Add These 7 Underappreciated Perennials to Your Garden
Most of us recognize the more common perennials, such as peonies, hostas and daylilies, but did you know there’s an abundance of underused varieties that can also bring interest and color to your flower beds? Here are seven to look for:
A perennial that is easy to care for, Malva features loads of small hibiscus-like pink flowers with deep purple stripes. It blooms constantly from mid-July through early fall. Also known as “common mallow,” Malva will grow in just about any type of soil, but has a limited lifespan of only a few years. It does self-sow often, however, so a fresh crop of plants can typically be seen at the foot of the fading ones. Keep in mind that Malva may become invasive in some spots, so watch for any plants on the loose. This plant thrives in moist, well-drained soil, and partial shade to full sun. It can get up to 4 feet tall and thrives in zones 4-8.
Commonly known as false indigo, baptisia produces columns of beautiful blue, yellow, white or purple blooms each spring. Although it isn’t all that particular when it comes to soil type, baptisia is best kept in full sun with well-drained soil. It’s a hardy and reliable plant that will continue to blossom year after year. Resistant to heat and drought, baptisia can get up to 4 feet tall and features divided, bluish-green foliage that is eye-catching even without flowers. As a slow-growing plant, it’s a good idea to find the biggest ones possible for the best garden display. Baptisia thrives in zones 3-9.
A favorite of spring brides, lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis) is as beautiful as it is fragrant. It boasts dainty, bell-like flowers in white or pink, and has become a symbol of purity, humility, and restored happiness. A great groundcover for the north side of your home or shady woodland spaces, the plant’s light-to-medium green foliage appears in early spring, joined a few weeks later by short, elegant flower stalks. Lily-of-the-valley can quickly spread and can become invasive if not watched closely. It also bears poisonous red berries, so is best kept away from pets and children. Plant lily-of-the-valley in moist soil that is well-drained. Best in zones 3-8, it thrives in partial to full shade and can grow up to 8 inches tall.
Native to North America, Culver’s root (Veronicastrum virginicum) is a continuous source of striking white blooms throughout the summer. Tall and candelabra-like, the plant can reach 7 feet tall, and makes a strong visual statement when used in the back of meadow gardens or mixed borders. A favorite of butterflies, Culver’s root thrives in moist soil and full sun. It is resistant to pests and disease, but may need staking if not receiving adequate sunlight. Use Culver’s root in zones 3-8.
While not many perennials flourish in full shade, Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum odoratum) is a vibrant example of one that does. Its pretty flowers will brighten even the darkest of corners in your landscape. Featuring jovial green or variegated leaves and petite, bell-like white flowers, Solomon’s seal blooms in April and May, and turns a bold yellow in the fall, giving your yard a color injection just as the growing season comes to a close. For best results, plant it in rich, well-drained soil in zones 3-8. Expect it to get up to 3 feet tall and slowly spread throughout your garden via underground roots.
In addition to its fun name, catmint is a plant that is small but mighty when it comes to producing a gorgeous display of cheerful bluish-purple blossoms. Simply plant it in quantity as a border edge and it will deliver powerfully. In addition to its beauty, catmint is also hardy, and insect- and disease-free, for the most part. It is available in a range of sizes from 6 to 36 inches tall. A late spring or early summer bloomer, once the first flowers fade, it can be coaxed into blooming again by cutting the plant back by about two thirds. Catmint is a hummingbird and butterfly favorite, and even better, repels deer and rabbits, so can be used around vegetable gardens. Catmint prefers well-drained soil, and partial shade to full sun. It’s best suited to zones 3-8.
Expect late summer to be a dull time in the garden unless you incorporate show-stopping, end-of-the-season plants like Turtlehead (Chelone obliqua). An ideal choice for rain and bog gardens, or near water features like koi ponds and waterfalls, Turtlehead flourishes in rich soil that is almost swampy, and prefers partial shade to full sunlight. It boasts pretty pink, white or purplish flowers that resemble snapdragons. It can grow up to 3 feet tall and thrives in zones 3-9.