How to Time Flowering Perennials for All-Season Color

6 of 12 in Series: The Essentials of How to Plan a Garden

Although some perennials bloom all summer long, just like your favorite annuals, others don't. They have a period of glory that peaks for a week or several weeks, and then the show subsides. With proper planning you can time your perennial blooms to provide color from early spring through late fall.

Gardeners have lots of ways to find out in advance when a perennial will bloom and for approximately how long. Look it up in a gardening reference book. Do research on the Internet. Check a print or online gardening catalog (bearing in mind, however, that some merchants may exaggerate!). Look on the tag or label. Ask a garden-center staffer or someone who's a member of a gardening club. Best of all, ask someone in your area who's already growing your perennial of choice, because performance varies by climate and even soil conditions.

Nature being as flexible and fickle as it sometimes is, your show may run longer or shorter than you originally planned, or you may end up with some overlap. However, coordinating plants to share the stage at approximately the same time works. You can fine-tune later, after you've basked in your early successes.

Perennials fall into several different categories of bloomers. See the following table for a rundown of perennials in terms of when they bloom.

When Perennials Bloom
Blooming Time Description Examples
Spring bloomers These babies are quick studies. They tend to emerge with the bulbs, generating colorful flowers early in the growing season. Afterwards, the foliage may remain for a while or die down completely until next year. Basket-of-gold, bleeding heart, columbine, forget-me-not, hellebore, lady's mantle, and Solomon's seal
Early summer bloomers Plant these plants to bridge the gap that sometimes occurs between the first splash of spring and the full-on summer flowers. Peonies and poppies
Midsummer bloomers The glory of high summer! Midsummer bloomers begin growing with warm weather and finally show off their flowers when summer is in full swing. Black-eyed Susan, crocosmia, daylilies, Shasta daisy, and hardy geranium.
Late summer–fall bloomers These flowers are a welcome sight just when the weather seems too hot and the garden looks tuckered out. Astilbe, boltonia, and Japanese anemone
Fall bloomers The gardening year's last hurrah can be quite colorful, and if you have bright fall tree foliage, the combined effect can be really fabulous. Aster, dahlia, goldenrod, mum, and sedum
All-summer perennials If all the planning you want to do is for a show of long-term color, try planting all-summer perennials. Mix and match various colors and forms as you like. Note that these plants tend to be sun-lovers, so prepare a spot in an open area of good soil, and take good care of them so they can do their best for you. Bellflower, blanket flower, coneflower, coreopsis, daylily, evening primrose, gaura, hollyhock mallow, Jupiter's beard, veronica, and yarrow
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