Here’s an experience most avid gardeners can probably relate to: you’re enjoying a nice cup or tea or coffee on a summer morning, looking out into your beautiful yard and you realize nothing is blooming. The most successful perennial gardens have something blooming all the time, but this isn’t as easy as it sounds! There are some heavy hitters like Rozanne Geranium, Whirling Butterflies and perennial Violas that bloom all summer, but most plants don’t. Since all-season blooming perennials are uncommon, it’s a good idea to plant accordingly so you can enjoy flowers all summer long and supply food for pollinators, hummingbirds and birds. Some perennials thrive in the cooler weather like lupine, peonies or bleeding hearts while others crave that intense summer heat like helianthus, hibiscus and sedum.
Here are 10 perennials whose blooms overlap to fill every summer month with color. Another technique to add interest in every month is utilizing leaf texture and color. Incorporate red- or chartreuse-leaved perennials throughout your garden to draw the eye through as well as adding pops of color when your other plants are not blooming.
- Peonies- There are three types of peonies: Itohs, herbaceous and tree peonies. Itohs are hybrids between herbaceous and tree peonies, with sturdy stems and large uniquely colored flowers. They come in yellow, apricot, pink and lilac. The herbaceous peonies are smaller and come in the more traditional shades of pink, red and white. Tree peonies are much slower growing, usually in purple, pink or red.
- Dianthus- Dianthus come in many shades of red and pink and smell amazing, too. The flowers can be large with many petals, or small and delicate. They also come in a range of sizes, from low growing groundcovers to two foot tall specimens.
- Iris- These come in a rainbow of colors and sizes, some varieties bloom twice. The variegated form has purple flowers that smell like grape kool-aid!
- Pasque Flowers- Hairy, nodding flowers that will catch the early morning dew. An invaluable source of early season food for honeybees and native bees.
- Rocky Mountain Columbine- The large, blue and white spurred flowers are nice for floral arrangements. A native flower that hummingbird and hawk moths love.
- Perennial Violas- Workhorses in the garden, they bloom May through fall frost and come in a range of colors. They also reseed.
- Chatahoochee Phlox- A groundcover Phlox with fragrant, light-blue lavender flowers with a darker center.
- Prairie Smoke Geum- Delicate nodding flowers with attractive fluffy seed heads, like clematis. Native and low water.
- Bonfire Euphorbia- Beautiful spring bloomer with striking burgundy foliage and sulfur yellow flowers.
- Lupine- Tall spires of pea-shaped flowers, the native is blue but many cultivars come in a range of colors.
- Salvia- Easygoing perennial with tall spikes of flowers in purples, pinks, blues or reds. Cut them back after flowering in June and they will bloom a second time for you in the fall.
- Allium- Unique, sphere flowers on tall stems. The seed heads provide unique winter interest and make wonderful additions to bouquets.
- Milkweed- Spherical or umbel flowers. A staple for butterflies!
- Delphinium- Tall spires that bloom all summer if deadheaded, a cut flower garden essential. Comes in white, purple, blue, pink and lavender.
- Verbascum- Also known as mullein, has tall spikes of pink, white, or yellow. The native mullein, Verbascum thapsis, is beneficial for bees and butterflies, and birds feed on their seeds.
- Mooncarrot- A unique biennial with silvery foliage that resembles carrot foliage, and huge white umbels that look great in moon gardens. Low water.
- Penstemon- A staple in any low water or native garden, loved by bees and hummingbirds. They come in all shapes, sizes and colors. There’s one for almost every situation.
- Spiderwort- Shade perennial that spreads with triangle shaped blue, purple or red flowers and grassy foliage. A great plant for native bees.
- Globemallow- Southwest native with tall stems of striking orange or pink flowers and gray leaves. Low water and provides a steady source of pollen and nectar to honey bees and other insects.
- Yarrow- Usually known as a large perennial, there are newer varieties that are smaller and can fit into smaller areas. Available in red, yellow, orange, pink and white.
- Asiatic Lilies- Many different types in a wide array of colors and heights, many are fragrant! Put in the middle of the garden to hide the bare stems when they are done blooming and start to go dormant. Great option for a cutting garden.
- Daylilies- They don’t just come orange! They come in every color and height under the sun. Some varieties like ‘Stephanie Returns’ and ‘Stella de Oro’ bloom all summer long.
- Coneflowers- Another group of plants that come in almost every color under the sun, the purple coneflower being the most beneficial for pollinators. The seed heads are also a food source for birds over the winter.
- Wild Petunia- A unique plant you don’t see for sale often with sparkly lavender flowers. Will be right at home in any crevice or rock garden.
- Kniphofia- Also known as a Poker plant, it has tall orange, red or yellow flowers that resemble an aloe flower. It gives a desert vibe to any garden.
- Desert Four O’ Clock- Pink flowers that open in the afternoon sun, hence the name. It can get quite large over time so make sure to give it plenty of room. Native.
- Bee Balm- Perfect for wetter areas that need some height. The pom-pom flowers are available in various warm tones, while the native comes in a lavender. Hummingbirds love this plant!
- Crocosmia- Arching stems lined with red flowers are truly striking. Hummingbirds also love this plant. Is sold as a plant or can be purchased as bulbs.
- Creeping Potentilla- A cheery ground cover with flowers that are yellow, apricot or pink. The foliage resembles strawberry leaves.
- Red Texas Yucca- A desert plant with tall spires of red flowers that hummingbirds and hawk moths enjoy. Can take hot western sun.
- Hardy Hibiscus- A centerpiece for any sunny perennial bed. The flowers are the size of dinner plates! Very tropical looking, come in pinks, whites and reds.
- Rudbeckia- A late summer must with sunny yellow or orange flowers and black centers.
- Helianthus- ‘Maximilian’ or ‘Sunchoke’ are both behemoth varieties that are perfect for wetter areas in the yard, or in low spots where water tends to pool. Very beneficial for bees.
- Ornamental Grasses- Grasses have flowers too! Their seed heads are beautiful in the late summer sun and can add texture to any area. They also highlight other plants by creating a backdrop.
- Bronze Fennel-Yellow umbels and ferny burgundy foliage. A powerhouse for beneficials including bees, butterflies and moths. It is a caterpillar food plant and has nectar/pollen rich flowers and has seeds for birds. My puppy loves to steal nibbles from it.
- Russian Sage- Lavender-blue flowers that once they start blooming it just seems to keep going and going. A plus for the bees because it is one of their favorites. The species is rather large, but luckily there have been dwarf varieties bred for smaller spaces.
- Blue Mist Caryopteris- This shrub has prolific blue flowers, is drought tolerant and thrives in the sun. Yet another great late season food for bees.
- Sedum- You could write an entire article on all the different types of sedum. They come small, tall and everything in between! They have yellow, pink or white flowers.
- Zauschenaria- Also known as Orange Hummingbird Carpet, this plant has cascading tubular flowers that almost completely cover the narrow gray-green leaves.
- Joe Pye Weed- Towering pink umbels bloom atop purple stems and deep green leaves. Another perennial that prefers soggy soils.
Originally published on April 29th, 2022.