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Hardy perennials: Ten flowers to grow

Jun 1st, 2016 | Category: Growing

by David Pike

The following is a list of 10 of the hardiest, showiest, and most bee, butterfly, and hummingbird friendly perennial flowers you can grow in your Northwest garden. Note that this list does not include trees and shrubs, or bulbs and vines. I have attempted to arrange these by flower time, from early spring to late fall. Plant a diverse set of flowers to ensure a long lasting palette of color for you to enjoy, and nectar sources all season long.

Crocosmia. Photo by Monica Zikusooka

Crocosmia. Photo by Monica Zikusooka

Heath, Erica: Blooms late winter through early spring. Often mistakenly referred to as ‘heather’, most heath, (Erica) blooms in late winter to early spring with small bell shaped flowers often in white and pink. These are very valuable to bees because they are among the first sources of nectar after winter.  Heather (Calluna) blooms in the late summer to early fall. Many varieties of heather have feathery, colorful foliage. Both heath and heather have a well-mannered spreading habit and make perfect 2’ tall ground-covers.  They require acidic soil, so amend their planting holes with bark and peat moss.

Columbine, Aquilegia formosa:  Blooms in spring. Take a close look at Columbine flowers to appreciate their intricacy. Red Columbine is a native plant with upside-down tubular red and yellow flowers.  Other colors abound and have more upright flowers, but only the dainty red one is native. Grow in part shade with moderate moisture, they don’t like full sun.

Lupine, Lupinus: Blooms in spring. Attractive foliage with majestic flower spires in a rainbow of colors. Often visited by beneficial insects and bees. Since Lupine is a legume, it attains its nitrogen from the atmosphere – this allows it to grow in poor soils, which it will help fertilize and rebuild.

Red Hot Poker, Kniphofia uvaria: Blooms in summer. Also known as torch lily, these striking plants grow up to five feet tall with red flower spikes loaded with nectar for all the usual suspects. These are native to South Africa, so they are heat and drought tolerant sun lovers, and don’t like wet feet.

Brightly colored yellow Rudbeckia. Photo by Carol Kilgore

Brightly colored yellow Rudbeckia. Photo by Carol Kilgore

Bee Balm, Monarda didyma: Blooms mid to late summer. These bright red tubular flowers are beloved by bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds as a rich source of nectar. Also note Wild Bergomot, Monarda fistulosa, with lavender-purple flowers. Both have medicinal uses.

Anise Hyssop, Agastache foeniculum: Blooms mid to late summer. If you plant only one plant to attract bees, try this one – bees love it! Two-foot tall stalks with narrow purple flowers. Blooms for a long time, often June to September. The leaves are anise flavored and sweet, and make a good tea.

Yarrow, Achillea millefolium: Blooms mid to late summer, Umbel shaped flowers most often in pink, red, or white. Yarrow can grow in poor soils, is very drought tolerant, attracts beneficial insects and butterflies, and has a wide variety of medicinal uses.

Crocosmia: Blooms late summer. A member of the iris family, these are native to the grasslands of Africa. They have tubular orange or red flowers on 2-3 foot arching stalks. The red variety ‘Lucifer’ is a beacon for hummingbirds. Tolerates a wide range of soils. Sun to part shade.

Sedum, Sedum telephium: Blooms late summer, This family Includes ‘Hens and Chicks’, a few native stonecrops, and hundreds of other fascinating cactus looking succulents. They store water in their leaves, making them very draught tolerant. Small ones are excellent to tuck in between stones and bricks in sunny spaces. The variety ‘Autumn Joy’ blooms in late summer and early fall, with 18-inches tall umbel shaped magenta flowers. Bees appreciate its late bloom time.

Black-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia fulgida: Blooms late summer to fall. One of the most robust bright yellow flowers you can plant. Very hardy and adaptable to a range of conditions, though they appreciate full sun. Valuable as a bee plant because it is one of the latest blooming flowers, blooms from late summer until the first frost.

Published in the June 2016 issue of Grow Northwest

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