Annual & Perennial Flowers For Southern GardensAnnuals and perennials spice the landscape with their colorful flowers and foliage. Beds of color provide brilliant accents against backgrounds of permanent plantings, soften man-made lines, and provide graceful transitions from one outdoor area to another. Flowers can be used to catch the eye, accent a view, frame a door, or just draw attention to their own blooms.
Annual plants are practical in that they are versatile, sturdy, and inexpensive. They quickly yield color for a long season.
Perennial plants return year after year. They fit into many landscapes and can be used in borders, as accents, or as strong focal points. The foliage of many perennials is attractive during nonflowering seasons as well.
Annual Flowering PlantsNo other group of flowering plants provides as much color as quickly and economically as annuals. Annual plants sprout from seed, flower, set seed, and die within one season. Many flowers, vegetables, and herbs are planted every year as annuals. Other plants may live longer in their native lands, but do not survive the heat or cold of the mid-south and are best treated as annuals.
Most annuals are planted in spring and are killed by frost in the fall. However, some, including pansies, ornamental cabbage, and dill are tolerant of our winters and are best planted in the fall for color throughout the winter. These are usually killed by the heat of early summer.
Some annuals, such as gomphrena, cosmos, and coreopsis reseed themselves, yielding several years of pleasure 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 very 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 accent plants along the back of a flower or shrub border. 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 semiarid regions of the world and require full sunshine to survive.
Species such as impatiens are native to dark woodland floors and flourish in shady sites, such as covered patios, narrow courtyards, or heavily wooded sites.
Annual gardens are easily established in the smallest and most restrictive of spaces as well as the harsh conditions of 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, wash tubs, or planter boxes of annuals.
Annuals that need full sun, such as periwinkle and marigold, grow and flower best when they receive at least 4 to 6 hours of direct sunlight each day. Woodland species perform best under partial to heavy shade.
Prevent root diseases and other problems associated with waterlogged soil by avoiding areas where water stands after a heavy rain. Also avoid areas near large trees and shrubs that may have many greedy, thirsty feeder roots.
Soil preparation is the most crucial step in success with 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 other ingredients.
Cultivating wet soils may cause lumping 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 annual plants 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 resprouting, remove grass and weed roots while turning the soil. Break clods and lumps into smaller pieces.
Add 3 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 supplements, spread them at the recommended rate over the top at this time. Mix amendments together, blending the organic matter, sand, and fertilizers. Rake the prepared bed smooth when finished.
Seed or TransplantsAs with vegetables, there are advantages to setting out some plants as transplants and others from seed. Single-potted annual plants or packs of annuals containing several transplants are more expensive than seed. However, the instant effect created by setting out plants is irresistible to most gardeners.
Sowing seed directly into the garden soil is a time-honored ritual that rewards a little work and patience with great returns. The extra time involved is offset by savings in initial cost. Also, you can get more variety at less expense from seed than from transplants.
Many species of annual flowers have improved varieties, with increased heat tolerance, disease resistance, and other improvements. Instead of relying on the same tried and true varieties each year, look for those that have won the All-America Selection award. In addition to the dozens of varieties found on seed racks, mail-order companies 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.
Annual flowers, whether grown from seed or transplants, are all handled the same in the garden. Summer annuals are planted in the early spring, after soil temperatures have risen and danger of frost has passed. Winter annuals are planted early enough in the fall to allow time for toughening up before frost.
Set plants shallow, with the top of the roots 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 act as a wick pulling water away from the roots. Pinching off small flowers on brand-new transplants may be hard to do, but it will promote fast new growth and more flowers sooner.
You can have continual bloom the entire summer through some occasional maintenance. As the flowers begin to fade, remove them before seeds are formed. The plants in turn generate new flowers to try again to produce seed. Annual beds maintained for cut flowers will also send up new flower stems to replace those removed for floral arrangements.
Irrigation, Mulches, Fertilizers, and Weed ControlMississippi summers are typically dry for weeks. Therefore, be prepared to water annual plantings 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 specially 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 putting 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 many weed seed from sprouting but can hinder reseeding annuals for the same reason. Soaker hoses can be hidden beneath the mulch.
Annual plants often require extra doses of fertilizer during the growing season. Whether you use a granular or a water-soluble fertilizer is used, follow label directions for use. Water-soluble fertilizers give fast, but temporary, effects. Slow-release fertilizers are the most expensive; however, they provide the appropriate amount of fertilizer to the plants throughout the growing season with little effort and waste, which makes them more economical and environmentally safe. Most annuals benefit from an all-purpose fertilizer having an even or nearly even balance between nitrogen, phosphorous, and potash, as indicated by the three numbers on the container. Flowering plants may perform better when you use a fertilizer with a higher middle number (more phosphorous); green or colorful foliage plants such as amaranth, caladium, and basil benefit from higher nitrogen (first number). Remember that fertilizers, like salt, go a long way; a little is a lot 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 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 quantity.
Few things can dampen enthusiasm faster than weeds. To reduce the need for hand-pulling or chopping weeds, there are herbicides that prevent weed seed germination and others that eliminate existing weeds on contact. Some may be used to control grasses without harming flowers. There are precautions and guidelines on the uses of herbicides, making none completely foolproof. Consult with your county Extension agent or local garden center on the selection and use of weed control chemicals, and carefully follow label directions. Mulches shade weed seeds and prevent their germination, thereby eliminating or reducing the need for hand or chemical weed control.
Pest and Disease ControlChoose 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 MississippiThe following is a fast-reference list of some 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 a great many other good 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
|Full sun||6-20"||9-12"||Edging; tall cultivars make good cut flowers|
|Sun to part shade||3-4"||6-8"||Edging; nice ground cover; heat sensitive|
|Full sun||1-2'||8-12"||Suited for cut flowers; lime lover; excessive growth in rich soil|
|Full sun||1-3'||6-12"||Drought tolerant; popular dry flower; reseeds|
|Sun to part shade||15-24"||8-12"||Reseeds prolifically|
|Full sun||15-24"||15-18"||Fragrant culinary herb; cut for regrowth|
|Sun to part shade||8-10"||8-12"||Group for mass effect; green leaf cultivars more shade tolerant|
|Black-eyed Susan Vine
|Sun to part shade||Vine||6-18"||Window boxes and hanging baskets|
|Sun to part shade||1-2'||12-14"||Tubers planted when day temperatures reach 70 °F; dig in fall after foliage drops; store dry out of sun|
|Full sun||1-2'||12-15"||Cut flower; bright flowerbed plantings|
|Full sun||4-6'||3-5'||Accent or screen; unusual form|
|Full sun||5-7'||2-4'||Coarse-textured bronze leaves; seeds poisonous; screen|
|Full sun||1-3'||12-14"||Many different colors; plants are perennial, but are often planted as annuals|
|Full sun||4-5'||18-24"||Screen; cut flower; reseeds prolifically|
Celosia argentea or cristata
|Full sun||1-2'||8-12"||Crested or plumed cut flower; heat tolerant; some reseed|
|Sun to part shade||2-3'||10-12"||Colorful foliage; mass in shade; nice container plant|
|Full sun||1-2'||12-18"||Native wildflower; reseeds; use as filler or in container|
|Full sun||2-3'||6-12"||Filler plant; cut flower; sow in fall|
|Sun to part shade||2-4'||6-12"||Heat and drought tolerant; reseeds prolifically|
|Sun to part shade||Vine||6-18"||Attracts hummingbirds; reseeds|
|Full sun||3-4'||12-18"||Culinary herb; fine-textured foliage|
|Full sun||1-2'||8-12"||Silver gray foliage; yellow flowers|
|Full sun||2-3'||8-12"||Filler; cut flower; reseeds|
|Full sun||6-12"||12-18"||Winter annual, but not hardy in north Miss.; colorful foliage|
Nicotiana alata grandiflora
|Sun to part shade||1-2'||9-12"||Fragrant cut flowers; borders and beds|
|Full sun||1-3'||8-12"||Flowers open in late afternoon; require well-drained soil|
|Full sun||2-3'||12-18"||Cut flower or dried; reseeding wildflower|
Pelargonium x hortorum
|Sun to part shade||12-15"||9-12"||Tolerates cool temperatures; good container plant|
Rudbeckia hirta gloriosa
|Sun to part shade||18-30"||12-18"||Bold texture; cut flower; reseeds|
|Full sun||4-6'||12-18"||Annual cultivars are available; biennial cultivars, plant in fall; use as screen or background plant|
|Full sun||Vine||6-12"||Fast screen; colorful flowers and pods|
|Part shade||12-24"||8-12"||Best annual for shade; some cultivars may reseed|
|Sun to part shade||6-12"||6-8"||Winter annual, plant in fall; long flowering|
|Full sun||6-12"||8-12"||Colorful foliage; heat and drought tolerant|
|Full sun||1-2'||18-24"||Fragrant attractive flowers; container plant; great for butterflies|
|Part shade||2-3'||8-15"||Spiked flower form; accent or mass plantings; reseeds; sow in fall|
Tagetes erecta or patula
|Full sun||6-30"||6-12"||Mass plantings; good container plants; spider mites a problem|
|Full sun||Vine||6-12"||Colorful vine; cultivar selections rarely reseed|
|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|
Viola x wittrockiana
|Sun to part shade||6-12"||6-10"||Winter annual for fall planting and early spring color; container plant|
|Full sun||9-30"||6-15"||Many cultivars; heat tolerant; may reseed|
|Full sun||1-2'||8-12"||Drought and heat tolerant; container plant; reseeds|
Petunia x hybrida
|Sun to part shade||6-24"||12-15"||Many cultivars; mass color; heat tolerant; reseeds|
|Sun to part shade||8-15"||6-12"||Mass color; native wildflower; reseeds|
Papaver nudicaule or orientale
|Full sun||1-2'||6-12"||Cutflower; sow in fall; perennial, but mostly annual in Miss.; easy to grow|
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
|Sun to part shade||3-4'||2-3'||Naturalized wildflower; mass color; winter foliage; reseeds|
|Shade to part sun||15-30"||8-12"||Attracts hummingbirds; spikes of color; shade during summer|
|Sun||12-36"||10-12"||Spikes of color; cut flower; blooms best in cool weather.|
|Full sun||1-2'||9-12"||Cutflower; salt tolerant for coastal plantings; readily dried|
|Full sun||12-36"||12-15"||Mass of color; cut or dried flower|
|Full sun||4-10'||20-24"||Thrives in poor soil; temporary screen; attracts goldfinches|
|Full sun||1-3'||6-8"||Sow in fall; soak seed in tepid water one hour before planting|
|Full sun||4-6'||3-4'||Tall, bright, full plants; drought tolerant|
|Full sun||6-12"||10-12"||Notably fragrant; planter boxes and baskets|
|Part shade||6-12"||6-8"||Garden borders; pots and hanging baskets|
|Full sun||1-3'||8-15"||Mass color; many cultivars; variable colors; some reseed|
Quick Reference List for Annuals
Perennial Flowering Plants
Perennials are plants that live for several years and often require two or more 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 are being rediscovered for their dependable seasonal effects.
Unlike trees and woody shrubs, which are also perennials, herbaceous perennials are those that 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 covers, mixed with annuals, grown in containers, and used as accents or specimen plants. Many perennials are short bloomers and are best mixed with others that bloom at different times or included with other landscape plants as part of an overall design. Other perennial plants, such as ferns and monkey grass, are more noted for their foliage than their flowers. Inclusion of these plants adds interest and creates seasonal color or texture to 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 by gardeners as heirloom plants and have proven themselves to be hardy enough to withstand our weather and climate extremes, often with little care. Others are exciting new discoveries or hybrids and 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 our warm, humid climate, just as some of our favorites will not survive long in colder areas of the United States.
Designing Perennial PlantingsWhile beds and pots of annuals may be replanted with ease, perennial plantings may live for many years and, therefore, require some planning. Flower beds are usually highly visible and should work well into the total landscape design. Otherwise, large areas of the landscape may be bare part of the year.
Many perennials, like annuals, are effective in mass when they are in bloom, but because of their seasonality, they are better viewed as small clumps of color and texture to accent 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, or such hard features as a fence, stone, bench, birdbath, or garden art to enhance a flower garden and "carry" it through all the seasons.
One of the easiest design "tricks" is to interplant groups of flowers that have contrasting shapes. For example, daylilies can have their large flowers 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 other 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 rest of the landscape or can 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 it and its backdrop. This allows for better air circulation, more light penetration, and ease of maintenance from the rear of the bed. Perennial borders often are 6 to 8 feet wide, allowing adequate space for at least a combination of six or more species, front to back, yielding a continual bloom.
To prevent turfgrass from growing into the perennial bed and becoming unsightly, use some form of broad edging or separating strip. Bricks laid flat, 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, intermixing plants that bloom at different intervals for a continual display. Early bulbs may be planted with spring yarrow and iris, which usually fade before daylilies and canna begin their season of color. Fall sunflowers and ornamental grasses complete the season. Select plants that have not only attractive long-lived blooms, but those that have attractive foliage.
Plant height is a major consideration. In border plantings, the tallest plants are usually placed towards the rear to serve as a backdrop with a few moved forward to prevent monotony in the design. In island plantings, they are 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 are usually not effective displays. Whether for borders or island beds, keep the width of a planting about twice the height of the tallest plant.
Site Selection and Soil PreparationConsider the site before selecting your plants. Although many perennials, such as ferns, tolerate heavy shade, most perennial plants require abundant sunshine. Air circulation is important for avoiding diseases; stagnant, warm, and humid air creates ideal conditions for diseases. 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, you should devote some special attention to perennial bed preparation, because plants may occupy the site for several years with 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 3 or 4 inches deep, worked into the soil 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 little of two or three kinds of organic matter than a lot of just one.
Soil testing provides specific recommendations for fertilizer and lime needs. Since lime lasts for several years depending on the type used, never add lime 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 need not be applied regularly.
PropagationThough most perennials may take a couple of years to flower from seed, many are as easily started as annuals. The quickest way to have blooming plants, however, is by vegetative propagation, such as by dividing old plants or rooting stem cuttings. Plants produced vegetatively 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 takes very little experience and 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 pulled apart 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; divide spring bloomers in the fall and fall bloomers in spring. Some perennials may need dividing every 3 or 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 does 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 4- to 6-inch segments using a sharp knife or shears, and pinch off the succulent tip and any 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 and yet allow drainage for air circulation. Root-stimulating compounds, including 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.
PlantingSet perennial plants in their permanent places so their roots are completely covered with prepared soil, but avoid burying the stem or crown. Place container-grown plants the same depth that 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 in thoroughly to force out any 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 many weed seeds from germinating.
Care and MaintenanceIf you do not mulch your plants, use shallow cultivation in the spring and early summer to break and aerate compacted soils. This 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 fertilizers sparingly to plants early in their growing season, after new growth begins to show. If plants are growing well, no additional fertilizer may be needed; otherwise, a second light feeding 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 harsh extremes of our 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 many plants that may be encroaching on one another.
Hardy Perennials for Mississippi GardensPerennial plants have been long enjoyed for their flowers and foliage and for their ability to return to our gardens for many years with little trouble. Although dozens of perennials have long been shared between gardeners, retail garden centers offer many hardy perennials. 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 share them with other gardeners.
The following are some common and favorite perennial flowers grown in Mississippi, along with selected characteristics. This is by no means a comprehensive guide. 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 GardensThe 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. As they grow and multiply, divide and share with other gardeners for more variety. Try others as your confidence grows. (Note: Names are those generally used in the nursery trade and garden books; cultivated varieties are in single quotes.)
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)
|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|
|Foliage||2-3'||Silvery-gray foliage plant; invasive, but good companion; 'Silver King' and 'Powis Castle'|
|Fall||2-5'||Wide range of plant heights depending on type|
|Foliage||10-15'||Foliage giant; trunk needs mulch protection in winter|
|Butterfly Lily (ginger lily)
|Late summer and fall||4-6'||Bamboo-like summer foliage; pure white, fragrant flowers; rhizomes edible as a mild ginger; mulch in winter|
|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)
|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
|Spring||1-2'||Edible flowering members of onion family; winter foliage|
|Coreopsis (Mississippi State Wildflower)
|Spring and summer||2-3'||Several forms include spring bloomers for cutflowers and invasive, low-growing summer bloomers ('Moonbeam', 'Zargreb' with ferny foliage)|
|Spring to fall||1-3'||Many forms and colors|
|Spring||2-3'||Naturalized wildflower 'May Queen' best variety|
|Spring||2-3'||Very popular white daisy|
C. x morifolium
|Fall||1-2'||Often planted as an annual; needs dividing in spring to prevent rot|
|Clara Curtis Aster
(C. zawadskii latilobum)
|Fall||2-3'||Old garden (favorite; large and pink; often called "Country Girls")|
|Summer||1-4'||Very popular clump-former with stems of large flowers; tolerates wide range of soils except wet; many improved varieties|
|Foliage||3-4'||Favorite large-leaf foliage plant; corms edible; may be invasive; many other species and hybrids available|
|Ferns||Foliage||1-5'||Many kinds, mostly shade; Divide and transplant in winter||
|Spring to fall||1-3'||Fragrant evening bloomer; easy and fast from seed; tolerant of every poor soils; good for hummingbirds|
|Hibiscus (rose mallow)
|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)
|Summer||10-24"||Shade plant with coarse foliage; cut flower; not heat tolerant near Gulf Coast|
|Spring||2-5'||Louisiana iris thrives in wet soils; Bearded iris 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.|
|Foliage||1-2'||Silvery-gray foliage, spikes of yellow flowers in spring; drought-tolerant groundcover; container plant|
|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)
|Summer||2-3'||Outstanding native with tall spikes of lavender flowers that bloom from top down; great cut flower|
|Liriope (monkey grass)
|Summer||1-2'||Tough clump-former with evergreen foliage; variegated varieties available; often overlooked as flowering plant for dry or shady sites|
|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)
|Fall||2-3'||Native; blooms in fall with masses of blue flowers|
|Monarda (bee balm)
|Summer||2-3'||Native to lightly-shaded moist sites; flowers used for herbal tea; good butterfly plant|
|Summer||4-8"||Dwarf lily turf; good ground cover; full sun to part shade|
|Spring||1-3'||Most kinds native; early spring 'Thrift'; (P. subulata) good for rock gardens and edging; "wild sweet Williams" (P. divaricata) good for ground cover; "summer phlox" (P. paniculata) taller cut flower (suffers from mildew)|
|Summer and fall||2-4'||Invasive native with spikes of cut flowers; 'vivid' pink cultivar|
|Summer||2-4'||Native summer cut flower; attractive seedheads|
|Red Hot Poker (Kniphofia)
|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|
|Summer||3-4'||Several hardy species and cultivars (S. greggii, S. farinaceae, S. guarantitica), mostly blue cut flowers on spikes|
|Saponaria (soapwort, bouncing bet)
|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 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 outdoor pot plants|
|Spring||18-24"||Native, low-growing clump-former with large blue aster-like flowers; tolerates wet soils|
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|
|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 GardensNote: These are all easily grown. However, many are difficult to locate commercially except through mail order. All are readily found in good perennial reference books for more information. Latin names followed by sp. indicate many different species are available.
Selected Hardy Bulbs for Mississippi GardensNote: These 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.
|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|
|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, etc)||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.|
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'.
|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.|
|Giant Reed (striped cane)||Arundo donax|
|Pampas Grass (not reliable in North Miss.)||Cortaderia selloana|
|River Oats (shade, good cut flower)||Chasmanthium latifolium|
Quick-Reference List for Perennial Uses
Planting a few perennials and annuals around a hard feature 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 make the most dramatic effect.
By Felder Rushing, Area Horticulture Specialist, and Steven E. Newman, Associate Professor of Horticulture