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10 Long-Blooming Perennials

By: Stephanie Petersen
Want a colorful garden that lasts through the seasons? These 10 long-blooming perennials will keep your garden looking colorful from spring to fall.

‘Dorothy Rose’ double columbine: ‘Dorothy Rose’ is a double columbine.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could enjoy your favorite flowers all year long? That’s just not the nature of perennials, but some do bloom up to a month or more! If you include a few of these long-blooming plants in all of your beds and borders, you’re guaranteed to have a colorful, cohesive look throughout your garden.

Long-blooming perennials are cool in containers

These plants bloom so long that some of them are even good candidates for containers. For example, lungwort brings an exciting accent to a shade container, and ice plant grows well in a trough with other succulents. In fact, if your garden soil is heavy, this may be the best way to grow ice plant.

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Combine long-blooming perennials for non-stop color

Since not all perennials bloom for the same length of time or during the same season, it can be a delicate dance to put together combinations in a border. Include a few of these long-blooming options so that when one partner plant is winding down, another is starting. Also, these plants will still have color when there are lulls between the peak times of the season.

Browse through my plant picks below, and find a way to incorporate a few of them into your beds and borders. Be sure to pick some that will be blooming in each season. You’ll be sure to have a colorful, flower-filled garden from spring through fall.

Ice plant (Delosperma spp.)

Ice plant’s vibrant flowers cover the fleshy evergreen foliage for up to two months. Heat-, drought- and salt-tolerant, this adaptable plant thrives with little care, even in rocky soils. Perfect for sunny slopes or rock gardens, ice plant quickly forms a low carpet of succulent foliage.

Ice plant is most cold hardy in drier climates with fast-draining soil; avoid clay. Use gravel or pine needle mulch around them to keep their roots moist and their leaves and stems dry. This is especially important in winter, when too much moisture can make plants rot. Reduce watering in fall to help them harden off for winter.

Type Perennial Blooms Purple, pink, orange, red or yellow from late spring through frost Light Full sun Soil Moist, well-drained Size 3 to 6 in. tall, 12 to 24 in. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 6 to 10

Lungwort (Pulmonaria spp. and hybrids)

Pink flower buds open on stems above the foliage just as it’s emerging in early spring. As the flowers transition over several weeks, you may find a mix of blue, pink, white or purple flowers on lungwort all at once. Bees love this woodland classic, but deer will give its coarse, hairy foliage a pass. Cultivars with spotted or solid silver foliage add a nice contrast in the shade garden.

Divide them right after they flower every five years or so. Most lungwort varieties will self seed and they spread by rhizomes, so are a great option if you want a long-blooming ground cover.

Blooms Blue, pink, purple or white in spring Light Part to full shade Soil Moist, well-drained Size 6 to 18 in. tall, 10 to 40 in. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9

Columbine (Aquilegia hybrids)

Columbines have unique and exquisite blooms that come in a wide range of colors. ‘Cardinal’ columbine, in the photo, is part of the Songbird series and grows 24 to 28 inches tall and 12 to 18 inches wide. A hummingbird favorite, the large flowers open into a shallow trumpet shape, with each petal ending in a delicate pointed spur that holds nectar.

Columbines reseed easily, but they can be difficult to transplant. Pinch off flowers the first year they’re planted to encourage them to set roots and get established.

Blooms Blue, pink, purple, red, white, lavender, yellow or bicolor in spring Light Part shade Soil Well-drained Size 5 to 36 in. tall, 6 to 24 in. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 3 to 8

Astilbe (Astilbe spp. and hybrids)

If you’re looking for a long-lasting flower for shade, then astilbe is a great choice! With big plumes in white, pink, red, lavender or peach, it’s one of the showiest perennials for part shade. To extend the show even longer, plant several cultivars that bloom at different times. If planned well, you may have astilbe blooming in your garden from late spring through summer! Make sure to keep plants evenly moist and don’t let them dry out or the leaves will get crispy.

Blooms Red, pink, lavender, white, peach from late spring through summer Light Full sun to part shade Soil Moist, well-drained Size 8 to 48 in. tall, 12 to 48 in. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9

‘True Blue’ gentian (Gentiana spp. and hybrids)

Deer-resistant ‘True Blue’ gentian grows 15 to 20 in. tall and has brilliant blue flowers on well-branched stems, which means lots of blooms for you to enjoy. This hybrid was bred to bloom longer than species gentians; expect them to have flowers for eight weeks or more. Deadhead spent flowers to keep plants looking good. Grow this plant in well-drained soil in a rock garden or at the front of the border, so you can see it up close.

Type Perennial Blooms Blue in summer to early fall Light Full sun to part shade Soil Moist, well-drained Size 15 to 20 in. tall, 12 to 18 in. Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 8

False sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides)

Once false sunflower starts blooming in midsummer, you can expect flowers for up to 12 weeks! This is a great option if you have problems with clay; it grows in any reasonably fertile ground, but prefers moist, heavy soil. ‘Summer Sun’, in the photo, grows 3 to 4 feet tall, making it perfect for the middle or back of the border and doesn’t need staking. This nectar-rich plant also fits right into a butterfly garden, and songbirds enjoy the seeds when they form. False sunflower doesn’t spread by rhizomes, but often self-seeds where it’s happy. What makes it a “false” sunflower? Both the ray and disk florets produce seeds, where only the disk florets of sunflowers produce seeds.

Blooms Yellow from midsummer to early fall Light Full sun to part shade Soil Moist, well-drained Size 1 to 6 ft. tall, 1 to 4 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9

Bee balm (Monarda didyma)

Bee balm’s large, showy flowers are especially attractive to hummingbirds and bees. Be sure to provide plenty of moisture, especially during the heat of summer, to keep flowers looking their best. But some afternoon shade is appreciated where it gets hot in summer. Deadhead flowers to prolong summer bloom for up to 8 weeks.

Powdery mildew can plague bee balm, so to prevent this be sure to allow plenty of space for air circulation or choose resistant varieties. Divide plants in spring every few years to keep plants healthy and blooming.

Blooms Pink, purple, red, white or lavender in summer Light Full sun to part shade Soil Moist, well-drained Size 6 to 48 in. tall, 8 to 36 in. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9

White bouquet tansy (Tanacetum niveum)

Both drought- and deer-tolerant, white bouquet tansy produces tons of petite white flowers that last and last. Silvery foliage has a citruslike fragrance and provides a nice color contrast next to practically anything in the garden. After the initial bloom, cut plants back by half for a repeat show. It will likely self-sow, coming up here and there and making the perfect unplanned fun combinations.

Type Perennial Blooms White from summer to frost Light Full sun to part shade Soil Moist, well-drained Size 18 to 30 in. tall, 18 to 24 in. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 10

Hardy begonia (Begonia grandis)

This plant has both beautiful foliage and interesting flowers that last for several weeks. Its delicate stems dangle with pink flowers on upright plants in part to full shade. Keep hardy begonias moist, mulch around plants and water regularly so they don’t dry out. You may want to mark where the plant is in your garden because new-season growth is usually late to appear. Hardy begonias spread by rhizomes and can fill in a shady spot well. You may find seedlings popping up in other parts of the garden, but you can easily remove any unwanted ones. Deadhead flowers to extend blooming until frost and reduce seed production.

Blooms Pink from summer to frost Light Part to full shade Soil Moist, well-drained Size 18 to 24 in. tall and wide. Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 6 to 11

Fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Burgundy Bunny’)

Ornamental grasses are often grown for their strappy foliage, but don’t forget about their flowers! Well-suited to containers, rock gardens and the front of the border, this clump-forming ornamental grass has bright-green foliage that turns golden-brown in the fall. At the same time, the brushlike panicles ripen to a contrasting red-brown and hold on until winter. While the species grows 3 to 4 feet tall and wide, smaller cultivars, such as ‘Burgundy Bunny’ in the photo, are more compact, growing 12 to 18 inches tall and wide.

Blooms White in midsummer to fall Light Full sun to part shade Soil Moist, well-drained Size 6 to 60 in. tall, 14 to 60 in. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 5 to 9

Ice plant (Delosperma spp.)

Ice plant’s vibrant flowers cover the fleshy evergreen foliage for up to two months. Heat-, drought- and salt-tolerant, this adaptable plant thrives with little care, even in rocky soils. Perfect for sunny slopes or rock gardens, ice plant quickly forms a low carpet of succulent foliage.

Ice plant is most cold hardy in drier climates with fast-draining soil; avoid clay. Use gravel or pine needle mulch around them to keep their roots moist and their leaves and stems dry. This is especially important in winter, when too much moisture can make plants rot. Reduce watering in fall to help them harden off for winter.

Type Perennial Blooms Purple, pink, orange, red or yellow from late spring through frost Light Full sun Soil Moist, well-drained Size 3 to 6 in. tall, 12 to 24 in. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 6 to 10

False sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides)

Once false sunflower starts blooming in midsummer, you can expect flowers for up to 12 weeks! This is a great option if you have problems with clay; it grows in any reasonably fertile ground, but prefers moist, heavy soil. ‘Summer Sun’, in the photo, grows 3 to 4 feet tall, making it perfect for the middle or back of the border and doesn’t need staking. This nectar-rich plant also fits right into a butterfly garden, and songbirds enjoy the seeds when they form. False sunflower doesn’t spread by rhizomes, but often self-seeds where it’s happy. What makes it a “false” sunflower? Both the ray and disk florets produce seeds, where only the disk florets of sunflowers produce seeds.

Blooms Yellow from midsummer to early fall Light Full sun to part shade Soil Moist, well-drained Size 1 to 6 ft. tall, 1 to 4 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9

Lungwort (Pulmonaria spp. and hybrids)

Pink flower buds open on stems above the foliage just as it’s emerging in early spring. As the flowers transition over several weeks, you may find a mix of blue, pink, white or purple flowers on lungwort all at once. Bees love this woodland classic, but deer will give its coarse, hairy foliage a pass. Cultivars with spotted or solid silver foliage add a nice contrast in the shade garden.

Divide them right after they flower every five years or so. Most lungwort varieties will self seed and they spread by rhizomes, so are a great option if you want a long-blooming ground cover.

Blooms Blue, pink, purple or white in spring Light Part to full shade Soil Moist, well-drained Size 6 to 18 in. tall, 10 to 40 in. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9

Bee balm (Monarda didyma)

Bee balm’s large, showy flowers are especially attractive to hummingbirds and bees. Be sure to provide plenty of moisture, especially during the heat of summer, to keep flowers looking their best. But some afternoon shade is appreciated where it gets hot in summer. Deadhead flowers to prolong summer bloom for up to 8 weeks.

Powdery mildew can plague bee balm, so to prevent this be sure to allow plenty of space for air circulation or choose resistant varieties. Divide plants in spring every few years to keep plants healthy and blooming.

Blooms Pink, purple, red, white or lavender in summer Light Full sun to part shade Soil Moist, well-drained Size 6 to 48 in. tall, 8 to 36 in. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9

Columbine (Aquilegia hybrids)

Columbines have unique and exquisite blooms that come in a wide range of colors. ‘Cardinal’ columbine, in the photo, is part of the Songbird series and grows 24 to 28 inches tall and 12 to 18 inches wide. A hummingbird favorite, the large flowers open into a shallow trumpet shape, with each petal ending in a delicate pointed spur that holds nectar.

Columbines reseed easily, but they can be difficult to transplant. Pinch off flowers the first year they’re planted to encourage them to set roots and get established.

Blooms Blue, pink, purple, red, white, lavender, yellow or bicolor in spring Light Part shade Soil Well-drained Size 5 to 36 in. tall, 6 to 24 in. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 3 to 8

White bouquet tansy (Tanacetum niveum)

Both drought- and deer-tolerant, white bouquet tansy produces tons of petite white flowers that last and last. Silvery foliage has a citruslike fragrance and provides a nice color contrast next to practically anything in the garden. After the initial bloom, cut plants back by half for a repeat show. It will likely self-sow, coming up here and there and making the perfect unplanned fun combinations.

Type Perennial Blooms White from summer to frost Light Full sun to part shade Soil Moist, well-drained Size 18 to 30 in. tall, 18 to 24 in. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 10

Astilbe (Astilbe spp. and hybrids)

If you’re looking for a long-lasting flower for shade, then astilbe is a great choice! With big plumes in white, pink, red, lavender or peach, it’s one of the showiest perennials for part shade. To extend the show even longer, plant several cultivars that bloom at different times. If planned well, you may have astilbe blooming in your garden from late spring through summer! Make sure to keep plants evenly moist and don’t let them dry out or the leaves will get crispy.

Blooms Red, pink, lavender, white, peach from late spring through summer Light Full sun to part shade Soil Moist, well-drained Size 8 to 48 in. tall, 12 to 48 in. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9

Hardy begonia (Begonia grandis)

This plant has both beautiful foliage and interesting flowers that last for several weeks. Its delicate stems dangle with pink flowers on upright plants in part to full shade. Keep hardy begonias moist, mulch around plants and water regularly so they don’t dry out. You may want to mark where the plant is in your garden because new-season growth is usually late to appear. Hardy begonias spread by rhizomes and can fill in a shady spot well. You may find seedlings popping up in other parts of the garden, but you can easily remove any unwanted ones. Deadhead flowers to extend blooming until frost and reduce seed production.

Blooms Pink from summer to frost Light Part to full shade Soil Moist, well-drained Size 18 to 24 in. tall and wide. Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 6 to 11

‘True Blue’ gentian (Gentiana spp. and hybrids)

Deer-resistant ‘True Blue’ gentian grows 15 to 20 in. tall and has brilliant blue flowers on well-branched stems, which means lots of blooms for you to enjoy. This hybrid was bred to bloom longer than species gentians; expect them to have flowers for eight weeks or more. Deadhead spent flowers to keep plants looking good. Grow this plant in well-drained soil in a rock garden or at the front of the border, so you can see it up close.

Type Perennial Blooms Blue in summer to early fall Light Full sun to part shade Soil Moist, well-drained Size 15 to 20 in. tall, 12 to 18 in. Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 8

Fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Burgundy Bunny’)

Ornamental grasses are often grown for their strappy foliage, but don’t forget about their flowers! Well-suited to containers, rock gardens and the front of the border, this clump-forming ornamental grass has bright-green foliage that turns golden-brown in the fall. At the same time, the brushlike panicles ripen to a contrasting red-brown and hold on until winter. While the species grows 3 to 4 feet tall and wide, smaller cultivars, such as ‘Burgundy Bunny’ in the photo, are more compact, growing 12 to 18 inches tall and wide.

Blooms White in midsummer to fall Light Full sun to part shade Soil Moist, well-drained Size 6 to 60 in. tall, 14 to 60 in. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 5 to 9

Published: June 4, 2020
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