Perennials: A Guide for Beginners

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What is a Perennial?

Perennials are a category of plants that live from year to year and can survive the winters in northern climates.

Perennials are known for their exquisite flowers and/or beautiful foliage making them a must-have for any landscape.

Some of my all-time favorite plants are perennials.

There is just something different about them when compared to annuals (click here if you need a refresher on annuals).

The blooms are more detailed and intricate, the foliage is more rich and striking.

The obvious advantage of having perennials in your landscape is that you plant them once and they return each spring.

I have found that this is definitely a plus as I get older and time and energy become valuable resources!

Consequently, you will be seeing more perennials in my yard!

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Selecting Perennials for Your Landscape

There are so many perennials to select from, it is like being a kid in a candy store!

The flower colors and striking foliage can make each of them enticing to purchase.

One of the main considerations for selecting a plant for your yard is the amount of sun it receives.

Perennials can be suited for full-sun, shade, or part-sun environments.

Perennial Shasta Daisies
Shasta Daisies are a Beautiful, Easy to Grow Perennial

Here is a general guideline, but note that there are exceptions:

  • South and west-facing gardens: Generally gets 6+ hours of sun each day- considered full sun unless you have trees or buildings that would keep it shady.
  • East facing gardens: Generally gets 4-6 hours of sun each day- considered partly sunny unless you have trees or buildings that would provide more shade.
  • North facing gardens: Generally considered mostly shady with less than 4 hours of direct sun each day.

Garden centers do a great job of creating a “perennial section” and categorizing them by their sun requirements.

The tag on each pot will also state if the perennial is best suited for sun, shade, or part-sun.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help at a garden center.

They are knowledgeable about your local climate and can guide you through the decision process to find those that will thrive in your yard.



Bloom Time

Another consideration when selecting perennials is to know when they bloom.

Some perennials bloom in spring, some in early summer, mid-summer, or fall.

There are even a few that will bloom throughout the summer.

The goal is to have some of each so that you have color and interest throughout the growing season.

However, for a beginner, I would suggest that you not worry about this too much.

I believe the most important factor is to select the ones that will perform well in your yard and that you love.

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Height and Spread

Another consideration when selecting a perennial is the height and spread it will grow once mature.

This can be found on the tag that is in the pot at the retail store.

It is generally visually pleasing to plant taller plants at the back of a flower bed and smaller, lower-growing plants in front.

I suggest measuring the planting area before you go to the garden center so that you can keep space constraints in mind while shopping.

Perennial garden at Holden Arboretum left of red stone deck with black rail
Perennial Garden at Holden Arboretum Kirtland, OH

Perennials are such a gorgeous collection of plants.

Their beauty can transform a garden.

Without their presence in my backyard, there would be an extreme void in all that nature’s beauty has to offer.

If you would like to add perennials to your landscape, I recommend these tried and true beauties:

Perennials for Sun:      




Oriental Lily                                                                                                         

Shasta Daisy


Creeping Phlox

Black-Eyed Susan


Coneflower (Echinacea)


Blanketflower (Gaillardia)

Tickseed (Coreopsis)

Ornamental Grasses, various

Perennial Sunflower (Heliopsis)


Perennials for Shade:


Bleeding Heart

Coral Bells (Heuchera)

Ferns, various

Sweet Woodruff


Lily of the Valley (may become invasive)

Perennials Lily of the Valley
Lily of the Valley


There are other posts in this series: Annual Flowers for Beginners- Selecting the Right Ones for Your Landscape, How to Plant Annual Flowers- For Beginners, and How to Plant Seeds in Your Garden- For Beginners.

4 thoughts on “Perennials: A Guide for Beginners”

  1. Love, love Iris, I have the purp!e in my yard. Just wish the blooms would last longer!

  2. Lily of the Valley is one of my favorites also as it reminds me of my mother who has passed. It was her favorite fragrance. I have some in my yard and when I walk by them I remember her and how she would smell when she hugged me. They do spread alot so watch the area you are putting them in, but you won’t be sorry you have them.


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