“Each moment of the year has its own beauty.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
When planning our gardens each year, we do our best to ensure that we will have beautiful blooms, no matter the season. From the moment spring has sprung, right up until the chill of fresh frost, we want a fresh and flowering garden. All perennials have their own time, some can’t wait to pop their heads out of the frosty ground and other Iowa flowers refuse to show up to the party until the days are at their longest and hottest. Knowing which perennials do best in each season will help you effectively plan a garden full of new color all season long.
Spring is all about the early risers. These perennials need to be pretty cold-hardy and tough to survive unpredictable weather, especially here in Iowa. Spring bloomers usually won’t mind the rain and will tolerate shade. The first glimpse of fresh spring growth and the first colors of early flowers is a refreshing way to start your garden’s growing season right after too many months of cold and bleak weather.
Bleeding Hearts are one of the best early spring bloomers. Their small, heart-shaped flowers delicately hang from long, tall wand-like stems. An old-fashioned favorite for a reason, these beautiful blooms are native in North America, making them very low-maintenance. With full to partial shade and regular watering, these flowers will charm your garden throughout spring.
Pictured below: Dianthus
Creeping Phlox flowers are gorgeous ground-cover flowers that don’t mind the chillier side of spring. Their small, star-shaped flowers will coat a garden on a fantastic evergreen bed of foliage. For the best blooms all spring, give them full sun and regular watering.
Irises are a longtime favorite flower for their unique and show-stopping appearance. Tall, colorful blooms delicately droop around slender, upright foliage to create an amazing look for any springtime garden. To add depth to your garden, try the magnificent and moody purple of Caesar’s Brother. In contrast, the delicate cream-colored Butter & Sugar is sure to brighten your garden.
Armerias or Thrifts produce gorgeous balls of blooms. Their deep-colored foliage is reminiscent of grass and makes for a perfect backdrop for its round tufts of flowers. The fluffy flowers almost resemble a little rabbit’s tail, especially in white varieties like our Cotton Tail Thrift.
There are so many options for early-blooming perennials that give new life and color to your garden as early as possible. Other spring-blooming perennial favorites include:
- Dianthus – fabulous, full blooms that burst with color
- Lenten Roses – hardy, star-shaped flowers with sensational stamens
- Snowdrop Anemones – fragrant flowers that look almost like daisies
- Lupines – tall tufts of plentiful blooms of color
- Amsonia – starry flowers, also known as Blue Stars
Pictured below: Lupines
Summer is all about show-stopping, fabulous flowers with an attitude. The gorgeous weather that tempts us outside also gets the best displays out of your plants. You’ll see a dazzling array of colors, shapes, and sizes that are sure to bring life to your garden. Enjoying the best of summer weather and color only lasts so long – this is not the season to shy away from the large and loud.
Veronicas offer vivacious, vibrant spikes of tiny flowers. Their full sun-loving habit makes them an ideal summer perennial that will last all season. This means you’ll have the pleasure of enjoying their gorgeous color right until the break of fall. We love the Royal Candles Speedwell variety for the bright, purple-blue flowers to brighten any garden.
Alliums have all the beauty of onion flowers without the tears. The little tufts of purple flowers make them an outstanding addition to any summer garden. Enjoy the beauty of our favorite, the Millennium Ornamental, for a burst of color midsummer.
Astilbes are a spectacular show of unique flowers for any garden. These spikes are not simply adorned in flowers, but in smaller flower spikes. Don’t let their shady needs fool you – these bold beauties are midsummer bloomers. To bring pretty pink color to your garden’s shady spots, try our Visions Astilbe or Maggie Daley!
Catmint is the perfect choice for a cat-friendly summer bloomer. Offering more showy and spectacular blooms than their cousin, Catnip, this plant is another favorite for cats with a more resilient nature. For perfect purple spikes of flowers, try our Walker’s Low Catmint.
Butterfly Milkweed is the ultimate way to bring in the butterflies, just as the name implies. Their bright blooms are practically bursting with fiery warmth, even on the chilliest days of summer.
Pictured below: Butterfly Milkweed
Volcano Phlox are a summer cousin of Creeping Phlox, with an interesting growth habit that earns their name. Their bountiful blooms appear to be cascading like colorful lava down a mountainside. With rich shades of reds, whites, pinks, and purples, there is a Volcano Phlox for any garden.
Hardy Hibiscus will put on a tropical summer show from midseason right until the finish of fall. Big, rounded petals surround a showy stamen that hummingbirds adore. Looking straight out of a Hawaii catalog, they are sure to make your backyard feel like a warm, sunny getaway. For a pinwheel of pink, try our Starry Night Hibiscus.
Shasta Daisies are the perfect way to bring the classic, summer flower home. The brilliant white petals surround lively yellow centers that emanate the feeling of summer. They look gorgeous in the garden and cut in a vase and will bloom right into fall to keep summer going even when the air crisps.
Russian Sage is great for adding delicate color to your garden. The tall spikes of tiny flowers that add a perfect backdrop to any summer perennials. For lacy blue blooms that look amazing in contrast with red and orange hues, try our Little Spire Russian Sage.
Yarrow is a brilliant way to bring bold color without the extra work. This perennial is native to North America, so it already knows what to do to grow healthy and vibrant. These fine flowers have a dense mounding habit that provides bright color that fills your garden all summer long. Try our Paprika Common Yarrow for a red that is sure to spice up your garden.Love what you’re reading? Sign up to our email newsletter, and get inspiration delivered straight to your inbox.
Cranesbills or Perennial Geraniums are the perfect way to add delicate ground-cover to your springtime garden. Their small, plate-shaped blooms offer vibrant colors with an almost tropical feel. For a beautiful blue to brighten your garden in spring, try our Rozanne Cranesbill for sensational color all season.
Coreopsis, also known as Tickseed, is another springtime sensation to brighten up the garden as the days get longer. These bright perennials love the heat and sunshine, soaking it up to produce lovely, light blooms. For beautiful color, try our Zagreb Threadleaf Tickseed or our Creme Brulee Tickseed.
Asiatic Lilies have big, beautiful blooms that are impressive in any garden. Their large, flowers are grown in a compact and easy-to-care-for manner that makes them a stunning summer bloomer for a container or bed. We carry these hardy sensations in many gorgeous colors, but for a delicate pink that is irresistible, try the Pink Pixie!
Other summer-blooming perennials include:
- Geum – small, fire-toned flowers also known as Avens
- Baptisia – also known as False Indigo, but available in many colors besides blue
- Bee Balm – rounded bulbs of spiky petals that bees can’t resist
- Delphinium – stunning, tall spikes full of color
- Lavender – classic purple flowers famous for their relaxing fragrance
- Liatris – tall spikes of purple flowers also known as Blazing Stars
- Stachys Hummelo – tiny tufts of purple flowers atop lush, green foliage
Autumn Joy, Photo: By Magnus Manske [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons
Fall is less about new perennials and more about those late-bloomers that aren’t quite ready to let summer go. These flowers won’t mind the days getting shorter and will tolerate the cooler evenings.
Black-Eyed Susans are low-maintenance fall favorites. Their classic bright yellow petals surround moody, black centers, bringing a little summer brightness into the fall. Plenty of sun and regular watering is all these flowers need to keep your autumn nights bright.
Autumn Joy Sedum flowers stay true to their name and give a stunning show right until the first frost. Their tiny flowers cluster together into little plates sitting on top of thick foliage that is reminiscent of succulents – giving them a contemporary appeal. Partial sun and occasional watering are all they need for you to enjoy watching their pink blooms turn to a deeper red by season’s end.
Asters start their blooming late in the summer, but their fantastic fall show is saturated with summer colors. The plentiful petals make for blooms that almost appear to be bursting, especially with the color they provide. Delicate and dense, they are a perfect choice to fill a garden late in the season.
Helenium offer amazing, warm-toned blooms to keep the summer heat around even in the cooling weather of fall. Also known as Sneezeweed, it was believed that inhaling the dried leaves of this plant would induce a sneezing that would expel evil spirits from the body. Besides their “exorcising” ability, they have delightful, daisy-like flowers in fiery shades that are perfect for a fall garden.
Other fall-blooming perennials include:
- Toad Lilies – unique flowers with speckles of color that look like a toad’s skin
- Japanese Anemones – amazing spring-colored flowers great for fall
- Turtleheads – dark green foliage producing small, colorful, and bright blooms
- Joe Pye Weeds – delicate fluffs of flowers in muted colors
Planting your garden this year can include perennials that will keep it alive all spring, summer, and fall – every year. When one variety finishes its show for the year, another will spring up, keeping your garden fresh and vibrant every day. The endless changing color is practically an invitation to enjoy your time outside more. With so many to choose from, we’re happy to help you build your vision. Planning your favorites is a great way to change your outdoor spaces into a colorful haven from season to season.