Best Perennials for Sun


full sun for 6 hrs. or more per day

sorted alphabetically by Scientific name





Yarrow (Achillea)


Achillea 'Moonshine' and 'Schwellenburg' are both canary yellow in bloom, and have more or less silvery-green foliage. Yarrow loves sun, tolerates heat and thrives in well-drained soil. They start blooming in late spring and if spent flowers are removed will continue well into the summer.

Other good varieties are 'Old Gold', 'Coronation Gold', and the taller 'Golden Plate'. These varieties seem to be longer-lived than the many selections of A. millefolium that are found on the market.

Yarrow makes a good cut flowers and is excellent for drying.  In the garden, yarrow looks best planted in drifts, and good partners for yarrow are the ornamental sages ('May Night', 'Blue Hill', 'Caradonna', 'East Friesland', etc.)

Agastache (A. foeniculum) is a North-American prairie wildflower that has much to offer: the foliage has a strong anise aroma and was used by Native Americans as a flavorful herbal tea. The lavender to purplish-blue flowers are very attractive to the eye, as well as to butterflies, bees and many other beautiful garden insects.

The seeds are also important - they are a favorite food of Gold Finches, who are swarming into the Agastache plants in the fall.

Agastache self-seeds, but not to the point where it is weedy. It is easy to grow in any well-drained soil.



Peach-leafed Bellfower (Campanula persicifolia)


is an old standby found in the farmers garden and cottage garden. It thrives on neglect and usually self-seeds a bit, bringing up new plants here and there, but without being invasive. This resilience and the lovely blue bell shaped flowers that are easy to blend make it an ideal plant for the beginning gardener.




'Rozanne' Cranesbill (Geranium wallichianum 'Rozanne')


This cranesbill has been introduced in recent years and since has won many friends. It is one of the longest blooming perennials, starting late spring and niot stopping until the end of summer, even until the first frost. The plants are a bit late in the spring, but once it warms up, they start growing vigorously, forming a low, spreading mound.

I like to use this plant in combination with Daylilies and Irises. The purplish-blue flowers are good companions for almost all color-shades found in Daylilies. Iris usually blooms before this Cranesbill, so there is no need for harmonizing colors. However, the lance-shaped upright foliage of Iris, in particular Iris pallida 'Zebra', forms a perfect complement to the soft, low mounds of 'Rozanne' Cranesbill.

   H. 'Demetrius' - a compact yellow with ruffled edges

and good quality foliage


Daylilies (Hemerocallis)


New varieties with new colors seem to flood the daylily world every year, and even for the expert it is difficult to keep track of the advances in plant breeding. The inexperienced gardener might be blinded by these amazing color inventions, and overlook other traits that are also important: vigorousness, disease resistance and foliage quality in particular. Fragrance is also worth considering, and many of the older varieties, such as 'Hyperion' and 'Ice Carnival', as well as some newer ones, have a beautiful perfume.


Daylilies grow in average garden soil, but they also tolerate high humidity and many varieties thrive in these conditions. They are best grown in full sun, and many of the sturdier varieties tolerate a considerable amount of shade.


I use daylilies in many situations, for flower effect as well as for early spring foliage.


Generally, I use light varieties in front of a dark background, such as dark-green foliaged yews or rhododendrons - especially if the background is located to the south of the daylilies and backlit by the sun, which leaves the visible foliage in dark shade.

The rich spectrum of colors that are found in daylilies leave a huge space for experimentation. The inventive gardener will take a flower with him while wandering the garden, finding ever new amazement in surprising color combinations.


H. 'Catherine Woodbury'

- still one of the best light orchid colors


H. 'Ice Carnival' is near white and fragrant


The newer 'Red Volunteer' (left) next to a similar, older variety: the color is darker and more intense, petals and sepals are wider and thicker. Foliage of this plant is also excellent - one of my favorites!


Hibiscus 'Kopper King' (PP10793) has flowers of up to 12" diameter (30 cm) and outstanding purple foliage


Rose Mallow (Hibiscus)


These perennials have gigantic flowers that look rather exotic and don't easily blend into a naturalistic garden. However, for impact in mid to late summer, they are not easily matched by other plants. Many varieties also have excellent foliage with casts of purple and bronze.

Flowers range from white to pink to purple to fire red (below: H. 'Fireball')

Be patient with Hibiscus in the spring! They are among the latest perennials to break dormancy, often not before June, and they thrive in the heat of summer.



'Zebra' Fragrant Iris (Iris pallida 'Zebra')


I find this heirloom plant to be one of the most rewarding perennials. The foliage is very attractive from the time it shoots up, pointing straight towards the sky with stripes of bluish-green and golden-yellow. This vivid vertical texture is indispensable as a contrast to low spreading plants, such as the creeping Juniper in the photo on the right.

Flowers are lavender-blue, bold and classic, blooming in late spring and early summer. The flowers have an exquisite perfume that enriches the early summer garden.

Both flowers and foliage are not difficult to blend with other colors, making 'Zebra' a very useful companion.


This Iris is adaptable to a wide variety of soil conditions, as long as there is sufficient drainage, and it is a long-lived perennial.



The fragrant Lilium 'Stargazer' is one of the best known Oriental Hybrids


Lilies (Lilium)


The true lilies are quite different from daylilies (Hemerocallis) and until only a few years ago I considered them to be low-maintenance perennials. They were easy to plant from bulbs, and were beautiful, long-lived and relatively trouble-free. This changed with the appearance of the Asian Lily-beetle, a bright metallic-red creature of the size of a Ladybug. The larvae of this pest hide in layers of their own excrements and even the hungriest birds prefer other lunches. With no natural predators, this introduced pest quickly made its way across New England and brought tears to gardeners.

Neem oil is a molting inhibitor and effective against the larvae. However, adult beetles are not affected by Neem products. Pyrethrin, which is also a plant-based product, works against both the adults and larvae. Treatments need to be repeated frequently. Finger-picking is inefficient, because these beetles are quick to let themselves fall to the ground, where they are hard to find.

Hopefully, natural predators will be found within the next few years.

Catmint (Nepeta)

Catmints are easy-care perennials with many uses. The taller varieties are useful border perennials (see Nepeta subsessilis, at right).

Others, such as 'Dropmore' and 'Walker's Low', are excellent filler plants among shrubs, in particular Roses. However, they are not so suitable for groundcover use, since by mid-summer their foliage often becomes long and scraggly, making it necessary to shear them in order to refresh their appearance. This is of course more of an issue in a groundcover mass-planting.

Switchgras (Panicum virgatum) is a medium-sized grass, reaching 4 to 7 ft. in height, depending on the variety. Foliage color is green or bluish-green, and some varieties, such as 'Shenandoah', develop beautiful purple or reddish tones from mid or late summer on.

'Northwind' (on the right) is an especially tight, upright grower. The ornamental flower panicles develop in late summer and remain long into the winter.

Switchgrasses are native to the Mid-West and handle heat, drought and cold with ease.



Oriental Poppy (Papaver orientale)

Easy to grow in well draining soil, Poppies are beloved for their papery flowers in early summer, just at the time when many of the Iris are in bloom. Poppies have lush, dark green foliage in the spring (see left), but usually go dormant in the summer, and the foliage dwindles. The space then becomes available for other plants in the summer and fall.

 'Helen Elizabeth' is a salmon pink that looks stunning next to the dark-flowered Iris 'Before The Storm'.

The orange-red poppies look striking combined with blue Siberian Iris.



Balloon Flower (Platycodon grandiflorus)

An easy to maintain perennial quite similar in effect and behavior to Peachleaf Bellfower, but with a slightly later boom. It also self-seeds, surprising the gardener with new little plants here and there. I just weed them out where I don't want them. I would have to add that they are a degree more elegant than Bellfower, and they are good cut flowers.

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida 'Goldsturm') is a well-known Summer bloomer, suitable for mass plantings even in difficult locations. It tolerates heat, drought, wind, cold, parking-lot conditions, and neglect.






Salvia 'Blue Hill' (back) and 'May Night' (front)

Drifts of different colored Sages can look striking.




Ornamental Sage (Salvia nemorosa) brings intense blues and pruples into the summer garden. They thrive best in moist, fertile soil with good drainage.

Plant in groups or drifts and combine with Yarrow, Coreopsis, Shasta Daisy - to name a few.

Salvia 'Caradonna'



Sedum 'Purple Emperor' is one of the newer, very colorful varieties. The foliage is so dark that it is becoming difficult to take a good photo of it. In the image on the left, it is contrasted with Daylily 'Demetrius'. Other tall Sedums are 'Matrona' and the well-known 'Autumn Joy'.

The taller garden Sedums are very adaptable, easy plants.

Speedwell (Veronica) comes in many shapes and sizes, from low groundcovers to tall border perennials. Many have a long bloom season, such as 'Sunny border Blue' and 'Goodness Grows'.





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