There’s nothing more trustworthy than a good, hardy perennial. These plants might go dull in the winter, but you can rest assured they’ll return faithfully the following year. Perennials have the power to keep your landscape alive with new colors, fragrances, and wildlife all season long — as long as you treat them well. While they’re well-known for their minimal maintenance, there are still some things to keep in mind.
When to Plant Perennials
Planting is both an exciting and stressful time for plants. Most perennial plants need a modest amount of moisture to survive, especially when they’re just trying to establish themselves. The best time to plant your perennials is during the transitional seasons: spring and fall.
Illinois fall into hardiness Zone 5, and, lucky for us, perennial plants tend to do very well in this zone! However, spring carries with it a lot of cold weather. If you plant too early and your young plants are caught in a particularly bad frost, they may not grow at all. Avoid a disappointing garden by paying attention to frost dates. The last frost in Illinois typically happens in early-to-mid May, so wait until after then to plant new perennials. Even then, check the forecast and be wary of the conditions your new plants may be subject to. It’s best to err on the side of caution and plant when you’re confident that the weather is going to cooperate.
Of course, the ground has to be unfrozen to plant anything in it. One test to see if the soil is workable is to grab a handful of it and squeeze it tight. If your soil sticks together, it’s a little too wet. If it crumbles, it’s in workable shape and you can start planting!
Any perennials you plant in summer will need a lot more attention and water to encourage growth. Avoid digging up perennials in bloom during this season. Just let them do their thing.
How to Plant / Balancing Bloomers
The term ‘perennial’ encompasses thousands and thousands of plants. Naturally, they don’t all bloom at the same time. The key to keeping an interesting garden all season long is to interplant species that flower at different times in the summer. That way, you always have something new blossoming in your garden. It’s those little pops of new color that keep something exciting happening all the time. Here are a few model varieties of gorgeous perennials that bloom at different times in the summer:
Late Spring / Early Summer Bloomers
For your early summer flowering perennials, consider giving these plants a try:
Clematis: Creeping up several feet tall, clematis produce single, colorful flowers in shades of blue, pink, red, and white. They continue to bloom all the way into fall, and they prefer lots of sunlight and damp soil.
Caesar’s Brother Siberian Iris: This deep violet flower rises up on tall, poker-straight stems that really stand out along borders. They thrive in moist soils better than most, and are extremely resilient and adaptable. Just make sure you water them regularly, especially during hot dry weather.
Peony: This lush, romantic flower is very popular for wedding bouquets and decor. Its massive blooms are a true work of art, and we have several gorgeous varieties in store, including Sarah Bernhardt, Bowl of Beauty, and Bartzella Itoh. Their stems are nice and sturdy, so you won’t have to worry about staking them to keep them upright.
Creeping Phlox: This fabulous groundcover plant spreads like wildfire and is great for rock gardens, as it creeps its way up rocks and rough terrain with ease. Its densely packed flowers create a carpet of vivid color that’s truly breathtaking. So long as it has full sun and is watered regularly, it will thrive beautifully.
Midsummer Flowering Perennials
These flowers bloom beautifully in the prime of summer:
Balloon Flowers: Balloon flowers are easy to care for, and are named as such because their buds balloon before blossoming. Among a few different colored varieties, balloon flowers can come in a very striking, deep blue.
Coreopsis: These sun-lovers come in bright, warm colors and attract all sorts of butterflies. They make great cut flowers.
Salvia: Tall stalks of blossoms adorn this beautiful plant in all different shades of blue, purple and red, with a few less common varieties in shades of yellow and white. It’s actually a member of the mint family, and its aroma is absolutely divine.
Lavender: With a pleasant fragrance and characteristic purple color, you can’t go wrong with growing some lavender in your garden.
Monarda: Also known as bee balm, these vibrant flowers lure in pollinators like a magnet. Planting monarda in either spring or autumn will give you the best results. Some varieties can grow up to 4 feet tall, and they spread quite a bit, so dividing the root ball and replanting every 2 or 3 years will save it from getting overcrowded.
Late Summer / Early Fall Perennials
These plants are perfect reminders that summer is still hanging on:
Aster: Asters provide great coverage in your flower beds, and bloom small flowers in reds, blues, and purples. They grow easily enough in a richer soil without much maintenance.
Chelone Hot Lips: This mounded plant has gorgeous blue-green foliage that contrasts beautifully with its pink clusters of flowers. It makes a great border plant, reaches to around 2 feet tall and spreads 2 feet across.
Lobelia Cardinalis: The bright ruby red racemes of this fabulous perennial can be seen from miles away! It does best in moist clay soils, so if your soil is very loamy, make sure to water is generously.
When Fall Arrives
These are just a few of the endless perennial plants that can complete your garden. When fall rolls around, pay attention to any perennial pruning and winter protection needs. It’s also the perfect time to plant new perennials, as your soil is in ideal, moist conditions. You can use this season to also divide up some of your perennials, so long as they aren’t still in bloom.
Planning ahead for this season will reward you kindly. Be adventurous, and be sure to plant perennials of all different kinds during this time. A higher volume of plants will provide for more color and texture in your garden and culminate in an exciting new growing season the following summer!