You are here

Designing Perennial Plantings

While beds and pots of annuals may be replanted with ease, perennial plantings may live for many years and, therefore, require some planning. Flower beds are usually highly visible and should work well into the total landscape design. Otherwise, large areas of the landscape may be bare part of the year.

Many perennials, like annuals, are effective in mass when they are in bloom, but because of their seasonality, they are better viewed as small clumps of color and texture to accent other plants. You can often build a design to support or accent a favorite plant or group of plants. Use small evergreen shrubs, flowering trees, or such hard features as a fence, stone, bench, birdbath, or garden art to enhance a flower garden and "carry" it through all the seasons.

One of the easiest design "tricks" is to interplant groups of flowers that have contrasting shapes. For example, daylilies can have their large flowers set off well by the spikes of blue salvia and the round flowers of yarrow. The large leaves of canna and sword-like form of iris plants have a dramatic effect when used in groups among other less bold plants.

A natural way to begin planting perennials is to create islands of flowers in an open lawn, but because such beds are easily viewed from many sides, they often require high maintenance to keep them attractive.

Border plantings along a wall, fence, or hedge can soften the transition of landscape structures into the rest of the landscape or can create alleys of color. Rectangular beds lend themselves to a border planting where space is restrictive. When planting a perennial border against a hedge, fence, or wall, leave a little space between it and its backdrop. This allows for better air circulation, more light penetration, and ease of maintenance from the rear of the bed. Perennial borders often are 6 to 8 feet wide, allowing adequate space for at least a combination of six or more species, front to back, yielding a continual bloom.

To prevent turfgrass from growing into the perennial bed and becoming unsightly, use some form of broad edging or separating strip. Bricks laid flat, flagstone, bare ground, or a heavy layer of mulch such as wood chips or bark will help keep out grass.

Perennials may be grouped according to color, intermixing plants that bloom at different intervals for a continual display. Early bulbs may be planted with spring yarrow and iris, which usually fade before daylilies and canna begin their season of color. Fall sunflowers and ornamental grasses complete the season. Select plants that have not only attractive long-lived blooms, but those that have attractive foliage.

Plant height is a major consideration. In border plantings, the tallest plants are usually placed towards the rear to serve as a backdrop with a few moved forward to prevent monotony in the design. In island plantings, they are placed towards the center. Fall-blooming perennials are usually the tallest, making them the best backdrop or accent plants. Most of the middle height perennial plants are summer bloomers and may occupy the majority of the middle space. Spring-blooming perennials are primarily short plants; place them toward the front. Emerging foliage and flowers of later blooming plants can help hide the fading foliage of earlier flowers. Narrow beds with excessively tall plants are usually not effective displays. Whether for borders or island beds, keep the width of a planting about twice the height of the tallest plant.

Printer Friendly and PDF

Publications

News

Pink coneflowers which are native to Mississippi.
Filed Under: Flower Gardens, Landscape Architecture, Trees May 18, 2018

Native plants are excellent choices for any landscape. They are adapted to the climate, which makes them low-maintenance. Planting native varieties of flowers, plants and shrubs provides food and shelter for native wildlife. (Photo by Tim Allison)

A short papyrus plant grows in a metal cauldron.
Filed Under: Flower Gardens, Landscape and Garden Design May 14, 2018

With all of the bright, colorful summer annuals we’re planting this month, I find myself looking for more out-of-the-ordinary plants for my landscape. One that always creates a bit of a stir and generates questions is an old plant called papyrus.

Papyrus, similar to the plant grown and used by the ancient Egyptians to make paper, is easy to grow and has few pests. If you’re intrigued by this plant, you will be happy to learn there are three selections suitable for use in our Mississippi landscapes.

Magnolia leaves star in a small floral arrangement with white flowers.
Filed Under: Lawn and Garden, Flower Gardens May 10, 2018

Magnolias are synonymous with Mississippi, and the leaves and flowers are popular materials for all kinds of floral arrangements – wreaths, swags, table runners and other seasonal arrangements. (Photo by Zac Ashmore)

Filed Under: Agriculture, Agricultural Economics, Flower Gardens, Herb Gardens, Vegetable Gardens May 7, 2018

GULFPORT, Miss. -- Mississippi producers and gardeners who want to learn more efficient planting methods are invited to a May 18 field day.

The Alliance of Sustainable Farms will host “A Garden Tour and Square Foot Gardening/Intensive Planting Demonstration” at the 34th Street Wholistic Gardens and Education Center. The event will focus on the square-foot gardening method, which is designed to save time, work, space and water.

White flowers with deep purple centers  lie above green leaves.
Filed Under: Flower Gardens May 7, 2018

If you’re still looking for a favorite plant for our hot summer landscapes, consider Superbells. I love their funnel-shaped flowers and great growth potential. Their variety of colors can even rival petunias.

Superbells are tough plants with good summer heat tolerance. One of their attributes that I like best is, after a rainstorm, these plants recover and perk up faster than many other summer-flowering annuals, even my vaunted petunias.

These plants look great in containers, hanging baskets and mass plantings in landscape beds.

Watch

Hanging Baskets
Southern Gardening

Hanging Baskets

Sunday, May 20, 2018 - 7:00am
Combination Containers
Southern Gardening

Combination Containers

Sunday, May 13, 2018 - 10:30am
Hanging Ferns
Southern Gardening

Hanging Ferns

Sunday, May 6, 2018 - 7:00am
Zonal Geraniums
Southern Gardening

Zonal Geraniums

Sunday, April 29, 2018 - 2:00am
Salvia
Southern Gardening

Salvia

Sunday, April 22, 2018 - 2:00am

Listen

Friday, May 18, 2018 - 2:00am
Thursday, May 17, 2018 - 2:00am
Wednesday, May 16, 2018 - 2:00am
Tuesday, May 15, 2018 - 2:00am
Monday, May 14, 2018 - 2:00am

Contact Your County Office

Your Extension Experts

Extension/Research Professor
Ornamental Horticulture Host of Southern Gardening