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.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Publications

Publication Number: P3047
Publication Number: P3099
Publication Number: p3121
Publication Number: P3240

News

A mass of pink grasses billows beside a stone bench in a garden with greenery all around.
Filed Under: Flower Gardens October 15, 2018

The 40th Fall Flower and Garden Fest at the Mississippi State University Truck Crops Branch Station in Crystal Springs is behind us, and I have to say that it was one of the best I’ve ever attended.

Two yellow and orange mums bloom on either side of a yellow mum and a purple mum.
Filed Under: Flower Gardens October 8, 2018

Finally, we’re going to start enjoying some cooler weather, and just in time. I’ve wanted to start writing about the fantastic cool-season color, but I’ve had to wait until the summertime heat starts to cool.

MSU Extension agent Sandy Havard wears a maroon shirt and holds an Extension soil sample box.
Filed Under: Flower Gardens, Soil Testing, Trees, Turfgrass and Lawn Management, Vegetable Gardens October 2, 2018

If your lawn, landscape, or garden look a little sickly, it might be time for a soil health checkup. (Photo by Jonathan Parrish/Cindy Callahan)

A single, pink flower rests at the end of a branch seen against a leaf-filled blue sky.
Filed Under: Lawn and Garden, Flower Gardens October 1, 2018

This summer has seemed endless: hot, humid and just miserable. As a gardener, I know, or maybe hope, relief will soon be on the way.

A rough-hewn, low-sided wooden box filled with four different kinds of green plants rests on a small table in front of a variety of other plants in plastic containers.
Filed Under: Flower Gardens, Herb Gardens September 24, 2018

Although we’re finally into the fall season, it’s still 90 degrees outside across Mississippi. Nevertheless, we all need to start thinking about what we’re going to plant and grow for the eventual cool weather.

Watch

Crape Myrtle Bark
Southern Gardening

Crape Myrtle Bark

Sunday, October 14, 2018 - 2:15am
Carve, Cook, And Look
Southern Gardening

Carve, Cook, and Look

Sunday, October 7, 2018 - 2:15am
Fall Turf Tips
Southern Gardening

Fall Turf Tips

Sunday, September 30, 2018 - 2:00am
Roundabout Color
Southern Gardening

Round About Color

Sunday, September 23, 2018 - 7:00am
Ornamental Peppers
Southern Gardening

Ornamental Peppers

Sunday, September 16, 2018 - 7:00am

Listen

Wednesday, October 17, 2018 - 2:00am
Tuesday, October 16, 2018 - 2:00am
Wednesday, October 10, 2018 - 2:00am
Tuesday, October 9, 2018 - 2:00am
Monday, October 8, 2018 - 2:00am

Contact Your County Office

Upcoming Events

Your Extension Experts

Extension/Research Professor
Ornamental Horticulture Host of Southern Gardening