall. Use in mass plantings or anywhere low maintenance perennials are needed. It attracts bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds and is very easy to care for. Zone 4. Blooms in early summer and then again in late August.
7. Blue Fortune Hyssop (Agastache) Old Favourite, I Really Like
A long-blooming selection (6+ weeks) for the middle to back of the border, featuring wands of dusky violet-blue flowers. These plants form a compact bush of licorice-scented green leaves. Both the flowers and leaves are edible and fun to sprinkle into salads and are attractive to butterflies. Removing faded blooms will help to lengthen the flowering time. This is a hybrid of a native North American wildflower so this could be a good choice for natural meadow gardens. I like to place this perennial in front of ornamental grasses. It attracts butterflies and bees and is deer resistant with fragrant flowers and foliage. Zone 4.
8. Firetail Fleeceflower (Persicaria) Old Favourite
Fleeceflowers are widely used in European gardens, and are now becoming more familiar here in North America. Plants form a tall, spreading clump of leathery green leaves, bearing long spikes of poker flowers beginning in midsummer, right through the fall. This selection features crimson-red spikes over a tall and bushy clump. Give this plant elbow room. It is wonderful for massing in moist areas and excellent for cutting. While this plant is a steady spreader, it is not considered to be invasive in any way. It attracts butterflies, has interesting, red blooming flowers, and is deer and rabbit resistant. Tall plant. Zone 4. Blooms from mid-summer to frost.
9. Jaws Stonecrop (Sedum) New Plant – New Favourite 2019
Originating in Tennessee, this sedum forms a bushy mound of succulent blue-green, the edges deeply-cut, cupped and curled leaves. Large heads of dusty salmon-rose flowers appear in late summer, later developing into brown seed heads with good winter interest. A magnet for butterflies, this plant is best used towards the front of a sunny border or in mixed containers where the unusual effect of the foliage may be best appreciated. If you are looking to attract migrating butterflies, this plant is a must for your garden with interesting foliage, deer and rabbit resistance, and tolerance to drought. Plant many. Zone 4.
10. PowWow Wildberry Coneflower (Echinacea) Old Favourite 2018
A popular native wildflower, these plants form a midsized mound of coarse dark-green leaves, bearing large daisy flowers with magenta-pink petals surrounding an orange-brown central cone. Coneflowers are sturdy, easy-care perennials that perform best in a sunny location and are outstanding for cutting. Removing faded flowers regularly will greatly increase the blooming period and leaving dried seed heads on the plants at the end of the season will provide food for wintering birds. An All-America Selections Winner for 2010. Blooms mid-summer. Attracts butterflies and is deer resistant. Zone 4.
Lexi – The Gabby Gardener
**Plant descriptions courtesy of Heritage Perennials and Proven Winners.