Perennials add color to landscapes, containers

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 5, 2017

By Amy-Lynn Albertson

Rowan County Extension director

It’s May and the growing season is in full swing. Many people are looking to spruce up their landscape or redo their container gardens.

An excellent way to add year-round color to your landscape is with perennials. If you select correctly, your garden can have something in bloom every season.

Perennials are plants that live year after year. Trees and shrubs are perennial. A lot of garden flowers are herbaceous perennials. Herbaceous means the tops of the plants die back to the ground each fall with the first frost or freeze. The roots persist through the winter and every spring, new plant tops arise.

Annuals are plants that complete their life cycle from germination to setting seed and dying in one season.

A biennial ends its life cycle in two growing seasons, with vegetative growth the first season, then flowering, seed production and death the second season. Because annuals and biennials have such a short lifespan, it is crucial they bloom quickly. This is a great trait for those of us who are impatient gardeners. These plants have a longer bloom season than most perennials and can be extended by removing spent blossoms.

On the other hand, an advantage to using perennials is that they don’t have to be set out each year. Another advantage to perennial gardening is that with careful planning, a perennial flower bed will change colors as one type of plant finishes and another variety begins to bloom. Perennials add color, fragrance and texture to the landscape, but they can also be used to transform an otherwise dull yard into a spectacular place you will want to visit repeatedly.

Perennials are an indispensable part of every garden, regardless of size. They are a source of background in color and size and provide an abundance of cut flowers.

This Saturday is the Master Gardener Plant Sale at the Rowan County Extension Center, 2727 Old Concord Road. Some of the blooming shrubs they will have for sale include butterfly bush, camellias, lorapetalum, gardenias, edgeworthia and viburnum.

The butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii) is a sun-loving deciduous shrub that is drought tolerant and easy to grow. The colors available at the sale include purple, dark pink, yellow and white. This shrub is a favorite as it attracts butterflies and blooms all summer.

Edgeworthia (Edgeworthia chrysantha) is one of my favorites because it is a winter bloomer and it has a lovely fragrance. It’s a finicky plant, but once you have it established, you won’t be sorry. If you have a lot of shade and think there is nothing for you, don’t despair.

The Master Gardeners have a variety of shade-loving perennials like Solomon’s seal, hellebores or Lenten rose, Canadian ginger and Celandine poppy. Hellbores are sweet because they give color to your shade garden and bloom in late winter or early spring with your bulbs.

Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum odoratum) has dainty white bell-like flowers in the spring and lovely fall foliage. The Celandine poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum) has a happy yellow flower that will add joy to your natural areas.

There are many sun-loving perennials, too. The aromatic aster is sure to please with purple, blue daisy flowers in the fall. Bee balm (Monarda) is a pollinator favorite with reddish-orange flowers that attract bees and butterflies alike in the hot summer sun.

When designing your landscape, color will be important. Certain colors like red, white and yellow can pull the eye forward, while blue and gray often appear further away than they are. Ultimately, choose the colors to please you; after all, you will be the one looking at it every day.

All of these plants plus a variety of trees, vines and more shrubs will be at the Rowan County Master Gardener Plant Sale Saturday, May 6, from 8 a.m. to noon at 2727 Old Concord Road (Rowan County Extension Center).

The Master Gardeners will also have a raffle for a large ceramic tile planter, a rain barrel and a framed photo by Shane Tolliver. Tickets are $5 for a chance to win.

For more information on landscape plants or other horticultural topics contact the Rowan County Extension Center at 704-216-8970 or on the web at