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Annual & Perennial Flowers For Mississippi Gardens

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Publication Number: P1826
View as PDF: P1826.pdf

Annuals and perennials add interesting elements to the landscape with their beautiful flowers and foliage. Beds of color provide brilliant accents against backgrounds of permanent plantings. They also soften artificial lines and provide graceful transitions from one outdoor area to another.

Flowers can be used to accent a view, frame a door, or just draw attention. Annual plants are practical because they are versatile, sturdy, and inexpensive. They quickly yield color throughout the season.

Perennial plants return year after year. They fit into many landscapes and can be used as borders, accents, or strong focal points. The foliage of many perennials is attractive during nonflowering seasons as well.

Annual Flowering Plants

No other group of flowering plants provides as much color as quickly and economically as annuals. Annual plants sprout from seed. They then flower, set seed, and die, all within one season. Many flowers, vegetables, and herbs are planted every year as annuals.

Some plants may live longer in their native lands but do not survive the temperatures of the Midsouth and are best treated as annuals. Most annuals are planted in spring and killed by frost in the fall. Some of them, such as pansies, ornamental cabbage, and dill, are tolerant of Mississippi winters and are best planted in the fall for color throughout the winter. These plants usually die from the heat of early summer.

Some annuals, such as gomphrena, cosmos, and coreopsis, reseed themselves to yield several years after with minimal care. Annuals come in a variety of colors, heights, and textures, and their uses are almost unlimited. Unbeatable in masses of solid or mixed colors, annuals are also effective in small groups or used to soften lines and accent borders.

Many annuals, especially compact varieties, are well suited for containers. Large annuals may be used as specimen, or they can accent plants along the back of a border of flowers or shrubs. Some annuals are vines that may be grown on fences, arbors, porch rails, or trellises.

Annuals are inexpensive, especially when grown from seed; however, they do require soil preparation, fertilization, irrigation, weeding, and pest control. Most are native to semi-arid regions of the world and require full sunshine to survive. Some species of annuals, such as impatiens, are native to dark woodland floors and flourish in covered patios, narrow courtyards, heavily wooded sites, and other shady areas.

Annual gardens are easily established in the smallest and most restrictive of spaces as well as a large suburban garden. Their relatively shallow root systems require only a modest amount of soil. Gardeners with sizable yards quickly learn the trick of planting one or two easy-to-grow beds of massed annuals to decorate patios, walks, or pools. Apartment dwellers can achieve a splash of color with a few well-placed pots, washtubs, or planter boxes of annuals.

Annuals that need full sun, such as periwinkle and marigold, grow and flower best when they receive 4 hours to 6 hours of direct sunlight each day. Woodland species perform best in areas with partial or heavy shade.

Prevent root diseases and other problems associated with waterlogged soil by avoiding areas where water will stand after a heavy rain. Also avoid areas near large trees and shrubs that may have many competitive, thirsty feeder roots.

Soil Preparation

Soil preparation is the most crucial step in growing annuals. Roots of annuals have to penetrate soils quickly, anchor plants, and absorb water and nutrients in one season, often under adverse conditions. Most Mississippi soils can be improved with cultivation and the addition of plant-enhancing additives.

Cultivating wet soils may cause clumps and shallow “pans,” which resist air, water, and root penetration. Soil that is ready for cultivation holds its shape when squeezed but crumbles easily. Power tillers are useful for preparing large areas but may create a compacted zone in the soil directly under the tilled area. Use a digging fork to help avoid soil compaction.

The first step in preparing a bed for annuals is to remove any unwanted plants with a hoe and rake, or with a nonselective contact herbicide. After weeds have been removed or killed, dig the soil a shovel’s depth. Deeper soil preparation is normally not necessary. To prevent re-sprouting, remove grass and weed roots while turning the soil. Break clods and lumps into smaller pieces.

Add 3 inches to 4 inches of organic material, such as composted leaf-and-yard litter, pine bark, peat moss, or composted manure. Then add an inch or two of sharp sand if the soil is heavy. Also, if the soil test indicates a need for lime or fertilizer, spread these supplements at the recommended rate over the top at this time. Mix amendments together, blending the organic matter, sand, and fertilizer. Rake the prepared bed smooth when finished.

Seed or Transplants

As with vegetables, there are advantages to setting out some annuals as transplants and others from seed. Single-potted annual plants or packs of annuals containing several transplants are more expensive than seed. The instant effect created by setting out plants, however, is irresistible to most gardeners.

Sowing seed directly into the garden soil is a time-honored ritual that rewards work and patience with great returns. The extra time involved is offset by savings in initial cost. Also, you can have more variety with less expense from seed rather than transplants.

Many species of annual flowers have been improved for better heat tolerance and disease resistance. Instead of relying on the same tried-and-true varieties each year, look for those annuals that have won the All-America Selection award. While retail outlets have dozens of varieties on seed racks each year, mail-order companies also provide gardeners with colorful catalogs full of many exciting annuals, including the newest varieties. Ordering seed through the mail has a peculiar excitement all its own, and the catalogs themselves are a wealth of information on planting and caring for unusual plants.

Whether grown from seed or transplants, annual flowers are handled the same in the garden. Summer annuals are planted in early spring, after soil temperatures have warmed and danger of frost has passed. Winter annuals are planted early enough in the fall to allow time for conditioning before frost.

Set plants shallow, with the top of the roots placed just under the surface of the soil. If transplants are grown in pots made of compressed peat moss, crumble the top edge of the peat pot away from the plant so that it will not wick water away from the roots. Pinching off small flowers on new transplants may be hard to do, but it will promote faster growth and more flowers sooner.

You can have continual bloom with your annuals the entire summer with occasional maintenance. As the flowers begin to fade, remove them before seeds are formed. The plants will generate new flowers to produce more seed. Annual beds maintained for cut flowers will also send up new stems to replace those removed for floral arrangements.

Irrigation, Mulches, Fertilizers, and Weed Control

Mississippi summers are typically dry for weeks. Therefore, be prepared to water annual plants as needed. To promote deep root growth, water thoroughly and deeply, then let soils get nearly dry before soaking again. Gently water annuals, using the fine spray setting of an adjustable nozzle or a breaker especially designed for watering. Soaker or sprinkler hoses are more convenient than hand watering because they provide a gentle flow of water that seeps into the soil. Trickle- or drip-irrigation kits conserve water by placing it only at the base of plants a little at a time, and are best used frequently to keep soil moist. Soakers and drip systems also help keep foliage dry, which can reduce the spread of leaf diseases.

Decorative mulches, such as pine straw, shredded bark, composted leaves, or other porous materials that allow air and water exchange, help to conserve water and keep the soil cooler. Mulches also prevent weed seeds from sprouting but can hinder reseeding annuals for the same reason. Soaker hoses can be hidden beneath the mulch.

Annual plants often require extra applications of fertilizer during the growing season. Whether you use a granular or a water-soluble fertilizer, follow label directions. Water-soluble fertilizers give fast but temporary effects. Slow-release fertilizers are the most expensive but they provide the appropriate amount to plants throughout the growing season with little effort and waste. The slow-release quality of these products makes them more economical and environmentally safe. Most annuals benefit from an all-purpose fertilizer with an even or nearly even balance between nitrogen, phosphorous, and potash all of which is indicated by the three numbers on the container. Flowering plants may perform better when you use a fertilizer with a higher middle number, the number that indicates more phosphorous. Green or colorful foliage plants, such as amaranth, caladium, and basil, benefit from a higher first number, or the number that indicates more nitrogen first number. Remember that fertilizers, like salt, go a long way; a “little” is better than “too much.”

The ideal soil pH is between 6.0 and 7.5 for most flower species. A soil test will indicate the need for lime, if any, and the amount needed for your particular soil type. For soil testing information, contact your county Extension office or use an inexpensive test kit available from a garden center or mail-order catalog. Agricultural lime often lasts in Mississippi soils for three or more years. For this reason, it is best to not add lime unless a soil test indicates a need and the amount to replenish.

Few things can dampen enthusiasm faster than weeds. To reduce the need for pulling weeds by hand or chopping them, herbicides are available that can prevent weed-seed germination or eliminate existing weeds on contact. Some of these products may be used to control grasses without harming flowers. There are precautions and guidelines on the uses of herbicides because none are completely foolproof. Consult with your county Extension agent or local garden center on the selection and use of herbicides to control weeds, and carefully follow label directions. Mulches can shade weed seeds and prevent their germination, which will also eliminate or reduce the need for hand or chemical control of weeds.

Pest and Disease Control

Choose insect and disease resistant varieties when possible. Keep the garden clean, neat, and weed-free, and be alert for early signs of trouble to reduce the need for pesticides. To prevent the spread of leaf diseases, water in the morning or early enough in the evening so foliage has time to dry before dark. Soapy water or insecticidal soap will control many insect pests. Read all label directions before buying or using any pesticide, and follow all precautions.

Dependable Annuals for Mississippi

The following is a quick reference list of common and favorite annual flowers grown in Mississippi, along with selected characteristics. It is not intended to be a comprehensive guide, which may be found in any good gardening book. There are many other suitable annuals that are not included here. Try one or two new varieties at a time for the fun of it.

Selected Annual Flowering Plants For Mississippi Gardens

Annuals

Scientific name

Light

 Height

 Spacing

Remarks

Ageratum

 

Ageratum houstonianum

 Full sun

6-20”

9-12”

Edging; tall cultivars make good cut flowers

Alyssum

 

Lobularia maritima

Sun to part shade

3-4”

6-8”

Edging; nice ground cover; heat sensitive

Babies’ Breath

 

Gyposphila elegans

 Full sun

 1-2’

8-12”

Cut flowers; lime lover; excessive growth in rich soil

Bachelor Button

(globe amaranth)

 

Gomphrena globosa

Full sun

1-3’

6-12”

 Drought tolerant; popular dry flower; reseeds

Balsam

(Touch-me-not)

 

Impatiens balsamnia

Sun to part shade

15-24”

8-12”

Reseeds prolifically

Basil

 

Ocimum basilicum

Full sun

15-24”

15-18”

Fragrant culinary herb; cut for regrowth

Begonia

 

Begonia semperflorens

Sun to part shade

8-10”

8-12”

Group for mass effect; green leaf cultivars are shade tolerant

Black-eyed Susan Vine

 

Thunbergia alata

Sun to part shade

Vine

6-18”

Window boxes and hanging baskets

Caladium

 

Caladium hortulanum

Sun to part shade

1-2’

12-14”

Tubers planted when day temperatures reach 70°F; dig in fall after foliage drops;

Calendula

(pot marigold)

 

Calendula officinalis

Full sun

1-2’

12-15”

Cut flowers; bright flower bed plantings

Candlestick Plant

 

Senecio articulatus

Full sun

4-6’

3-5’

Accent or screen; unusual form

Castor Bean

 

Ricinus communus

Full sun

5-7’

2-4’

Coarse-textured bronze leaves; seeds poisonous; screen

Chrysanthemum

 

Chrysanthemum morifolium

Full sun

1-3’

12-14”

Many different colors; plants are perennial but often planted as annuals

Cleome

 

Cleome lutea

Full sun

4-5’

18-24”

Screen; cut flowers; reseeds prolifically

Cockscomb

(celosia)

 

Celosia argentea or cristata

Full sun

1-2’

8-12”

 Crested or plumed cut flowers; heat tolerant; some reseed

Coleus

 

Coleus blumei

Sun to part shade

2-3’

10-12”

Colorful foliage; mass in shade; nice container plant

Coreopsis

 

Coreopsis lanceolata

Full sun

1-2’

12-18”

Native wildflower; reseeds; use as filler or in container

Cornflower

(bachelor’s button)

 

Centaurea cyanus

Full sun

2-3’

6-12”

Filler plant; cut flowers; sow in fall

Cosmos

 

Cosmos bipinnatus

Sun to part shade

2-4’

6-12”

Heat and drought tolerant; reseeds prolifically

Cypress Vine

 

Quamoclit pennata

 Sun to part shade

Vine

6-18”

Attracts hummingbirds; reseeds

Dill

 

Anethum graveolens

Full sun

3-4’

12-18”

Culinary herb; fine-textured foliage

Dusty Miller

 

Senecio cineraria

Full sun

1-2’

8-12”

Silver-gray foliage; yellow flowers

Feverfew

 

chrysanthiemum parthenium

Full sun

2-3’

8-12”

Filler; cut flowers; reseeds

Flowering Cabbage

 

Brassica oleracea

Full sun

6-12”

12-18”

Winter annual but not hardy in north Mississippi; colorful foliage

Flowering Tobacco

 

Nicotiana alata grandiflora

 Sun to part shade

1-2’

9-12”

Fragrant cut flowers; borders and beds

Four-o’clocks

 

Mirabilis jalapa

Full sun

1-3’

8-12”

Flowers open in late afternoon; require well-drained soil

Gaillardia

(Indian blanket)

 

Gaillardia pulchella

Full sun

 2-3’

12-18”

Cut flowers or dried; reseeding wildflowers

Geranium

(zonal geranium)

 

Pelargonium x hortorum

Sun to

part shade

12-15”

9-12”

Tolerates cool temperatures; good container plant

Gloriosa Daisy

(Black-eyed Susan)

 

Rudbeckia hirta gloriosa

Sun to

part shade

18-30”

12-18”

Bold texture; cut flowers; reseeds

Hollyhock

 

Althaea rosea

Full sun

4-6’

12-18”

Annual cultivars are available; biennial cultivars, plant in fall; use as screen or background plant

Hyacinth Bean

 

Dolichos lablab

Full sun

Vine

6-12”

Fast screen; colorful flowers and pods

Impatiens

 

Imapatiens wallerana

Part shade

12-24”

8-12”

Best annual for shade; some cultivars may reseed

Johnny Jump-up

 

Viola tricolor

Sun to

part shade

6-12”

 long flowering

6-8”

Winter annual, plant in fall;

Joseph’s Coat

 

Amaranthus tricolor

Full sun

 

6-12”

8-12”

Colorful foliage; heat and drought tolerant

Lantana

 

Lantana camara

Full sun

1-2’

18-24”

Fragrant attractive flowers; container plant; great for butterflies

Larkspur

 

Consolida ambigua

Part shade

2-3’

8-15”

Spiked flower form; accent or mass plantings; reseeds; sow in fall

Marigold

 

Tagetes erecta or patula

Full sun

6-30”

6-12”

Mass plantings; good container plants; spider mites a problem

Morningglory

 

Ipomoea purpurea

Full sun

Vine

6-12”

Colorful vine; cultivar selections rarely reseed

Moss Rose

 

Portulaca grandiflora

Full sun

6-9”

6-12”

Heat and drought tolerant; summer-long color; reseeds well

New Guinea

Impatiens

 

Impatiens hawkeri,

I. linearifolia or hybrids

Sun to

part shade

8-12”

12-14”

Striking foliage; showy blooms; tolerates sun; hanging baskets

Pansy

 

Viola x wittrockiana

Sun to

part shade

6-12”

6-10”

Winter annual for fall planting and early spring color; container plant

Pepper (ornamental)

 

Capsicum annuum

Full sun

 9-30”

 6-15”

Many cultivars; heat tolerant; may reseed

Periwinkle (vinca)

 

Catharanthus roseus

Full sun

1-2’

8-12”

Drought and heat tolerant; container plant; reseeds

Petunia

 

Petunia x hybrida

Sun to

part shade

6-24”

12-15”

 Many cultivars; mass color; heat tolerant; reseeds

Phlox (annual)

 

Phlox drummondii

Sun to

part shade

8-15”

6-12”

Mass color; native wildflower; reseeds

Poppy

 

Papaver nudicaule

or orientale

Full sun

1-2’

6-12”

Cut flowers; sow in fall; perennial, but mostly annual in Mississippi; easy to grow

Purslane (hybrid)

 

Portulaca x hybrida

Full sun

6-9”

 6-12”

Heat and drought tolerant; summer-long color; hanging baskets; does not reseed

Queen Anne’s Lace

 

Daucus carota

Sun to

part shade

3-4’

2-3’

Naturalized wildflower; mass color; winter foliage; reseeds

Scarlet Sage

 

Salvia

Shade

15-30”

 8-12”

Attracts hummingbirds; spikes of color; splendens to part sun shade during summer

Snapdragon

 

Antirrhinum majus

Sun

12-36”

10-12”

Spikes of color; cut flowers; blooms best in cool weather.

Statice

 

Limonium sinuatim

Full sun

 1-2’

9-12”

Cut flowers; salt tolerant for coastal plantings; readily dried

Strawflower

 

Helichrysum bracteatum

Full sun

12-36”

12-15”

Mass of color; cut flowers or dried

Sunflower

 

Helianthus annuus

Full sun

4-10’

 20-24”

Thrives in poor soil; temporary screen; attracts goldfinches

Sweetpea

 

Lathyrus odoratus

Full sun

1-3’

6-8”

Sow in fall; soak seed in tepid water one hour before planting

Tithonia

 

Tithonia rotundifolia

Full sun

4-6’

3-4’

Tall, bright, full plants; drought tolerant

Verbena

 

Verbena hortensis

Full sun

6-12”

10-12”

Notably fragrant; planter boxes and baskets

Wishbone Flower

 

Torenia fournieri

 Part shade

6-12”

6-8”

Garden borders; pots and hanging baskets

Zinnia

 

Zinnia sp.

Full sun

1-3’

8-15”

Mass color; many cultivars; variable colors; some reseed

Quick Reference List for Annuals

  • Easy-to-Grow
    • Ageratum
    • Begonia
    • Chrysanthemum
    • Cleome
    • Cockscomb
    • Coreopsis
    • Cornflower
    • Cosmos
    • Dusty Miller
    • Four-o’clocks
    • Gomphrena
      • (bachelor button)
    • Impatiens
    • Joseph’s Coat
    • Marigold
    • Melampodium
    • Moss Rose
    • Pansy
    • Periwinkle
    • Pepper
    • Petunia
    • Poppy
    • Portulaca
    • Sunflower
    • Zinnia
  • Shade or Semi-Shade
    • Ageratum
    • Alyssum
    • Begonia
    • Coleus
    • Impatiens
    • Nicotiana
      • (flowering tobacco)
    • Pansy
    • Salvia
    • Snapdragon
    • Wishbone Flower
      • (torenia)
  • Hot, Dry Locations
    • Amaranth
      • (Joseph’s Coat)
    • Copper Plant
    • Cornflower
    • Cosmos
    • Four-o’clocks
    • Gomphrena
      • (bachelor button)
    • Melampodium
    • Morninglory
    • Moss Rose
    • Periwinkle
    • Portulaca
    • Sunflower
    • Tithonia
    • Verbena
    • Zinnia
  • Poor Soils
    • Amaranth
      • (Joseph’s Coat)
    • Cleome
    • Cockscomb
    • Coreopsis
    • Four-o’clocks
    • Gomphrena
      • (bachelor button)
    • Moss Rose
    • Periwinkle
    • Portulaca
    • Verbena
  • Annuals To Sow in Fall
    • Alyssum
    • Babies’ Breath
    • Calendula
    • Cornflower
    • Cosmos
    • Dill
    • Johnny Jump-up
    • Larkspur
    • Pansy
    • Poppy
    • Queen Anne’s Lace
    • Snapdragon
    • Sweetpea
  • May Reseed Year after Year
    • Cleome
    • Coreopsis
    • Cornflower
    • Cosmos
    • Gomphrena
      • (bachelor button)
    • Impatiens
    • Johnny Jump-up
    • Larkspur
    • Moss Rose
    • Periwinkle
    • Petunia
    • Zinnia
  • For Cut Flowers
    • Babies’ Breath
    • Calendula
    • Cleome
    • Cockscomb
    • Cornflower
    • Cosmos
    • Gomphrena
      • (bachelor button)
    • Larkspur
    • Marigold
    • Poppy
    • Salvia
    • Snapdragon
    • Statice
    • Zinnia

For Colorful Foliage

  • Amaranth
  • Basil
    • (purple-leafed and ruffle-leafed)
  • Caladium
  • Castor Bean
  • Coleus
  • Copper Plant
  • Dusty Miller
  • Joseph’s Coat
  • Ornamental Kale
    • (flowering cabbage)
  • For Edging
    • Ageratum
    • Alyssum
    • Begonia
    • Dusty Miller
    • Portulaca
    • Marigold
      • (dwarf)
    • Pansy
    • Petunia
    • Verbena
    • Wishbone Flower
      • (torenia)
    • Zinnia
      • (dwarf, and Z. angustifolia)
  • For Containers
    • Ageratum
    • Alyssum
    • Black-eyed Susan Vine
    • Begonia
    • Coleus
    • Geranium
    • Impatiens
    • Marigold
    • Pansy
    • Pepper
    • Periwinkle
    • Petunia
    • Portulaca
    • Verbena
    • Wishbone Flower
      • (torenia)
  • For Backgrounds and Screens
    • Amaranth
    • Castor Bean
    • Cleome
    • Cockscomb
    • Copper Plant
    • Cosmos
    • Hollyhock
    • Marigold
      • (tall)
    • Sunflower
    • Tithonia
    • Zinnia
      • (tall)
  • For Groundcovers
    • Alyssum
    • Begonia
    • Moss Rose
    • Periwinkle
    • Portulaca
    • Verbena
    • Attract Butterflies
    • Coreopsis
    • Cosmos
    • Gaillardia
    • Gomphrena
      • (bachelor button)
    • Marigold
      • (singles best)
    • Periwinkle
    • Queen Anne’s Lace
    • Verbena
    • Zinnia
      • (the best)

Perennial Flowering Plants

Perennials are plants that live for several years and often require at least two years from seed to flower. There is a renewed interest in herbaceous perennials because they need less maintenance, less water, and fewer pesticides than annuals. Many gardeners include flowering bulbs and ornamental grasses in this category. Once prominent in many landscapes, these enduring plants have been rediscovered for their dependable seasonal effects.

Unlike trees and woody shrubs – also perennials – herbaceous perennials appear to die down part of the year, only to emerge again the following season from underground roots, stems, bulbs, or rhizomes. The simple term “perennial” is commonly used when referring to herbaceous perennials.

Perennials are easily used as ground cover, mixed with annuals, grown in containers, and placed as accents or specimen plants. Many perennials are short bloomers and are best mixed with plants that bloom at different times of the year or included with other landscape plants as part of an overall design. Other perennial plants, such as ferns and monkey grass, are noted more for their foliage rather than flowers. Inclusion of these plants adds interest and creates seasonal color or texture in the landscape.

Favorite perennials, including many herbs and native wildflowers, have long been shared by gardeners and sold through garden centers and mail-order nurseries. Many are treasured as heirloom plants and have proven to be hardy enough to withstand weather and climate extremes, often with little care. Others are exciting new discoveries or hybrids that may take several years to prove themselves in Mississippi gardens; however, there are a good many perennial plants that simply do not survive for more than a year or two in Mississippi’s hot, humid climate.

Designing Perennial Plantings

While beds and pots of annuals may be replanted with ease, perennial plantings may live for many years. Their longevity requires planning on the part of the gardener. Perennials work best in highly visible flower beds and can be incorporated into the total landscape design. Otherwise, large areas of the landscape may be left bare for part of the year.

Like annuals, many perennials are effective in mass when they are in bloom. Because of their seasonality, perennials are better viewed as small accents of color and texture for 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, fences, stones, benches, birdbaths, or art objects to enhance a flower garden and “carry” it through all the seasons.

An easy design trick is to interplant groups of flowers that have contrasting shapes. For example, the large flowers of daylilies are 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 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 horizon or 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 the object and its backdrop. This allows for better air circulation, more light penetration, and ease of maintenance from the rear of the bed. Perennial borders usually are 6 feet to 8 feet wide, allowing adequate space for at least a combination of six or more front-to-back species to yield a continual bloom.

To prevent turfgrass from growing into the perennial bed and becoming unsightly, use some form of broad edging or separating strip. Flat-laid bricks, 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, which creates an intermixing that continually blooms at different intervals. Early bulbs may be planted with spring yarrow and iris, which usually fade before daylilies and canna begin their season of color. Use fall sunflowers and ornamental grasses to complete the season. Select the plants that have long-lived blooms and foliage to attract attention.

Plant height is a major consideration in landscape design. In border plantings, the tallest plants are usually placed towards the rear to serve as a backdrop. A few of these plants can be moved forward to prevent monotony in the design. In island plantings, tall plants are better 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 usually do not display effectively. Whether for borders or island beds, keep the width of a planting about twice the height of the tallest plant.

Site Selection and Soil Preparation

Consider the site before selecting your plants. Although many perennials, such as ferns, tolerate heavy shade, most require abundant sunshine. Air circulation is important for avoiding diseases. Stagnant, warm, or humid air creates ideal conditions for plant disease. Perennial plants also require properly prepared soil, and a few have specific drainage and fertility requirements.

Soil preparation for perennials is similar to soil preparation for annuals; however, devote special attention to perennial bed preparation because plants may occupy the site for several years, leaving little opportunity to correct any problems. When possible, add sand and organic matter, such as bark, peat, or compost, to soils well ahead of planting time.

A layer of organic matter from 3 inches to 4 inches deep, worked into the soil about a shovel’s depth, is usually adequate. Since different types of organic matter work and decompose at different rates in the soil, it is best to use a small amount of two to three types of organic matter rather than a large amount of just one.

Soil testing provides specific recommendations for fertilizer and lime needs. Since lime can last for several years (depending on the type), never add it without a soil test. Many fertilizers, such as phosphorus, are best applied and mixed into soils before planting. Perennials need a balance of several nutrients, including nitrogen, phosphorous, and potash; most garden supply stores carry a wide variety of fertilizer mixes. Keep in mind that phosphorus, including that found in bone meal, lasts for several years and does not need to be applied too often.

Propagation

Though most perennials take a couple of years to flower from seed, many are as easy to start as annuals. The quickest way to have blooming plants is by vegetative propagation, such as by dividing old plants or rooting stem cuttings. Plants produced in this manner have all of the traits of the “mother” plant. Propagation by division may seem difficult at first, but most gardeners find that dividing crowns and roots, and separating bulbs can be mastered quickly. Try dividing monkey grass for experience; then move on to daylilies, and before long you will have “the hang of it.”

Perennial plants with shallow roots are easily pulled apart by hand. Long fibrous roots can be separated with a hand fork. Thickly intertwined roots may need more forceful separation or cutting with digging forks. Replant only those segments with strong roots and a few intact leaves or crowns.

In general, it is best to divide perennials during their dormant or “off” season. For example, divide spring bloomers in fall and fall bloomers in spring. Some perennials may need dividing every 3 to 4 years or they will slowly crowd themselves into clumps of nonflowering leaves and roots.

Many perennial plants may be propagated from stem cuttings, which do not disturb the plant’s roots. Take stem cuttings during the spring or early summer, choosing stems that are mature and firm but not yet hardened and woody. Cut off from 4-inch to 6-inch segments using a sharp knife or shears, and pinch off the succulent tip and flower buds to force the cuttings to concentrate their energy on producing roots. Remove the lower leaves that will be below the surface of the rooting medium, but leave a few leaves to provide a source of energy for root initiation and growth.

Because of disease or weather conditions, cuttings often will not root directly in garden soils. They may be easily started in a pot containing a porous, well-drained rooting medium, such as a 1:1 mixture of perlite and peat moss. Coarse sand and vermiculite are also used as rooting soils. These mixtures will hold moisture but allow drainage for air circulation. Root-stimulating compounds, such as those that contain fungicides, are available at most garden centers. Using a blunt stick, pencil, or finger, open a hole in the rooting medium and insert the treated cutting. Firm the medium around the cutting and water in well.

Many commercial growers use a mist bed to keep cuttings from wilting, but this is usually not feasible on a small scale. You may easily construct a humidity tent from plastic film loosely draped over a frame covering the cuttings. Place the tent in bright light but prevent overheating by making sure the tent is not located in direct sunshine. Keep the plastic loose to allow air circulation. Avoid direct contact between the leaves and the plastic. The tent will serve as a tiny greenhouse and will maintain a good rooting environment with daily light watering. Rooting often occurs within 3 or 4 weeks. By the time new leaves begin to appear on cuttings, roots are usually formed. Remove the plastic tent and water regularly until plants are firmly established.

Transplant newly rooted plants into prepared beds or pots and place in a bright, protected area until you are ready to set them into your garden or share them with others.

Planting

Set perennial plants in their permanent places so roots are completely covered with prepared soil, but avoid burying the stem or crown. Place container-grown plants at the same depth they were grown. Place dormant plants at the depth at which they grew the previous season. To encourage side-root growth, make a planting hole twice as wide as deep. With bare-root perennials, spread the roots outward as well as downward. For container-grown plants, loosen encircled roots and shake some of the potting soil into the planting hole. Remember to crumble away the top edges of a peat pot to prevent water loss through wicking. Do not let roots dry out, especially during transplanting.

Water the plants thoroughly to force out air pockets and to settle the soil. Mark and label the plantings. Mulch the bed surface with pine straw or bark to keep soil from drying, crusting, and overheating in the summer, and to prevent weed seeds from germinating.

Care and Maintenance

If you do not mulch your plants, use shallow cultivation in the spring and early summer to break and aerate compacted soils. Breaking up the soil also aids in water penetration and makes it easier to incorporate fertilizer. Summer cultivation can damage shallow roots and is more difficult because the plants will be larger. Early in the season, stake tall plants with wire stands or bamboo canes. Use care to avoid root damage.

Apply fertilizer sparingly to plants early in the season after new growth begins to show. If plants are growing well, no additional fertilizer may be needed; otherwise, a second, light application will be helpful several weeks into the season.

In the fall, cut the old plant stalks to the ground after the leaves have fallen, and mulch to protect crowns and roots from the extremes of mild weather followed by sudden cold spells. Remove any winter-annual weeds that may have germinated before applying mulch. Fall is also a good time to divide plants that may be encroaching on one another.

Hardy Perennials for Mississippi Gardens

Perennial plants have been long enjoyed for their flowers, foliage, and ability to return for many years with little trouble. Although dozens of perennials have been shared between gardeners, retail garden centers offer many hardy varieties. By planting only three or four new types of perennials each year, you can quickly build up a showy perennial garden and then divide the plants for your own use or by others.

The following are common and favorite perennial flowers grown in Mississippi, along with selected characteristics. This is by no means a comprehensive list. Use this as a general selection guide for getting started with perennials. Try others as your success and confidence grow.

Selected Herbaceous Perennials for Mississippi Gardens

The following are some of the most popular and dependable perennials enjoyed by Mississippi gardeners. Try a few each year, and soon you will enjoy a nice collection of hardy plants.

Note: Names are those generally used in the nursery trade and garden books. Cultivated varieties are in single quotes.

Herbaceous Perennials

Scientific Names

Bloom Season

Plant Height

Remarks

Achillea (yarrow)

 

Achillea filipendulina

or millefolium

Spring; summer

1-3’

Fernlike winter foliage, flat round heads of spring and summer flowers; excellent cut flowers; good companion to daylilies; pink or white cultivars popular, ‘Coronation Gold’ suffers on Gulf Coast from heat and humidity.

Amsonia (blue star)

 

Amsonia tabernaemontana

Spring; summer

2-3’

Native, spikes of blue in mid-spring, tolerates wet or dry soils, good cut flower; Clump-former to 3 feet tall

Artemisia

 

Artemisia ludoviciana

Foliage

2-3’

Silver-gray foliage plant; invasive, but good companion; ‘Silver King’ and ‘Powis Castle’

Asters

 

Aster sp.

Fall

2-5’

Wide range of plant heights depending on type

Banana

 

Musa acuminata

Foliage

10-15’

Foliage giant; trunk needs mulch protection in winter

Butterfly Lily

(ginger lily)

 

Hedychium coronarium

Late summer and fall

4-6’

Bamboo-like summer foliage; pure white, fragrant flowers; rhizomes edible as a mild ginger; mulch in winter

Canna

 

Canna generalis

Summer

3-7’

Dependable summer flowers; coarse foliage; tolerates both very dry and very wet soils; dwarf forms popular for landscaping; insects are a problem on foliage, but easily controlled; pruning forces new growth

Cardinal Flower

(Lobelia)

 

Lobelia cardinalis

Late summer and fall

3-4’

Native to moist or lightly shaded areas; spikes of red flowers; cut flower; do not mulch in winter or rot may occur

Chives and Garlic Chives

 

Allium schoenoprasum

Spring

1-2’

Edible flowering members of onion family; winter foliage

Coreopsis

(Mississippi State Wildflower)

 

Coreopsis lanceolata

Spring and

summer

2-3’

Several forms include spring bloomers for cut flowers and invasive, low-growing summer bloomers (‘Moonbeam’, ‘Zargreb’ with ferny foliage)

Daisies (mums)

 

Chrysanthemum sp.

Spring to fall

1-3’

Many forms and colors

Ox-eye Daisy

 

C. leucanthemum

Spring

2-3’

Naturalized wildflower ‘May Queen’ best variety

Shasta Daisy

 

C. maximum

Spring

2-3’

Very popular white daisy

Garden Mum

 

C. x morifolium

Fall

1-2’

Often planted as an annual; needs dividing in spring to prevent rot

Clara Curtis Aster

 

C. rubellum (C. zawadskii

latilobum)

Fall

2-3’

Old garden (favorite; large and pink; often called ‘Country Girls’)

Daylily

 

Hemerocallis

Summer

1-4’

Very popular clump-former with stems of large flowers; tolerates wide range of soils except wet; many improved varieties

Elephant Ear

 

Alocasia cucullata

Foliage

3-4’

Favorite large-leaf foliage plant; corms edible; may be invasive; many other species and hybrids available

Ferns

  • Adiantum capillus-veneria
  • Asplenium sp.
  • Athyrium sp.
  • Cyrtomium falcatum
  • Polystichum sp.
  • Pteridium aquilinum
  • Southern Maidenhair
  • Spleenworts
  • Lady Ferns
  • Holly Ferns (evergreen)
  • Leather Ferns
  • Bracken Fern

Foliage

1-5’

Many kinds, mostly shade; divide and transplant in winter 

Four-o’clocks

 

Mirabilis jalapa

Spring to fall

1-3’

Fragrant evening bloomer; easy and fast from seed; tolerant of every poor soils; good for hummingbirds

Hibiscus (rose mallow)

 

Hibiscus moscheutos

Summer and fall

3-5’

Several hardy varieties; do not confuse with Chinese hibiscus; tall plants, ‘Disco Belle’ series have dinner-plate-sized flowers; insects a problem on foliage

Hosta (plantain lily)

 

Hosta plantaginea

Summer

10-24”

Shade plant with coarse foliage; cut flower; not heat tolerant near Gulf Coast

Iris

 

Iris sp.

Spring

2-5’

Louisiana iris thrives in wet soils; Bearded iris is popular, but often rots in heavy soils or if planted deep; Siberian iris more dependable in central and north Mississippi; Dwarf crested iris is a shade-loving groundcover.

Lamb’s Ears

 

Stachys byzantina

Foliage

1-2’

Silver-gray foliage, spikes of yellow flowers in spring; drought-tolerant groundcover; container plant

Lantana

 

Lantana camara

Spring to fall

2-4’

Long-blooming butterfly plant; drought

tolerant; attractive berries poisonous; new cultivars may not be hardy in the north

Liatris (blazing star)

 

Liatris spicata

Summer

2-3’

Outstanding native with tall spikes of lavender flowers that bloom from top down; great cut flower

Liriope (monkey grass)

 

Liriope muscari

Summer

1-2’

Tough clump-former with evergreen foliage; variegated varieties available; often overlooked as flowering plant for dry or shady sites

Lythrum (loosestrife)

 

Lythrum salicaria

Summer and fall

3-5’

Tall spikes of pink flowers; butterflies;

named cultivars (‘Morden’s Gleam’, etc.) not invasive; tolerates wet soils or water gardens

Mistflower

(wild ageratum)

 

Eupatorium coelestinum

Fall

2-3’

 

Native; blooms in fall with masses of blue flowers

Monarda (bee balm)

 

Monarda didyma

Summer

2-3’

Native to lightly-shaded moist sites; flowers used for herbal tea; good butterfly plant

Mondograss

 

Ophiopogon japonicus

Summer

4-8”

Dwarf lily turf; good ground cover;

full sun to part shade

Phlox

 

Phlox sp.

Spring

1-3’

Most kinds native; early spring ‘Thrift’; (P. subulata) good for rock gardens and (P. paniculata) taller cut flower (suffers from mildew) edging; “wild sweet Williams” (P. divaricata) good for ground cover; “summer phlox” (P. paniculata) taller cut flower

(suffers from mildew)

Physostegia (obedience)

 

Physostegia virginiana

Summer and fall

2-4’

Invasive native with spikes of cut flowers; ‘vivid’ pink cultivar

Purple Coneflower

 

Echinacea purpurea

Summer

2-4’

Native summer cut flower;

 attractive seedheads

Red Hot Poker

(Kniphofia)

 

Kniphofia uvaria

Late spring to summer

2-3’

Striking stems of late spring flowers above

clumps of thin foliage

Rudbeckia

(Black-eyed Susan)

 

Rudbeckia fulgida or hirta

Summer

2-4’

Traditional native wildflower; R. hirta is a short-lived spring perennial; reseeds readily; R. fulgida ‘Goldstrum’ is a more dependable, spreading groundcover with many mid-summer flowers on stiff stems. Winter foliage

Salvia

 

Salvia sp.

Summer

3-4’

Several hardy species and cultivars

(S. greggii, S. farinaceae, S. guarantitica), mostly blue cut flowers on spikes

Saponaria (soapwort, bouncing bet)

 

Saponaria officinalis

Spring to fall

8-10”

Old-world plant used by pioneers to make soap lather; spreading groundcover with pink and white flowers in clusters; good winter foliage

Sedum

 

Sedum acre or spectabile

Spring or summer

10-18”

Several hardy species include cascading S. acre with yellow spring flowers, and S. spectabile (‘Autumn Joy’) or house leek; very hardy, easy to root or divide; excellent very hardy, easy to root or divide; excellent

Stoke’s Aster

 

Stokesia laevis

Spring

18-24”

Native, low-growing clump-former with

large blue aster-like flowers; tolerates wet soils

Verbena

 

Verbena x hybrida

Spring to Summer

1-2’

Spreading ground covers for sunny, dry areas; garden verbenas are propagated from cuttings, not seed like the annual species; V. rigida and V. tenuisecta (moss verbena) are wild along roadsides and are too invasive for most gardens, but do best in very poor soils; prune in summer to control mites

Violets

 

Viola williamsii

Late winter and spring

6-10”

Woodland natives that also grow in full sun; may become weedy in lawns; winter flowers edible

Other Hardy Perennials Worth Growing in Mississippi Gardens

Note: These perennials are all easily grown. However, many of them are difficult to locate commercially except through mail order. All can be readily found in good perennial reference books if more information is needed. Latin names followed by sp. indicate many different species are available.

  • Asparagus
    • Asparagus officinalis
  • Beard-tongue
    • Penstemon sp.
  • Blue-eyed Grass
    • Sisyrinchium angustifolium
  • Boltonia
    • B. asteroides
  • Bugleweed
    • Ajuga reptans
  • Butterfly Weed
    • Asclepias tuberosa
  • Candytuft
    • Iberis sempervirens
  • Cast-iron Plant
    • Aspidistra elatior
  • Comfrey
    • Symphytum officinale
  • Coralbells
    • Heuchera sanguinea
  • Dianthus ‘Telstar’ and ‘Spring Beauty’
    • Dianthus sp.
  • Dwarf Goldenrod
    • Solidago x hybrida
  • Gerbera Daisy
    • Gerbera jamesonii
  • Hardy Begonia
    • Begonia grandis
  • Heliopsis (“cut-and-come-again”)
    • Heliopsis scabra
  • Helleborus (Lenten rose)
    • Helleborus orientalis
  • Hidden Ginger (hidden lily)
    • Curcuma petiolata
  • Indian Pinks
    • Spigelia marilandica
  • Ironweed
    • Veronia altissima and V. angustifolia
  • Joe-Pye Weed
    • Eupatorium purpureum
  • Lily (turk’s cap, Madonna, tiger, etc.)
    • Lilium sp.
  • Mexican or Mint Marigold
    • Tagetes lucida
  • Mints
    • Mentha sp.
  • Pachysandra
    • Pachysandra terminalis
  • Peony (‘Festiva Maxima’ and other early bloomers only)
    • Paeonia lactiflora
  • Peruvian Lily (parrot lily)
    • Alstroemeria pulchella
  • Purple Heart
    • Setcreasea purpurpea
  • Spiderwort
    • Tradescantia virginiana
  • Trillium
    • Trillium cuneatum
  • Umbrella Sedge
    • Cyperus alternifolius
  • Veronica ‘Sunny Border Blue’, ‘Blue Charm’, and ‘Goodness Grows’
    • Veronica spicata

Selected Hardy Bulbs for Mississippi Gardens

Note: These bulbs are commonly grown, though they may not be readily available through local garden supply stores. They are available through mail-order companies. Many may be found in old gardens and, with permission from the owners, can be propagated. Divide bulbs when they are not actively growing. Latin names followed by sp. indicate many different species are available. Several distinct groups have different flower forms; recommended hardy cultivars include ‘Ice Follies’, ‘Carlton’, ‘Mt. Hood’, ‘Tete a Tete’, ‘Minnow’, ‘Cheerfulness’, ‘Paperwhite’, ‘Thalia’, ‘Fortune’, ‘Unsurpassable’, ‘Jonquilla’.

Hardy Bulbs

Scientific Names

Allium (chives, garlic chives)

Allium schoenoprasum

Amaryllis (hardy red)

Amaryllis belladonna

Calla Lily

Zantedeschia aethiopica

Crocosmia (‘Lucifer’, and the orange montbretia)

Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora

Dutch Iris

Iris xiphium

Hyacinth

Hyacinthus orientalis

Hymenocallis (native white spider lily)

 Hymenocallis occidentalis

Jacob’s Ladder (hardy gladiolus)

 Gladiolus byzantinus

Ipheion (starflower)

Ipheion uniflorum

Leucojum (summer snowflake)

 

Lilies (garden lily; tiger, Madonna, regal, Easter)

Lilium sp.

Lycoris Radiata (red spider lily)

 Lycoris radiata

L. squamigera (naked ladies)

Lycoris squamigera

Milk and Wine Lily

Crinum latifolium

Muscari (grape hyacinth)

 

Narcissus (daffodil)

Narcissus sp.

Oxalis (pink woods sorrel)

Oxalis adenophylla

Painted Arum

Arum italicum

Spanish Squill (woods hyacinth)

Scilla hispanica

Star of Bethlehem

Ornithogalum nutans

Sternbergia (Autumn crocus)

Sternbertia lutea

Society Garlic

Tulbaghia violacea

Rain Lily, Atamasco Lily

Zephyranthes sp.

Hardy Ornamental Grasses

  • Broomsedge (native; very invasive)
  • Andropogon virginicus
  • Carex (short, grass-like plant)
  • Carex sp.
  • Fountain Grass
  • Small grass with foxtail flowers; the maroon one is an annual and not hardy.
  • Pennisetum alopecuriodes
  • Giant Reed (striped cane)
  • Arundo donax
  • Miscanthus (maiden grass)
  • All cultivars excellent: ‘Gracillimus’ has fine texture to four feet; ‘Zebrinus’ has yellow stripes across the leaf blades; ‘Variegata’ holds up well in gardens
  • Miscanthus sinensis
  • Pampas Grass (not reliable in North Miss.)
  • Cortaderia selloana
  • River Oats (shade, good cut flower)
  • Chasmanthium latifolium
  • Variegated Ribbon Grass
  • For the shade
  • Phalaris arundinacea

Quick-Reference List for Perennial Uses

  • Shade or Part-Shade
    • Ajuga
    • Alstroemeria (Peruvian lily)
    • Aspidistra
    • Canna (may not bloom, but foliage good for texture)
    • Ferns
    • Ginger Lily (Hedychium)
    • Heuchera (Coral bells)
    • Hosta
    • Iris (Dwarf crested, and the old timey “sweet flags”)
    • Liriope
    • Lobelia (Cardinal flower)
    • Ophiopogon (mondograss)
    • Pachysandra (except on Gulf Coast)
    • Phlox divaricata (wild blue phlox)
    • Setcreasia (purple heart)
    • Spigelia (Indian Pink)
    • Viola (Violets)
  • Tolerant of Wet Soils
    • Amsonia (blue star)
    • Apsidistra
    • Canna
    • Cyperus (umbrella sedge)
    • Ironweed
    • Joe-Pye Weed
    • Louisiana Iris
    • Lobelia (cardinal flower)
    • Lythrum
    • Miscanthus (ornamental grass)
    • Stokesia
  • Bloom in Late Summer or Fall
    • Asters
    • Boltonia
    • Canna
    • Daylily
    • Dwarf Goldenrod
    • Four-o’clocks
    • Ironweed
    • Lantana
    • Physotegia (obedience)
    • Purple Coneflower
    • Mexican Mint Marigold
    • Ornamental grasses
    • Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’
    • Salvias
    • Saponaria
    • Verbena
  • Attractive to Butterflies
    • Canna
    • Coreopsis
    • Goldenrod
    • Ironweed
    • Joe-Pye weed
    • Lantana (the best)
    • Liatris
    • Lythrum
    • Monarda
    • Phlox
    • Purple Coneflower
    • Rudbeckia
    • Salvias
    • Sedums
    • Stokesia
    • Verbena
    • Yarrow

Planting a few perennials and annuals around a featured object, such as a bench, urn, or birdbath, gives an interesting all-season scene. Mixing groups of contrasting shapes or textures, and planning for a long season of color can create a dramatic effect.


Publication 1826 (POD-01-20)

Revised by Gary Bachman, PhD, Extension/Research Professor, Coastal Research and Extension Center; based on an earlier edition by Felder Rushing, former area Extension agent–horticulture, and Steven E. Newman, PhD, former associate professor of horticulture.

Copyright 2019 by Mississippi State University. All rights reserved. This publication may be copied and distributed without alteration for nonprofit educational purposes provided that credit is given to the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Produced by Agricultural Communications.

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Extension Service of Mississippi State University, cooperating with U.S. Department of Agriculture. Published in furtherance of Acts of Congress, May 8 and June 30, 1914. GARY B. JACKSON, Director

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