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Perennial Perfection: Our 9 Favorite Herbaceous Flowering Perennials

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Published March 27, 2018

“What is ol’ PlantsbyMail rambling on about today?” you may ask (rhetorically, because presumably, you’ve already read the post title). Well.. We’re talking about the Powerhouses of Petals. The Barons of Bloom. The Foremost in Flowers. Perennials, of course!

Specifically, we’re going to touch on 8 of our favorite perennial selections.

But first things first:

What are Perennials Technically?

True perennials are herbaceous plants (herbaceous means that they lack woody stems) that survive more than one season, whether as an evergreen or by dying back down to their roots every winter. Spring sees new growth for the new growing season, and most come equipped with plenty of blooms. Technically, any plant is classified as a perennial if it survives more than one season, but we’ll be focusing on herbaceous flowering perennials in this post.

So without any further ado, here are 9 of our favorite flowering perennial varieties!

Orange Garden Jewels Gerbera Daisy planted in the garden is a excelent flowering perennial

Gerbera Daisy

saucy red salvia flowering perennial with lush green foliage


Commonly called Sage, and yes it is a relative of the kitchen spice, Salvias are a favorite among gardeners all over, and for good reason. They are some of the most prolific bloomers around. These flowering perennials send up spikes of small, tubular flowers in an assortment of eye-catching colors. They also produce blooms that are characteristically long-lasting, and are a favorite among butterflies, hummingbirds, and honey bees.

The Saucy Wine and Saucy Red Salvia from the Southern Living Plant Collection are some of our favorite Salvias. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better Salvia (or even perennial) than these two varieties. They’re naturally compact, sterile, and self-cleaning. Meaning that once they’re established, there’s not much you’ll need to do to keep them looking great. They begin to bloom in late spring, and keep blooming until the first frost of the year. Icing on the cake, they grow like wildfire, and they’ll become even more impressive with each passing year.

moody blue flowering veronica perennial


Commonly called speedwell, bird’s eye, and gypsyweed, the Veronica is a classic flowering perennial that has a variety for any landscape. They come in an assortment of heights, as well as a variety of colors, and their prolific blooms grace the landscape from spring until the first frost of winter. They’re largely deer resistant and drought tolerant, and are notoriously popular with hummingbirds and butterflies.

The Dark Blue Moody Blues and Pink Moody Blues Veronica are moderately sized varieties that are naturally compact, making them excellent choices for usage in containers or low-maintenance mass plantings. The Dark Blue Moody Blues works fantastically in front of reblooming velvety red roses, such as Knock Outs. Create a yearly recurring display that will truly shine by planting low-growing, blooming perennials in front of several Moody Blues, and then planting Knock Out roses behind them.

white echinacea cone flowers - perennial that flowers in the summer


From the prairie to your garden, Echinaceas have been turning heads for generations. Echinaceas don’t need pampering. Their hardy nature will make sure that they stick around for seasons to come. Spiky-topped blooms identify Echinaceas instantly, and if allowed to stick around and mature, birds will feed on the seeds atop the flowers in winter when food is scarce.

The Crazy Pink and Crazy White Echinacea are for flower lovers ONLY! Gorgeous drooping pink (or white, respectively) petals will grace these herbaceous perennials from mid-summer to fall. And if you want to talk about some serious bloomitude… a single mature Crazy Pink or Crazy White is capable of producing over 100 blooms each year!

buttered rum heucherella's herbaceous perennial foliage


Heucherella are a hybrid species, a cross between Heuchera and Tiarella. This relatively new species combines some of the more appealing aspects of both parent species. Frequently used as a shady groundcover, Heucherella bring foliage texture and color that you almost won’t believe. We love using them in containers, where they provide a unique contrast against most other foliage types.

We grow several different species of Heucherella, including the Tapestry, Alabama Sunrise, Buttered Rum, Twilight, Cracked Ice, and Solar Eclipse. Each of these varieties is a true beauty in the landscape, but for maximum effect, you’ll want to find colors that will pop against their vibrant foliage. Some, like the Twilight Heucherella, prove that black truly does go with everything and will look phenomenal in almost any situation. Others, like the Buttered Rum Heucherella, with its buttery caramel coloration, can be an ideal addition to an autumnal display.

celebration gaillardia flowering perennial with bright orange-red flowers


Sometimes called a ‘blanket flower,’ Gaillardia are hardy flowering perennials that feature daisy-like flowers. Originally named after the 18th century French magistrate, M. Gaillard de Charentonneau, most modern-day varieties you will come across these days are actually the hybrid species, Gaillardia x grandiflora.  You know a gaillardia bloom when you see it, with their characteristically ragged-edged petals that are typically brilliant red and/or orange.  These perennials are generally particularly low-maintenance as well as tolerant of droughts and dry soil, making them a perfect choice for anyone looking for some color in their landscape without any extra work.

The Celebration Gaillardia and Sunset Flash Gaillardia from the Southern Living Plants are two great varieties for flower lovers. Both varieties will bloom almost all growing season long. For a rich scarlet red bloom, check out the Celebration Gaillardia. For a vibrant red-orange bloom with yellow tips, take a look at the Sunset Flash.

coconut surprise dianthus flowering perennial


Sometimes known as ‘Pinks,’ Dianthus are a classic breed that has a rich history in perennial flower gardens. You might be wondering why they’re called Pinks even when some are not actually pink. Well, you may have heard of, or used, pinking shears with fabric before, so all you need to do is take a look the zigzagging edges of Dianthus blooms to understand where that name came from.

Look for the characteristic blue-green, pointed foliage to identify Dianthus. Traditionally, these beauties grow in lovely clumps that continuously send up blooms. Additionally, these perennials feature an extended blooming period, with an initial considerable bloom in spring followed by sporadic reblooms. Deadheading will help to promote new flower growth.

The Scent First series of Dianthus features a couple great choices for any prospective Dianthus growers, the Raspberry Surprise Dianthus and Coconut Surprise Dianthus. These perennials are particularly charming, with double carnation blooms that produce a pleasantly spicy fragrance. In addition, you can expect an impressive drought tolerance on these naturally compact varieties.

herbaceous perennial example ever sapphire agapanthus with blue flowers


Agapanthus, frequently called African Lily, originate from Southern Africa and have some of the most remarkable bloom clusters around. Traditional agapanthus leaves are a gorgeous bright green that brings a tropical feel to any landscape. Some feature thick, strap-like foliage, however, some agapanthus produce thin, grass-like foliage. You know an agapanthus bloom when you see it, tall spikes of bloom clusters come in a wide range of colors and transform your garden. Hummingbirds and butterflies love these perennials and will frequently visit them for a quick snack.

We offer several different varieties of Agapanthus, including the Ever Amethyst Agapanthus, Queen Mum Agapanthus, and Little Blue Fountain Agapanthus. The Ever Sapphire and Queen Mum Agapanthus are fantastic choices for that traditional, thick strap foliage that people have come to know and adore. The Ever Sapphire is absolutely stunning with brilliant, violet-blue flowers, while the Queen Mum is just as breathtaking with elegant white and violet-blue bloom clusters. The Little Blue Fountain is ideal for anyone looking to plant a smaller, thin foliage variety. All of these selections are particularly disease and pest resistant, as well as heat and drought tolerant.

Lantana are flowering perennials with bright pink, red, and yellow bloom clusters


Chances are that you’re already familiar with Lantana. They’re some of the more common flowering perennials around, however, they’re popular for a reason. Brilliant blooms appear from spring until the first frost in most zones. Butterfly lovers will appreciate the droves of butterflies that will visit your Lantanas. Once established, Lantana are very hard to kill, making them a long-lasting addition to your landscape or garden. Their velvety green leaves are the perfect backdrop for their brilliant red, orange, yellow, white, and/or pink blossoms.

The Little Lucky Peach Glow Lantana is a splendid choice for anyone looking to plant Lantanas in their garden. This variety produces multi-colored orange, pink, and yellow bloom clusters with the classic Lantana fragrance. Naturally compact, the Peach Glow reaches 1’ H x 1’ W, therefore staying more densely foliated than many other varieties. This selection stays in bloom longer than traditional Lantanas, and in addition, is remarkably drought and heat tolerant.

Thanks for Reading!

There are some fantastic perennials that didn’t make this list, but we had to stop somewhere! We’ll have to leave them for another list somewhere in the future. 

Questions/Comments? Leave ’em below!

Check out this blog post on perennial care.

Browse our mail order perennial stock.

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23 comments on “Perennial Perfection: Our 9 Favorite Herbaceous Flowering Perennials”

    1. This information is found on our website on each plant’s page along with additional useful information.

  1. I live in upstate NY and plant lantana and salvia every year….as annuals. Are you saying that I can leave my lantana in the ground over the winter and it will come back next Spring?

    1. Hello Sue,

      No, Lantana would not be considered a perennial in your USDA zone. But, it is treated as a perennial in USDA Zones 9B and up.

    1. Hello Geraldine,

      For a shady spot, try Heucherellas, Hostas, or Heuchera. These are all shade-tolerant, but they still might struggle if they don’t receive any sun at all. If it’s entirely shade, you may try ferns, Pieris, or Soft Caress Mahonia from the Southern Living Plant Collection.

  2. Please tell if any of these do well in shady places. We have large pecan trees in our front and back yards. I want pretty, colorful, easy to keep alive perennials. I don’t want too much, do I?

    1. Hello Janiece,

      You might try Heucherellas, Heuchera, or Hostas. These are all shade-tolerant plants, but as most plants, they may struggle in complete shade. Their main attraction is their foliage color, which is common for shade plants. Plants need sun to produce blooms, so shade plants are always going to be a bit lacking in the bloom department.

      Otherwise, you may want to check out ferns. They do well in full shade situations.

    1. Fall is a great time to plant just about anything. However, I’d do it sooner than later. Try to give your new plants about 6 weeks before freezing temperatures come into play. The predicted first frost date in your zone is October 23.
      Use root tone this time of the year when planting shrubs and trees to get them prepped for spring. Also, once your perennials die back to the ground, be sure to pile some mulch over them to make sure they make it through the winter.

  3. I wish they would tell you what plants take over the garden. I never see anything on the plant name spikes that come with the plant. I’ve learned from hard experience some of these plants are aggressive and hard to scale down.

    1. Hello Mary,

      There are varieties of Salvia, Veronica, Echinacea, Dianthus, Agapanthus, and Lantana that are aggressive growers, even considered invasive in some places. However, many commercial breeds, such as the selections we recommended under each plant type, are compact, non-aggressive growers.

  4. Any suggestions for what we could plant in our shaded back portion of our backyard in Illinois (Zone 5a/5b)? After heavier rains, the back part (about the last 5 feet) tends to flood (goes down after 1-3 days) up to 0-1 feet deep (more often 1-1/2 feet deep).

    We just bought our house so need to budget for this first year, but we’d like to plant something back there. Any suggestions?

    Am thinking of planting a rain garden back there. Previous owners have already built an underground drain line next to the flood prone area.

  5. Lantana is an annual if you live in Michigan but if you bring it inside for winter it will just keep growing!

  6. What perennials are deer resistant, coastal tolerant (brackish creek flooding a possibility), been loving and colorful?

    1. Hello Debbie, thanks for the question!
      You might want to check out Coral Bells (Heuchera) or Festuca. They’re both somewhat deer resistant, as well as salt tolerant.

  7. I live in zone 7a in zip cod 30512…we are in our 60s and want to plant some plants close to our house in the front yard…we have a lot of clay…i want to place some type of plants that have color all other words..plants that will have color in each season..depending upon the plant…i like shrubs but i dont like having to prune them..we want all low maintenance..the front yard has a lot of shade from pines and other tall trees…thanks so much for your suggestions….i already have hostas in the backyard..but i want something different…i feel overwhelmed from all the suggestions

    1. Hello Pamela, thanks for your question! You may want to look at an evergreen fern variety, such as Champion’s wood fern, Large-leaved Holly Fern, or Rickard’s Serrate Fern (or numerous other varieties). They should hit your specs of evergreen, clay soil tolerant, shade tolerant, and low-maintenance. They create a pretty impressive display once they’ve grown in, and they have fantastic texture in the landscape.

  8. You may want to reference the region where some of these plants are considered perennials. From my experience in the mid Atlantic region salvia that you have pictured and lantana are great for hot, dry conditions but DO NOT survive the winter!

  9. I live in North Texas, was wondering if you have any ideas on growing Lily of the Nile in my neck of the woods . I tried several times with no success .

    1. Hello Patricia,

      I’d imagine that hot, dry summers in your area may take a toll on these guys. Have you mulched them when you’ve planted them before? They require a healthy amount of water, so mulch and regular waterings would help ensure that they’re getting the moisture they so desperately need.

      Otherwise, it might be a soil issue. You may try supplementing your soil with compost or composted manure. These guys don’t require much extra food, but compost provides plenty of nutrients for them to grow and thrive.

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