Growing long-living perennials is like cultivating lifelong friends, treat them right, and you can rely on them to be there for decades. Flooding your garden with their prized blossoms, striking foliage, and heady fragrances, some of these plants are low-maintenance BFFs. Some might need you to put in more effort, for instance, pruning or dividing them so they are reinvigorated or don’t take over your garden.
Choose your favorites from this list of perennials to beautify your garden for years to come.
1. Blazing Star
Add a touch of whimsy to your garden with this native North America perennial. A member of the daisy family, it goes by names such as Gayfeather, Snakeroot, or Marsh Blazing Star. The fuzzy flowers comes in purple or white, growing as high as 6 feet tall. Its grass-like leaves put on a show changing colors from green in spring and summer, to a rich bronze in autumn.
If you are planning a pollinator, cottage, or native plant garden, consider including blazing stars. Also known as “colic root,” it can have a place in your medicinal or herb garden too. Blazing star is at its best in moist, well-drained soil with a neutral to acidic pH, and full sun.
Daffodils, also known as Narcissus, are so lovely that renowned English poet William Wordsworth wrote an ode to them. Wordsworth described their white-and-yellow flowers as, “fluttering and dancing in the breeze.”
They really pop in your landscape when grown in groups or clusters. To extend their blooming period, plant them at different times. As the season continues, the bulbs will split and multiply to deck your garden with even more flowers.
Daffodil isn’t picky about the soil it lives in, but it needs at least six hours of direct sunlight daily. Don’t remove the foliage until it has turned brown so you don’t stunt its vigor or bulb size. And make sure small kids and pets don’t munch on it, as it’s toxic in large quantities.
These garden darlings are the ultimate low-maintenance plants and will eagerly spread out in your garden for up to 30 years. Their bold, multicolored leaves in a variety of shapes and sizes get a lot of kudos for their style and rich, green background foliage. However, most varieties bloom pretty flowers in pink, light blue, lavender, and white on tall, elegant stems.
For the most fragrant blossoms, choose varieties such as Hosta plantaginea or Hosta ambrosia. Hostas do best in shade in rich, organic soil with a pH of 6.5 to 7.5.
Pro-Tip: Every four or five years, you should split them in spring or early fall so they don’t take over your garden and neighboring plants.
Goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus), not to be confused with its doppelganger false goatsbeard (Astilbe biternata), is famously low-maintenance. Although it does needs a healthy watering once its soil dries out. Goatsbeard is resistant to most pests and diseases especially if you live in an area with deer; goatsbeard will keep them at bay.
Look for dwarf varieties of these perennials to add to your rock gardens, and along walkways or borders. Pair goatsbeard with ferns and astilbes to create a sensation in your garden. Their feathery plumes, which darken from white to tan, are natural choices for flower arrangements and for drying. Goatsbeard will do well in full sun or partial shade (depending on how hot your climate is) and thrives in moist soil with lots of organic matter.
5. Butterfly Weed
Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is an excellent choice if you love intense color in your garden. A member of the milkweed family, it needs full sun to bloom its bright orange flowers from June to August, which eventually fade to a dull yellow in fall.
This herbaceous, long-lasting perennial produces lots of nectar that lures birds, butterflies, and many other insects. Aphids can’t get enough of it and rabbits might snack on it. So, indulge in a little companion planting to keep these pests away. Pair butterfly weed with marigolds, catnip, and peppermint. It’s drought tolerant and enjoys full sun or partial shade.
Ferns are some of the oldest groups of plants according to the American Fern Society. With more than 10,500 species you are spoilt for choice when selecting them for your garden. While their leaves can wilt and drop as they age, their rhizomes live on and sprout new leaves, or fronds, every year.
Some popular ferns include Boston, Japanese painted, ostrich, and holly. For a tasty, nutritious treat, plant some fiddleheads as well. Ferns can be as short as a few inches or 6 feet high. Grow these perennials in a shady, moist spot in your garden with well-drained soil loaded with organic matter.
7. Lady’s Mantle
If you don’t fall in love with the delicate yellow or green blooms on lady’s mantle, chances are you’ll fall for its leaves. They have scalloped edges and can be as big as 6 inches in diameter. Long hairs on the leaves create a velvety touch and capture raindrops, making the leaves look like they’re bedazzled.
If you’re not one for bold color in your garden, lady’s mantle fits the bill. It works its magic in cottage gardens, along paths, and in large containers. Keep this plant happy in full sun or partial shade in most types of soil, as long as it’s not soggy.
Fun fact: Crafters use its leaves to create natural, green fabric dye.
Craving to add some color to your garden in winter? Hellebore to the rescue. This buttercup relative is an evergreen flowering perennial that forms broad, leafy clumps that can last through winter. Among those leaves in late winter to early spring, flowers debut in a cornucopia of colors, including blends such as pink and white, pink and green, and orange and cream. The popular Lenten rose variety also has blossoms in warm, dusky shades of purple, red, and violet.
Hellebores are easy to grow and maintain, they resist most pests and diseases, and tolerate drought well. They are great choices for shade gardens or for added interest under trees. Elevated areas of your garden will deepen appreciation for their blossoms that hang like umbrellas in defense against rain, sleet, and snow.
9. Climbing Rose
Pruned, trained, and supported just right, the blue, white, red, orange, or yellow blooms of climbing roses will live for 50 years or longer. They can grow as tall as 20 feet but miniature varieties are available if your garden is a modest size – While they do require extra work, their beauty is worth it. Climbing roses thrive in slightly acidic, organic soil and at least six hours of sun a day.
These long-living perennials fall into two categories — once bloomers and repeat bloomers. Repeat bloomers will lavish your garden with flowers throughout the season. For a fragrant variety, choose Don Juan, with its stunning, deep-red, double-flowered blossoms.
10. Gas Plant
Also known as burning bush (Dictamnus albus), this perennial is a member of the citrus family. Its name derives from the highly flammable lemony-scented oil it produces.
In spring and late summer, these perennials bloom towering, eye-catching flowers in hues of white, pink, and purple against bold, green foliage. It isn’t aggressive, and it self-seeds. However, keep matches far away and wear gloves when handling it to avoid rashes.
Burning bush needs slightly alkaline soil, consistent moisture, and preferably full sun.
Leave a legacy for future generations with these perennials that can live up to 100 years or more. Peonies can be herbaceous, tree, or fern-leaf, but herbaceous are the most popular choice for home gardeners. They are much beloved for their luxurious, fragrant, blossoms in a variety of shapes and red, white, pink, yellow, and orange hues. Some cultivars go by catchy names such as Shirley Temple, Sarah Bernhardt, and Miss America.
Peonies’ vibrant flowers last only seven to 10 days each season. However, you can grow several cultivars with different blooming periods to enjoy the flowers from late spring into early summer.
These long-living perennials do best in cold or temperate climates and need lots of sunshine and neutral-to-slightly-alkaline soil.
12. Bee Balm
Bee balm, also called Monarda, is native to eastern North America. It’s a member of the mint family and has a long history as a medicinal plant. Its resin is used to heal bee stings and bites, while its tea is reputed to treat colds and flu. It grows up to 4 feet tall and spreads rapidly by its long, underground stems, or stolons.
These long-living perennials make their mark in a variety of themed gardens including butterfly, edible, cottage, and children. Its bold flowers are shaped like exploding fireworks and bloom from July to September. They are bona fide sirens for bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies. Bee balm is easy to care for and needs damp soil and full sun or partial shade.
A Lifetime Love Affair
As you can see, there is so much to love about long-living perennials. They are standouts for shaded or sunny gardens or wet or dry plots. If you like big, showy flowers or prefer small subtle blossoms, there are several to suit you.
Share which of them will make the cut for your next gardening adventure in the comments below.