Types of Herbaceous Perennials

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There are many different types of perennials that, if selected with your specific growing conditions in mind, will thrive in many different types of climates. Shade perennials, hardy perennials that survive in cold weather, and drought-resistant perennials are all available. Perennials also offer a number of other advantages that make them ideal for flower gardens or for use in landscaping.

Herbaceous Perennial Plants

A perennial plant or simply perennial is a plant that lives for more than two years. The term is often used to differentiate a plant from shorter lived annuals and biennials. The term is sometimes misused by commercial gardeners to describe only herbaceous perennials. More correctly, woody plants like shrubs and trees are also perennials.

Perennials, especially small flowering plants, grow and bloom over the spring and summer and then die back every autumn and winter, then return in the spring from their root-stock rather than seeding themselves as an annual plant does. These are known as herbaceous perennials. However, depending on the rigors of local climate, a plant that is a perennial in its native habitat, or in a milder garden, may be treated by a gardener as an annual and planted out every year, from seed, from cuttings or from divisions.

  • Perennials are captivating in flower gardens as they change with the seasons. As opposed to annuals, perennials also have specific growing periods that typically only last one to six weeks, depending on species. By selecting perennials with a variety of flowering times, your flower garden will be in bloom for much of the year.
  • Perennials don't have to be replanted every year like many other types of plants. Once perennials become established, they will continue to come back year after year with some thriving for decades.
  • Many types of herbaceous perennials prosper the best when they are dug up every couple of years and the root ball is divided. This allows you to turn one plant into several that can then be replanted throughout your garden or landscape.
  • Although perennials can be a bit more expensive than other plants, generally, they are considered a good investment because of how long they stick around. Perennials can also be started by seed for less, but will be slower to mature and flower.
  • Perennials produce a wide array of bloom colors and shapes that provide for a variety of uses. As well, perennials typically produce eye-catching vegetative foliage even when they are not flowering.

Specific types of perennials run the gamut with types that are suitable for every type of growing environment. Vines, shrubs, trees, and flowering plants and are used in borders, gardens, edges, along foundations, in massing and layering, and in nearly any other situation. Here are some popular perennials :

  • Black-eyed Susans act as true perennials and tend to self seed very easily. They typically grow to be about 2 feet tall and bloom from mid summer to fall. Back-eyed Susans will become drought-resistant once they become established and thrives the best in full sun. Appropriate for USDA hardiness zones up to 10 and as low as three.
  • Hosta is a very hardy perennial that will require very little ongoing maintenance. Hostas grow best with some shade, which produces a variety of vegetative foliage in many different colors. Thrives in USDA hardiness zones three through eight.
  • Although goldenrod has received a false reputation for causing hayfever (it's actually ragweed), it is a vibrant perennial that flowers in late summer to early fall. It will usually grow to about 2 feet tall and will prosper is USDA hardiness zones as low as three and as high as 10.
  • Peonies are hardy perennials that produce large eye-catching blooms in a variety of colors. They will grow to about three feet tall and flower from late spring to early summer. Peonies are often used in borders, hedges, and in flower gardens and they will thrive in USDA hardiness zones three through eight.
  • Yarrow is a hardy perennial that will become drought-resistant once established. Yarrow needs almost no maintenance and grows best in full sun. Depending on specific species, plants can be found that will grow between 1 and 3 feet. Cultivars include Coronation Gold, Gold Plate, Altgold, and Neugold, among many others. It prospers in USDA hardiness zones three through eight.