• Sandi Manna

10 Characteristics of Great Perennials

There are literally thousands of perennials out there, so how do you know the right one for you?

We've put together a list of some characteristics every great perennial should have.

Let's start with disease resistant. Nothing is worse than a beautiful flower that's got leaves covered with white powdery mildew. If you have a particular plant in mind, look for disease-resistant varieties.

How about perennials that don't need staking. A floppy perennial that needs to be staked or tied can be a lot of work. Look for perennials with strong stems like Shasta Daisy pictured at left. These Shasta Daisy have bright white petals with a cheerful yellow center. They have very sturdy stems and never need staking.

Long bloomers. Perennials that have an extended bloom time like this Coneflower are always welcome in the garden. They can really help fill in those interim times when not a lot is blooming. Echinacea and Salvia are just two of many varieties of perennials that have a very long bloom season.

Tired of being a slave to the hose and watering your plants? Drought resistant perennials will alleviate you of that burden. Look for plants that specifically state drought tolerant such as lavender.

Pest resistant. Heliopsis 'Summer Nights' is a beautiful perennial, but I always see it with red mites. You don't want to have to worry about things like that. Maybe you have deer, which would basically eliminate hostas. Look for plants that are specifically resistant to pests, deer or rabbits.

Interesting foliage. There are many plants that do double duty with beautiful flowers as well as beautiful foliage.

Hardy to Connecticut. Our climate is changing. Call it global warming, call it cyclical, call it what you like, but things are warmer than they used to be. I spent my life gardening and I know we can plant things here now that years ago would not be considered hardy. Along the shoreline we're safely zone 6b. Further inland, zone 6a. Along the shoreline you could get away with plants that are hardy to zone 7, but they take a bit more work to over winter. If you're looking for solid performers, stick perennials that are hardy to our planting zone 6.

Reliable. You want a plant that you know it's reliable and will come back and boom year after year.

You want perennials that are easy to grow. Plants that once you put them in the ground, as long as they're in the correct growing conditions, don't need a lot of fuss to get well established. Crocosmia pictured left is a tough as nails plant that is easy to establish.

Low maintenance. Day lilies are often associated with low maintenance. However, I find them to be just the opposite. If the dead leaves aren't removed and the spent blossoms aren't dead headed regularly I find them to look a bit on the bedraggled side. Instead, choose plants that don't need a lot of fuss such as Salvia 'May Night'.

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