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Easy Perennial Plants for a Low-Maintenance Garden | The Old Farmer's Almanac

20 Easy-to-Grow Perennial Flowers for Beginners

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Coneflowers are among the easiest perennials to grow in your carefree garden.

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Low-Maintenance Plants That Return Year After Year

Larry Hodgson
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Many gardeners love perennial flowers. Plant them once, and the blooms return year after year. The 20 perennials you see here are ideal for beginners—low-maintenance, no-fuss, vigorous, and high-performing!

What are Perennials?

Perennials are those flowers that return reliably year after year—whereas annuals are those one-season wonders that add color and need to be replaced every spring. It’s the perennials that form the backbone of a garden, whereas annuals are planted for spots of color. Think of perennials as the foundation. 

An advantage of perennials is that they require minimum maintenance. After establishment, most perennials require minimum pesticides or pruning. They just need well-drained soil that’s amended with compost or organic matter. However, there are literally thousands of varieties of perennials, and while some are indeed as easy as pie to grow, others require at least as much attention as annuals. So, if an easy garden is what you seek, choose the right perennials!

One tip: Choose native perennials when possible! Don’t be tempted by a beautiful flower that grows in the far North or South if it’s not meant for your zone! See the USDA Native Plant database.

When to Plant Perennials

You can plant a perennial any time, but the best times are fall and spring. This allows the plant to get well-established before winter or hot, dry summers. We prefer fall because the soil is already warmed. Planting in summer is okay, but you’ll need to water frequently. 

The following are among the easiest perennials common throughout most of North America.

Why These Perennials Are So Easy

The plants listed here are perfect perennials because they …

  • do not need fussy care, such as pinching, staking, and deadheading (although some of these plants, like daylilies, can benefit from deadheading)
  • are fairly resistant to pests and diseases and may even be unappealing to deer (although a hungry deer will eat just about anything)
  • have a long life span (more than 5 years)
  • adapt to a wide range of conditions
  • do not spread all over the garden via invasive rhizomes
  • grow and bloom well even if you do not divide them
  • are tough enough to hold their own against invasive neighbors
  • will grow almost anywhere in North America (Zones 2 to 9)

Check out these easy tips for perennial garden care.

20 Easy-to-Grow Perennial Flowers for Beginners 

1. Black-eyed Susans

Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) are a popular native flower and have been a staple for so long that just about everyone grows them. Sturdy stems bear cheerful golden daisy-like flowers with a black, conelike center. They occur singly atop 1 to 2-foot stems. Take note, though, that this is a late starter, flowering at the end of summer. ‘Early Bird Gold’ is a selection of the more common ‘Goldsturm’ that is physically identical to it but “day-length neutral”: It starts blooming early and doesn’t know when to stop, so it can bloom from late May until Christmas in some climates. (Northern gardeners can figure on a late June through October season.) Read our Growing Guide for Black-Eyed Susans.

Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta)
Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta)

2. Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea spp.)

Echinacea purpurea, commonly known as coneflower, is a popular and easily grown native perennial in the U.S. that produces long-lasting lavender flowers on smooth 2 to 5-foot  robust stems and bears a prickly, green to orange center. It blooms from midsummer to early fall, attracting butterflies and hummingbirds. The flowers are used to make an extremely popular herbal tea. Read our Growing Guide for Coneflowers.

Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea spp.)
Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea spp.)

3. Daylilies

Daylilies (Hemerocallis spp.) are the workhorse of the garden and very low-maintenance, thriving in full sun but also can tolerate partial shade. It’s not an original native, but it’s been here a long, long time. Lots of choices here, from big flowers to small, from dwarfs to giants, from early bloomers to fall bloomers—all trumpet-shape and borne over attractive, arching, grasslike foliage. Some varieties, such as the ever-popular ‘Stella de Oro’ (yellow flowers), bloom all summer! Colors include yellow, orange, pink, purplish red, and “white” (well, more like cream), often with a contrasting eye. Each flower lasts but a day (thus the name, “daylilies”), but stems can produce dozens of flowers… and there can be dozens of stems! 

Daylilies (Hemerocallis spp.)
Daylilies (Hemerocallis spp.)

4. Goatsbeard

Aruncus, commonly known as goatsbeard, has an extensive native range in North America. This is a big, tough perennial with stems so sturdy that they have survived tornadoes unharmed. The giant leaves are fernlike, and the frothy white flowers are rather like astilbe blooms. It’s a bit slow to develop and thus may not reach its full size for 4 to 5 years, but goatsbeard can live for 100 years or more in the same spot. Expect blooms in early summer.

Goatsbeard (Aruncus)
Goatsbeard (Aruncus)

5. Hostas

Ever popular, hostas are tough as nails as long as you remember two things: You must buy slug-resistant varieties (these usually have thick leaves), and deer belove hostas. (Read our advice for getting rid of slugs and deer in the garden.) Hostas come in various sizes and are grown mostly for their foliage—usually large leaves, with attractive veining in shades from dark green to chartreuse and blue, often with beautiful yellow or white variegation. The trumpet-shaped flowers are white to purple and usually fairly insignificant; however, there are some large-flower, highly scented varieties. Hostas require full shade to partial shade and bloom from early summer to fall. Read our Growing Guide for Hostas.

Hostas
Hostas

6. Peonies

Your great-great-grandmother probably grew peonies (Paeonia spp.)—and, likely, they’re still exactly where she planted them! Peonies are about the longest-lived perennials around. The deeply cut leaves are a glossy dark green that reddens in the fall, but their main attraction is the huge, showy, blowsy blooms that are pink, white, or red (and, more recently, yellow or peach). Flowers can be single, semidouble, or double, but take note: many of the double varieties require staking. Peonies bloom in mid-to-late spring. Read our Growing Guide for Peonies.

peonies (Paeonia spp.)
Peonies (Paeonia spp.)

7. Salvia

Salvias (also known as sages) have gained their new fame because they flower for a long period of time and also grow fairly rapidly. Many salvias will stay low enough to be used at the front edge of your flowerbeds.  In addition to the colorful flowers and interesting foliage of salvias, one of the main benefits of growing sages is the hummingbirds and butterflies they attract. See our Growing Guide for Salvia.

Spotlight: Discover Salvia ‘Rockin Blue Suede Shoes.’

Purple Salvia
Salvia

8. Foxglove

Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) is a stunning tall flower with tubular blossoms that often looks best at the back of a garden; it’s also rabbit- and deer-resistant. Common foxglove is a biennial, which means they form a rosette and leaves in their first year, bloom in their second year, and then die. Foxgloves reseed easily, so plant foxgloves two years in a row for flowering plants. Also, new perennial varieties of foxglove have been developed that flower in year one. See our Foxglove Growing Guide.

NOTE: Foxglove is highly poisonous, so don’t plant them if you have pets or young children who might gnaw on the plants. Additionally, foxglove is not native to North America and may be considered invasive in some locations. Check with local regulations before planting.

Spotlight: The ‘Arctic Fox Rose’ foxglove is an annual that is hardy enough to survive northern winters. 

Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)
Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)

9. Cushion Spurge

Cushion Spurge (Euphorbia polychroma) is a native plant with chartreuse flowers that rise from mounds of green foliage. This plant blooms in early spring turns a colorful chrome-yellow in early summer and turns red in the fall. It’s a dramatic plant for the perennial border and is drought-resistant, deer-resistant, and butterfly-friendly!

Cushion Spurge (Euphorbia polychroma)
Cushion Spurge (Euphorbia polychroma)

10. Columbine 

Columbine (Aquilegia) is a beautiful woodland perennial with dropping, bell-like red petals which attract hummingbirds. Once started, columbine propagates for years and, although perennial, increases rapidly by self-seeding. See how to plant columbine.

Columbine (Aquilegia)
Columbine (Aquilegia)

11. Russian Sage

This shrubby plant with sturdy white stems has silvery, highly aromatic leaves and a haze of lavender-blue flowers. Blooming from summer to fall, Russian Sage is a robust plant that is drought-tolerant once established and very attractive to pollinators. Its softer look can provide a beautiful supporting role to bolder perennials, like coneflowers and rudbeckia. Read more about sage.

Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)
Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)

12. Showy Stonecrop

One of the taller members of the genus Hylotelephium (formerly Sedum), these popular garden plants are extremely easy to grow. White to pink cauliflower blooms appear over succulent, blue-green leaves. Blooms in fall. Read more about Stonecrop.

stonecrop-3640567_1920_full_width.jpg
Showy Stonecrop (Hylotelephium, formerly Sedum)

13. Astilbe

Astilbe (Astilbe x arendsii) has a low growing habit that makes it work as a border plant or ground cover. The flowers are fluffy pink or white panicles above dense fern-like foliage. See our Astilbe Grow Guide.

Astillbe (Astilbe x arendsii)
Astillbe (Astilbe x arendsii)

14. Siberian Iris

This is the easy iris—it produces abundant blooms in purple, lavender, pink, white, or yellow in attractive, grasslike foliage. Blooms from late spring to early summer. Read more about growing irises.

 Siberian Iris
 Siberian Iris

15. Phlox

A very common wildflower, phlox blooms anytime from late spring through the summer months in pastel pink, purple, or white flowers. Most species need full sun to thrive. Butterflies and hummingbirds love phlox! Read more about growing phlox.

Creeping phlox is a hardy ground cover with lovely spring blooms.
Creeping phlox is a hardy ground cover with lovely spring blooms.

16. Baptisia australis, commonly known as False Indigo

One of the oldest known perennials to exist, most native Baptisia species is an upright perennial and features blue-lavender, lupine-like flowers on mountains of clover-like blue-green foliage. Baptisia australis has dark seed pods formed in fall that are a good counterpoint in cut flower arrangements. A carefree plant that grows in full sun or light shade, they are typically deer-resistant and attract butterflies.

Baptisia australis, commonly known as False Indigo
Baptisia australis, commonly known as False Indigo

17. Heliopsis helianthoides or False Sunflower

A native perennial often found wild along roadsides and in fields across the U.S. and much of Canada, this upright, sunflower-like perennial features daisy-like flowers with yellow-orange rays surrounding yellow center cones. The flowers will brighten your garden from midsummer to fall in full sun to light shade. Pollinating bees and butterflies enjoy the blossoms. The plant tolerates dry to average soils and does not require rich soil to thrive.

 

Heliopsis helianthoides or False Sunflower
Heliopsis helianthoides or False Sunflower

18. Bee Balm (Wild Bergamot)

Bee balm (Monarda spp.) blooms yearly in mid to late summer. It’s beloved by pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, who enjoy the sweet nectar found in its tubular-shaped florets. In zones 4 to 8, it grows in full sun to part shade and prefers average to consistently moist soil. Deer tend to leave it alone due to its minty-scented foliage. See our Bee Balm Guide.

Bee balm (Monarda spp.)
Bee balm (Monarda spp.)

19. Perennial Hibiscus, also known as Rose Mallow

Native to the Eastern U.S., hearty hibiscus flowers from midsummer into early fall and grow best in full sun to light shade. Natives grow near bodies of water, so this plant needs consistent moisture to thrive and isn’t recommended for containers. Deer usually leave them alone, but bees and hummingbirds enjoy their blossoms. See our Hibiscus Growing Guide.

Perennial Hibiscus, also known as Rose Mallow
Perennial Hibiscus, also known as Rose Mallow

20. New England Aster

The native aster has colors ranging from lavender to blue to white, with showy flowers. The perennial’s hairy, clasping leaves are arranged densely on its stout stems, and the plant can grow to six feet or more in height. Learn more about growing asters.

New England Aster
New England Aster

Which of these easy perennials is your favorite? Do you have any favorite perennial flowers which you would recommend to the Almanac community? Please let us know below!

See how to plant and care for perennials.

About The Author

Catherine Boeckmann

Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprising that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann

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