The best gardens take advantage of microclimates around the landscape. Full shade or full sun are not obstacles but rather opportunities to plant species that thrive in those areas. As it happens, many low-maintenance perennials thrive under the sunshine. From the outrageous blooms of the peony to the silky leaves of the sage, here are just a few flowers to brighten your imagination!
Named after the Greek goddess of rainbows, iris is not the most profuse bloomer, but each flower is a work of art, and the intricate petals are as mysterious as a rainbow. While there are over 300 species of iris, the Bearded Iris is the most popular garden plant and a favorite of hummingbirds and butterflies. These perennials grow from rhizomes, which may need to be divided over time. They generally start blooming at the beginning of June.
All of these perennials love to bask in the full sun and offer displays worthy of the spotlight. They can easily become the pinnacle of your garden and complement other bloomers throughout the year.
These classic flowers are a staple of cottage-style gardens. They offer big blossoms in lush pinks, reds, or white and shed their thick petals dramatically as they fade. These perennials are long-lasting, known to live upwards of 100 years and bloom from late spring to early summer. Sometimes you’ll see ants crawling up the stems. They’re attracted to peonies’ nectar, and far from damaging the plant, they help the flower by attacking pests like aphids or scale.
The artful flowers of the daylily are as compelling as an iris but open fresh flowers every day during their bloom period. The flowers last one day or two, only to be replaced in the riot of color. You’ll find them in scarlet, yellow, purple, orange, white, and mauve on varieties that bloom in the early, mid, or late season. Deadheading is optional, and they’re otherwise very low-maintenance. All parts of this perennial are edible and have a long history in the kitchen.
Not as showy as a peony or daylily, the sedum’s allure is in its succulent leaves, toughness, and flowers that bring all the pollinators to the yard. Low-growing sedums make beautiful ground covers or fillers in the rock garden, while upright varieties mix in nicely to your perennial border or pollinator garden. The flowers are pink or yellow, and the leaves can be green with yellow or red tints. They are sun-loving, easy-to-grow, and don’t mind a dry summer.
Also known as echinacea, these native wildflowers of the Midwest have long-lasting blooms, are low-maintenance, and offer a smorgasbord for the senses. Originating from the daisy family, they have bright petals—from coral, mauve, white, yellow, pink, and more—around a central cone that’s loaded with pollen. They bloom from mid-summer right into the first frosts, and, like all native perennials, they’re a familiar food source for wild pollinators. They also exude a soothing fragrance and make delicious tea.
Another native of the prairies, this low-maintenance perennial blooms with fuzzy towers of amethyst, or sometimes white flowers, above grass-like leaves. They’re at home in full sun, dry soil, and tough conditions. They start to bloom in July or August, just as other plants begin to wilt in the heat. They are a magnet for your eyes and all the pollinators buzzing around your yard.
The silky, silver-green leaves of the Russian Sage make a beautiful texture contrast to bushy green leaves. Keep them standing in the fall, and they’ll bring winter interest to the garden too. But this perennial is most beautiful when covered in lavender flowers from late spring into the fall. Russian Sage is low-maintenance, loves full sun, and exudes a beautiful aroma.
This native perennial of Illinois resembles a daisy or miniature sunflower. It features glowing orange petals with yellow tips around a burgundy center. They’re almost as bright as the sun itself, which it loves, and they’ll keep blooming with consistent deadheading.
All of these perennials love to bask in the full sun and offer displays worthy of the spotlight. They can easily become the pinnacle of your garden and complement other bloomers throughout the year. Combined with other sun and shade-loving flowers, they’ll make every part of your garden glow at every time of the growing season!
Platt Hill Nursery is Chicago’s premier garden center and nursery.