Click here for a printable PDF print out.

The Best Perennials for Area Gardens
(listed by bloom time, January through December)

Qualifications

    • must be well adapted to our climate and able to:
      • withstand our summer heat and humidity
      • survive our winter temperatures, as well as potentially winter-wet soil
      • tolerate the occasional drought, or flood
    • must not be especially prone to diseases or insects
    • must not be invasive (“vigorous” is OK)
    • must be easy to grow, low maintenance, and have good success for most gardeners
    • should either have a long bloom time (or be spectacular when it does bloom), have attractive foliage, or have multi-season interest

The Plants

Helleborus species and hybrids – Hellebore

      • many different species, most of which are Eurasian in origin; my favorite is orientalis (Lenten Rose) and its hybrids.
      • many different color choices; blooms in winter; evergreen foliage
      • prefers partial to near full shade in any soil but wet soil
      • 12-15” tall and wide; resistant to deer, insects, disease, and drought
      • foetidus (Reeking or Bear’s Foot Hellebore) is a great naturalizer; many exciting new hybrids are available as well

 

Veronica umbrosa ‘Georgia Blue’ – Georgia Blue Speedwell

      • native to the Republic of Georgia; pure blue flowers in late winter; evergreen foliage reddens in winter
      • 1” tall; spreading groundcover
      • full sun in moist well-drained soil; deer and rabbit resistant

 

Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’ – Angelina Stonecrop

      • there are many, many sedums available to the gardening public; most are non-native; there are upright and spreading varieties; evergreen or deciduous; if I had to pick one it would be ‘Angelina’
      • evergreen foliage is bright yellow/lime green in summer and turns orangey gold in the late fall and winter
      • 3-4” tall with a spreading habit
      • full sun in well-drained soil; drought tolerant; mammal resistant

 

Epimedium species and hybrids – Barrenwort

      • this is a large group of garden-worthy Asian plants that have several things in common; delicate and unusual early spring flowers, groundcover-like attractive foliage, and the ability to tolerate dry shade
      • low growing to 6-12” tall depending on variety with a spreading habit
      • part to full shade in moist well-drained soil; drought tolerant

 

Phlox subulata – Creeping Phlox, Moss Pink

      • Virginia native; early spring blooms are pink, white, red, or blue; evergreen foliage
      • 2-6” tall, low mat forming groundcover or edger
      • full sun in well-drained soil; drought tolerant

 

Iris germanica and hybrids – Bearded Iris

      • probably the most popular of irises, and with the widest variety of cultivars available; typically spring blooming, but there are several the reliably re-bloom in fall; although bloom time is not long, attractive foliage is an asset
      • size varies by selection
      • full sun in normal well-drained to dry soil; deer resistant

 

Iris x louisiana – Louisiana Iris

      • a hybrid group developed from several U.S. natives; very showy flowers in multiple colors; blooms in spring
      • prefers consistently moist to wet soils in full sun; summer dormant foliage is more attractive in wet soils; not drought tolerant; deer resistant

 

Iris siberica – Siberian Iris

      • spring blooming Eurasian iris; multiple colors available
      • very attractive grass-like foliage lends landscape interest through fall
      • full sun in well-drained soil; keep moist during establishment phase, thereafter drought tolerant; deer resistant

 

Polygonatum odoratum ‘Variegatum’ – Variegated Solomon’s Seal

      • Asian native; grown primarily for its fantastic green and white foliage; small white flowers in spring
      • 18-24” tall; spreads moderately; long-lived
      • full to partial shade in moist well-drained soil

 

Baptisia australis and hybrids – False Indigo

      • this member of the legume family is one of our toughest native perennials, and as an old boss of mine frequently said “a no-brainer”
      • large clusters of pea-like flowers rise above attractive blue-green foliage in May; flower colors are typically in the blue to purple range, but yellow, white, pink, and burgundy selections are available; attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds; handsome charcoal gray seed pods
      • full sun in soil with good drainage, drought resistant, mammal resistant, resents being moved
      • grows slowly to 3’ tall and wide
      • numerous cultivars available

 

Bletilla striata – Chinese Ground Orchid

      • terrestrial orchid with exotic pink flowers in spring; several cultivars available, some with other flower colors; attractive pleated sword-like foliage
      • prefers light shade in moist well-drained soil, too much shade and flowers will be sparse
      • 5’ tall by slightly less in width; slow; if happy it will naturalize

 

Amorphophallus konjac – Konjac Voodoo Lily

      • this is one to make the neighbors talk
      • on established plants the flower stalk emerges in late April/early May before the foliage, and can reach 3-4’ tall; a spikey dark burgundy and ivory spadix is surrounded by dark burgundy spathe; this plant is pollinated by flies, and to lure them in, the whole thing smells (and looks like) rotting meat
      • the flower only lasts a couple of weeks, then collapses and disappears; 1-2 months later the non-fragrant foliage appears and will last until early fall, reaching 2-2.5’; lends an exotic look to the garden, and the stalk is a variegated fleshy pink and green
      • the corm from which this grows is used in weight loss products and the plant has a long medicinal history in its native Asia
      • prefers light shade with even moisture, but can take the occasional drought

 

Kniphofia species and hybrids – Red Hot Poker

      • native to South Africa; dramatic poker-like flower stalks, usually has flowers in the orange, red, and yellow ranges; older varieties bloom in mid-spring to early summer; several new varieties rebloom throughout the summer (Eco and Popsicle series); attracts hummingbirds; attractive grass-like foliage
      • can get up to 4-5’ tall, but dwarf selections are available
      • full sun in well-drained soil; drought tolerant once established
      • seek out sarmentosa for unusual late fall flowers

 

Begonia grandis – Hardy Begonia

      • this Asian native has attractive foliage reminiscent of angel or dragon wing begonias, only this species is hardy in Tidewater
      • pink flowers bloom from early summer until fall
      • 18-24” tall and wide
      • prefers partial shade in moist well drained soil; if happy, naturalizes by bulblets

 

Stokesia laevis – Stokes’ Aster

      • southeastern native; showy pale blue flowers in late spring to early summer; other colors available; attracts butterflies; semi-evergreen foliage
      • grows 1-2 tall and wide
      • full sun in moist well-drained soil; drought tolerant; not tolerant of winter wet; rabbit resistant
      • two good cultivars are ‘Peachies’s Pick’ and ‘Colorwheel’

 

Delosperma cooperi – Ice Plant

      • this South African native has attractive, fleshy, succulent foliage and brilliant fuchsia-purple flowers; blooms off and on early summer to early fall; attractive to butterflies
      • only grows 2-4” tall by 2’ wide, like a throw rug
      • full sun in dry well-drained soil; very drought tolerant; deer resistant
      • many ice plants are on the market, but I have found this to be the most reliable bloomer

 

Hemerocallis – Daylily

      • what’s not to love
      • numerous colors; easy to grow; divides easily
      • full to partial sun; adaptable to adverse conditions, but responds well to TLC
      • size varies by cultivar

 

Coreopsis verticillata ‘Zagreb’ – Zagreb Coreopsis/Tickseed

      • probably the best cultivar of a Virginia native; blooms in early summer through early fall with bright yellow daisy-like flowers; better if kept deadheaded or shear after first flowering; attracts butterflies; attractive fern-like foliage
      • 12-18” tall and wide
      • prefers full to partial sun in well-drained soil; somewhat drought tolerant
      • there are numerous Coreopsis cultivars, but not all of them are long-lived; ‘Zagreb’ was in the top, but ‘Summer Sunshine’ was the best from the Mt. Cuba trials

 

Leucanthemum × superbum ‘Becky’ – Becky Daisy

      • of all the daisies available this is probably the best; large white flowers surround golden centers; blooms early summer to fall, especially if deadheaded; attracts butterflies
      • at 3-4’ tall it is one of the larger daisies, but does not need staking
      • full to part sun in well-drained soil; drought tolerant once established; deer and rabbit resistant

 

Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’ – Black and Blue Anise-scented Sage

      • South American native with deep blue flowers and black calyces; blooms from June to frost; attractive to bees and hummingbirds
      • grows 2-5’ tall and wide with a spreading habit
      • full to partial sun in moist well-drained soil; drought tolerant once established; deer resistant

 

Salvia uliginosa – Bog Sage

      • South American native with bright, sky-blue and white flowers; blooms June through fall; attractive to bees, butterflies, hummingbirds
      • can get 4-5’ tall and wide with a spreading wispy habit
      • does best in light shade, but can tolerate sun with adequate moisture; prefers evenly moist soil, but can take wet or dry as well

 

Eucomis species and hybrids – Pineapple Lily

      • native to South Africa, these plants have found their way into local gardens
      • they get their common name from the flower, which does indeed resemble a pineapple; blooms in summer
      • strap-like foliage is just as attractive as the flowers; several selections have striking red to burgundy coloration
      • full sun to light shade in moist well drained soil
      • size varies by cultivar, but can be anywhere from 12-30” tall and wide

 

Zephyranthes species and hybrids – Rain Lily

      • multiple species native to the warmer parts of North and South America; lily-like flowers are typically in the white, pink, or yellow range; blooms from June to September, especially after periods of rain; attracts butterflies; grass-like foliage
      • 6-12” tall depending on selection
      • full to partial sun; spreads easily by bulbs

 

Echinacea purpurea – Purple Coneflower

      • common North American native; despite its name the flowers are typically pink with a prominent central cone; attractive to butterflies
      • blooms from June until early fall, more so if deadheaded, but leaving spent blossoms provides food for birds, and will help it naturalize
      • species can grow 2-4’ tall, but size varies among cultivars
      • prefers full to part sun in well-drained soil; drought tolerant, and deer resistant
      • seems to be a never ending conveyor belt of new cultivars, but I have found the straight species, ‘Magnus’, ‘Kim’s Knee High’, and ‘White Swan’ to be the most reliable

 

Crinum hybrids – Crinum Lily

      • a long-lived Southern favorite with handsome strap-like foliage; gorgeous fragrant flowers bloom off and on through the summer; remove spent flower stalk to encourage rebloom; flowers can be white, pink, red, or combinations; native to tropics and subtropics worldwide; check zone prior to purchase
      • large underground bulbs
      • full sun to partial shade, tolerant of a wide range of soil types
      • size varies by selection, and there are many species and hybrids to choose from

 

Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’ –

Goldsturm Black-eyed Susan

      • Rudbeckia is one of North America’s most prolific wildflowers; several species native to Virginia; ‘Goldstrum’ is one of the best cultivars for both home and commercial landscapes
      • blooms all summer with golden yellow flowers and black eyes; attractive to butterflies; deadheading promotes more blooms, but the seedheads are a source of food for birds
      • full sun in well-drained soil; drought tolerant once established; deer resistant; easy to grow, and can spread vigorously

 

Rudbeckia maxima – Large Coneflower, Cabbage Leaf Coneflower

      • very tall golden yellow flowers with dark brown cones on 5-7’ stalks; blooms in early to mid-summer; attracts butterflies; very attractive blue-green basal foliage, 2-3’ tall and wide
      • prefers full sun in moist soil, but can be drought tolerant once established; deer and rabbit resistant
      • other worthy species include lacinata, R. nitida, R. triloba (reseeding biennial)

 

Lantana camara ‘Miss Huff’ – Miss Huff Lantana

      • one of my favorite perennials; native to the tropics, but this is the most reliable and the easiest to find of all the purportedly hardy lantanas
      • covered in orange/yellow flowers from June until mid-fall; attracts butterflies
      • grows large at 4-5’ tall and wide, or more
      • full sun in well-drained soil; drought tolerant
      • montevidensis has been hardy at NBG for years; purple flowers with low spreading habit

 

Phlox paniculata – Garden Phlox

      • Virginia native; several color selections; blooms mid-summer into fall; attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds
      • grows 2-4’ tall, but smaller selections are available
      • full to partial sun in moist well drained soil; not drought tolerant; needs good air circulation
      • only plant mildew resistant varieties such as ‘Blue Paradise’, ‘David’, ‘Robert Poore’, ‘Shortwood’, and several others

 

Chelone lyonii – Turtlehead

      • Virginia native with pink flowers blooming summer into fall
      • prefers partial shade in moist to wet soil
      • 5-2’ tall by slightly less in width, can spread if happy
      • ‘Hot Lips’ is the most commonly available cultivar; glabra is a white flowering species

 

Musa basjoo – Hardy Fiber Banana

      • Chinese native grown primarily for its foliage which lends a tropical look to the garden; rarely flowers and no fruits in this climate; the hardiest banana, no winter protection needed
      • can get reach 10’ tall or more
      • full sun to partial shade; does best in consistently moist soil

 

Tradescantia pallida ‘Purpurea’ – Purple Heart

      • surprisingly hardy Mexican native is often sold as an annual; grown primarily for its handsome purple foliage; pale pink flowers in late summer-fall
      • 8-10” tall by 1.5-2’ wide with a groundcover-like habit
      • full to partial sun in moist well-drained soil; moderately drought tolerant

 

Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’ – Blue Fortune Anise Hyssop

      • many different Agastache species, but this hybrid between a U.S. and a Korean species is one of the best
      • 4” lavender-blue, bottlebrush flowers bloom for several months beginning in early July on top of 3’ tall stems
      • aromatic foliage and flowers have a pleasant licorice scent
      • extremely attractive to butterflies, bees, and other pollinators, but not to mammals, including deer
      • 2-3’ tall by 1.5-2’ wide
      • full sun, drought tolerant, will not tolerate poorly drained soil

 

Ruellia brittoniana – Mexican Petunia

      • numerous purple flowers mid-summer to fall; attractive dark foliage has a blue cast when grown in full sun
      • grows 3-4’ tall; skinny but easily forms large colonies; may need to be kept in check; invasive in Florida
      • full sun to light shade; thrives in moist to wet soil, but is drought tolerant as well

 

Tulbaghia violacea – Society Garlic

      • South African native that gets it common name from the pungent garlic-like fragrance of its foliage; flower stalks rise above foliage and hold clusters of small lilac colored blossoms; blooms mid-summer to early fall
      • 1-2 tall; spreads by tuberous roots
      • full to partial sun in moist well drained soil; drought tolerant; deer and rabbit resistant

 

Pycnanthemum muticum – Short-toothed Mountain Mint

      • Virginia native with pale pink flower clusters July – September; attractive silver foliage; a pollinator magnet.
      • Grows 1-3’ tall with a vigorous spreading habit; may need to be managed unless you want it to naturalize
      • full sun to part shade in moist well-drained soil; drought tolerant;

 

Hibiscus moscheutos and hybrids – Hardy Hibiscus

      • moscheutos is a Va. native, and the other species used in hybridization are U.S. natives
      • enormous blooms, mid to late summer, can be red, white, pink, or combinations; attractive to butterflies; some newer varieties have attractive burgundy colored foliage
      • size varies by species and cultivar, but many are large, some are compact
      • full sun in medium to wet soils; not drought tolerant; some localized insect issues

 

Lobelia cardinalis – Cardinal Flower

      • one of Virginia’s prettiest native perennials with bright red flowers in mid to late summer; attracts hummingbirds and butterflies
      • 2-4’ tall with an upright habit
      • full to partial sun in consistently moist soil; plants in more sun need more water; not drought tolerant; not long-lived but reseeds

 

Eutrochium species – Joe Pye Weed

      • these tall, robust, Virginia natives have huge mauve flowerheads that are an important food source for butterflies and other pollinators; blooms in late summer
      • fistulosum and E. purpureum both grow very tall at 5-7’, while E. dubium and several dwarf cultivars are smaller at 3-4’
      • prefers full sun to part shade in moist to wet soils; spreads quickly and shouldn’t be ignored

 

Kalimeris pinnatifida – Japanese Aster

      • profuse billowy clouds of chrysanthemum-like flowers; double white blooms with pale yellow centers bloom July to September; attracts butterflies; not really an aster
      • grows 2-3’ with a slow spreading habit
      • full to partial sun in moist well-drained soil; easy perennial for beginners

 

Hedychium species – Hardy Ginger

      • native to tropical Asia, the most commonly available species of this plant is coronarium, or butterfly ginger; it has intensely fragrant white flowers in late summer; other varieties offer different colors, usually in the yellow to orange range with equal to no fragrance depending on the selection; all have attractive tropical foliage, and some can produce attractive seed pods
      • prefers full to part sun in moist soil
      • typically a large plant reaching 4-6’ tall depending on variety, can get wide too

 

Ceratostigma plumbaginoides – Hardy Plumbago, Blue Leadwort

      • this Asian native is a low groundcover-like plant that can be used at the front of beds or under shrubs
      • true-blue flowers bloom in late summer; attractive foliage with new growth emerging bronze-red, entire plant reddens in fall, semi-evergreen
      • 8-12” tall and spreading in full to partial sun
      • if you would like something taller willmottianum also does well in area gardens

 

Lycoris radiata – Spider Lily, Hurricane Lily

      • 2’ tall naked flower stalks emerge from the ground in late summer; unusual bright red flowers; native to Japan
      • strap-like foliage emerges in the fall and persists through winter into spring when it goes dormant
      • does best in light shade in moist well drained soil; frequently forms colonies
      • other Lycoris species offer different colored flowers

 

Solidago species – Goldenrod

      • many U.S. and Virginia native species; golden yellow flowers in late summer to early fall; very pollinator friendly
      • size varies by selection, but most are in the 2-3’ range
      • full to partial sun; most are very drought tolerant, but there are species that tolerate wet soils too; look for cultivars that form clumps if you do not want a spreader

 

Anemone x hybrida – Japanese Anemone

      • late summer/early fall pink or white flowers are held on tall stems
      • does best in light or bright shade, evenly moist, rich soil
      • grows 2-3’ tall or more and spreads easily if happy
      • several good cultivars available including ‘Honerine Jobert’, the 2016 Perennial Plant of the Year as chosen by the Perennial Plant Association (PPA)

 

Tricyrtis hirta – Japanese Toad Lily

      • unusually orchid-like fall blooms; white with pink to purple spots
      • 2-2.5’ tall and wide
      • partial to full shade in moist well drained soil; tolerant of occasional drought

 

Chrysanthemum hybrids – Hardy Chrysanthemum

      • this is a large group of plants that differ from “florists mums” commonly available in the fall; they are hardier and need no special care to bloom; attractive to butterflies
      • sizes vary by selection, but all prefer full sun in soil with good drainage; forgiving; deer resistant
      • many cultivars available with the most common being ‘Sheffield Pink’, but ‘Cambodian Queen’, ‘Ryan’s Pink’, and ‘Bolero’ are very nice as well

 

Farfugium japonicum­ – Leopard Plant

      • an Asian native grown more for its mostly evergreen foliage than for its bright yellow, fall-blooming flowers
      • the foliage is striking and glossy with the most common variety spotted with yellow (hence the leopard), but others are variegated with white, or have unusually large, or crinkled foliage
      • prefers partial to full shade in moist well drained soil
      • 1-2’ tall depending on cultivar

 

Amsonia hubrichtii – Arkansas Blue Star

      • rare in its native Arkansas, but thankfully found at nurseries; it is one of my favorite perennials
      • primarily grown for its fine fern-like foliage which adds great texture to the garden and turns a spectacular golden yellow in the fall
      • pale, skim milk blue flowers in spring
      • 3’ tall and wide, but I’ve seen it larger
      • full sun is best, but will tolerate light shade; tolerant of a wide range of soils including dry soil; deer resistant

 

Iris unguicularis – Algerian Iris

      • native to North Africa; pale blue flowers blooms sporadically beginning in November and continue with no particular schedule until March; attractive evergreen foliage
      • full sun in well-drained soil; very drought and heat tolerant

 

Ajania pacifica – Silver and Gold Chrysanthemum

      • in my garden this Japanese perennial is the last to bloom before winter hits, usually it peaks in late November into early December with golden yellow button-like flowers
      • beautiful foliage is edged in silver, makes a great groundcover, persists well into winter
      • 6-8” tall, spreads vigorously
      • full sun, good drainage, drought tolerant

 

 

Arum italicum – Italian Arum

      • this plant is grown primarily for its foliage which emerges in fall, persisting through the winter and into mid-spring, after which it goes dormant; arrowhead glossy dark green leaves are mottled with pale green to white; very handsome
      • white spathe and spadix flowers appear in late spring; attractive orange fruits ripen in late summer
      • part to full shade, not fussy about soil
      • grows 12-15” tall; especially toxic; deer resistant
      • can be vigorous and has been reported as invasive in other areas, but not on the DCR list; buyer beware!

 

Les Parks
Norfolk Botanical Garden
6700 Azalea Garden Rd.
Norfolk, Virginia 23518
757.441.5830 ext. 452
les.parks@nbgs.org

 

 

 

 

 

Please bring a refillable container for use at the cold, filtered-water refilling stations located throughout the Garden.  MORE INFO
close
open