Perennials are showy additions in the garden that work hard for you year after year to decorate the landscape. While some require special care and a tender touch to succeed in the garden, there are a bunch of hardy perennials that are tough as nails. These are great for low-maintenance gardens as they will continue to bloom, year after year, with little care.
Why Hardy Perennials?
I often go by my old house to see how the front-yard perennial garden is doing. I have watched it over the past several years continue to bloom and grow and look lovely, despite the lack of interest the new owners have in gardening. It was so hard to leave the garden behind, but what I left was a number of hardy perennials that needed little care.
I figured the new gardeners would get two or three years of relatively maintenance-free flowers in the garden before it needed some care. And, boy, was I ever right! They didn’t water the garden, cut back, divide, or care for any of the plants and yet it STILL continued to thrive.
It has now been many years of neglect, and the garden bursts with blooms from mass plantings that keep on truckin’ year after year after year. I visit a few times a year and, while I’m sad to see this gorgeous and healing space is left untended, I’m proud of my plants and my design.
It’s low-maintenance and drought tolerant and a haven for pollinators and beneficial insects. I see plenty of growth and a messy appearance, but no signs of disease or stress. Perennials are the hardest working decorative plants out there. Plus, they add so much personality to your garden.
In the right conditions, perennials will deliver a low-maintenance landscape in sun or shade. So when I get asked about how to create a low maintenance garden, I share this list.
For more details on each of the plants, I have created a set of articles that outlines my favorite perennials for sun and my favorites for shade. Head over to those two for more details about each of the plants and leave your favorite hardy perennials in the comments section.
Best Hardy Perennials for Sun
Read more about perennials for sun and my top five here.
- Geranium (Cranesbill)
- Echinacea (Coneflower)
- Hemerocallis (Daylily)
- Coreopsis (Tickseed)
- Iris sibirica (Siberian Iris)
- Iris croatica (Bearded Iris)
- Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian Sage)
- Rudbeckia hirta (Black-Eyed Susan)
- Sedum (Stonecrop)
- Nepeta (Catmint)
- Anemone hupehensis (Japanese Anemone / Windflower)
- Lilium auratum (Asiatic Lily)
- Dianthus (Sweet William)
- Achillea millefolium (Yarrow)
- Leucanthemum × superbum (Shasta Daisy)
- Euphorbia (Spurge)
Plants I Did Not Include on this List and Why:
Phlox – It is beautiful, fragrant, and easy to grow and many would argue it is very hardy, but its predisposition to powdery mildew bumped it off my list.
Peony – a garden beauty queen and exceptional cut flower, but this stunner needs staking or caging and it leaves a mess of petals all over the place when it’s done blooming, making it too much of a diva for this list. This isn’t to say I don’t love the peony, because I do! They just require a bit more care. Here’s how to grow and care for stunning peonies.
Clematis – this is an easy-to-grow perennial vine with showy flowers that come back stronger and better every year. But some varieties require annual pruning down to the ground and others don’t. The task of remembering to have to prune it gets the clematis set aside from this list.
Best Hardy Perennials for Shade
Get more details on growing perennials in a shady garden and my favorite picks here.
- Helleborus (Hellebore)
- Geranium macrorrhizum (Big Root Geranium)
- Epimedium (Barrenwort)
- Alchemilla (Lady’s Mantle)
- Lamprocapnos spectabilis (Bleeding Heart)
- Tracheophyta (Ferns)
- Pulmonaria (Lungwort)
- Sanguinaria canadensis (Bloodroot)
- Corydalis lutea (Yellow Corydalis)
- Hakonechloa macra (Japanese Forestgrass)
- Asarum canadense (Wild Ginger)
- Liriope (Lilyturf)
- Ajuga (Bugle)
- Tiarella cordifolia (Foamflower)
Plants I Did Not Include on this List and Why:
There is a fine line between hardy and invasive. For example, plants that are strong growers and tolerant of poor soil and varying conditions can also be hard to control. For that reason, I didn’t include plants like Lamium on this list despite their ornamental value and hardiness.
But, you say, “you included, Ajuga, Wild Ginger, and Lady’s Mantle!” For me, controlling Lamium is more difficult than it is worth, but with the others, I have no trouble ripping up a handful here and there to remove the excess. It’s truly up to your own personal preference as to how much spreading and clearing you are willing to tolerate.
What are your favorite perennials to grow in the home garden? Leave a comment and let us know. We love learning how your garden grows!
More Perennials to Love!
- The Best Perennials for Sun
- The 7 Best Perennials for Shade Gardens
- Save Money and Start these 14 Perennials from Seed
- Dividing Perennials 101: Tips for a Beautiful Garden
- Top 10 Drought-Tolerant Perennials
- Landscaping for Drought: Inspiring Gardens That Save Water
- Grow These Fall Perennials for Brilliant Autumn Color!
- Fall Perennial Gardening: Garden Design on a Budget
- Made for the Shade: Low Maintenance Fall Planters Bursting with Colour
Hi, Stephanie! I wanted to check with you about Sanguinaria canadensis (Bloodroot). I’ve read that this is quite toxic to animal cells & I wondered about planting this in a garden. Sadly I do have neighborhood cats that wander in the yard & I would never intentionally harm them in any way. Is this really a toxin for animals as I’ve read? The flowers are so pretty & I had considered planting on the north side of my house. I would appreciate your insight about this plant.
Thank you very much!
Hi Deb, I’m not sure about that so I would definitely talk with a vet. I found some info that it could be carcinogenic, but there was not enough info was available. That being said, I have it in my garden and it doesn’t get touched by my cat or others. With cats, I would be much more concerned about lilies – more here: https://gardentherapy.ca/plants-poisonous-to-pets/. Perhaps you could share the article that you read?
My favourite are black eyed Susan’s, they’re such a cheerful delight in the garden. I had to laugh about your comment about phlox! First the deer had a feast on them, then they started the powdery mildew! It made me mad and I then chucked them. I don’t give up easily but I really hate that powdery mildew though. I also grew coreopsis and coneflowers by seed and I’m delighted they’re blooming. Also astilbe are beautiful and lush.
You asked what perennials we have in our Gardens that we love. I have many that you mentioned in both your list of shade and Sun Gardens but two that I love and that just do so well are Gaillardia( in sunny areas) and Monarda( all over my yard).
I’ve fallen in and back out of love of Coneflowers. If it’s not rabbits shaving them down, it’s powdery mildew, bugs and slugs and they’ve barely had time to bloom…so bummed!