How to Pick the Best Perennials for Your Yard

Whether you're in the sun or shade, check out this compilation of easy-to-grow perennials, many of which are deer resistant.

It hasn't gotten too hot yet here in the South. I’m trying to hurry along and get some perennials in the ground before the long, hot days of summer arrive. The heat can put too much stress on a new plant, so I need to get it done now.

Coneflower Explosion in New York

Coneflower Explosion in New York

Dickman Farms in Auburn, New York has been in operation since 1903. Since its partnership with the Ball Seed Company in 1978, it ships over ten million young plants annually to growers across the U.S. Their lush garden center, which has the ambiance of a botanical garden, is populated with hundreds of ornamental trees, flowering shrubs and seasonal favorites like coneflowers with their vibrant colors.

Photo by: Image courtesy of Dickman Farms Greenhouses and Garden Center

Image courtesy of Dickman Farms Greenhouses and Garden Center

I’ve got a few different areas in my yard with bald spots, some in full sun and others in deep shade. But the first thing I must consider when picking plants is whether or not they’re deer resistant. I love having wildlife in my area, and deer are pretty to look at, I just wish they’d stay out of my garden. 

I found this batch of articles listed below to be very handy. I crossed referenced them to the website of a semi-local nursery and DeerFriendly.com which lists deer-resistant plants and trees for every state. If you have the same issue of garden-poaching deer, it's a good place to start. 

If you’ve got a sunny spot you’re looking to fill, take a look at this list of top-10 lovers of direct sunlight. 

10 Best Perennials for Full Sun

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Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’)

Tough and reliable, black-eyed susan fills summer with cheery blooms that look good in the garden or a vase. Plants are a snap to grow—just give them average soil in full sun. Clumps spread quickly when plants are happy. Remove edges of clumps in spring to keep plants in bounds. Black-eyed susan doesn’t usually need divided, but it’s a good idea to do so at the 4-year mark to rejuvenate clumps. Goldsturm is hardy in Zones 3 to 10.

Photo By: PerennialResource.com

'Starship Scarlet' Lobelia

Intense color distinguishes this new lobelia variety, hardy in zones 6-10.

Red and Yellow Low-Water Garden

This xeriscaped sustainable driveway is surrounded with Jerusalem sage and red-hot poker, which add a pop of vibrant red and yellow color.

From: Katrina Fairchild

For lots of color with some height, try coneflowers, Joe Pye weed, shasta daisy, yarrow, red-hot poker and false indigo. Some say coneflowers are deer resistant, but the deer in my neighborhood chomped off the stalks of my coneflowers and shasta daisies way before the flowers got established. I got smart and moved them to a fenced-in area. 

10 Tall Perennial Flowers

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SHNS_YardSmart10_31b

SH05J303YARDSMART Oct. 31, 2005 _ Use Luna hardy hibiscus in perennial borders for bold stand-out blooms. (SHNS photo courtesy Maureen Gilmer)

‘Modern Romance’

‘Modern Romance’ is an Oriental lily.

Delphinium

What makes delphinium a showstopper? True blue is pretty rare in the flowering world, and there are several shades of blue delphinium to choose from. The huge panicles are amazing, and they are quite carefree once established in a sunny or partly shaded garden.

Photo By: Courtesy of Plant Stock Photos

Coreopsis, lobelia and lamb's ear – all of which deer won't eat – make great groundcovers and borders for sunny areas. Pachysandra, creeping Jenny and vinca are low-growing, self-spreading plants that will add a lush texture and do well in the shade.  

8 Low-Growing Groundcovers

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Lily of the Valley

Delicate Color

Dainty lamium and Evolvulus 'Blue Daze' peek out of this container.

Creeping Jenny in Container

Golden creeping jenny (Lysimachia nummularia 'Aurea'), with its spreading habit and brilliant color, spills over the edge of this winter container. It's hardy to USDA Zone 3. In deep cold, creeping jenny fades, but next season it will strike back with a vengeance.

For shady areas, some of the easiest perennials to grow are lily of the valley, astilbe and liriope (aka - monkey grass). I have lenten rose in sunny and shady parts of my yard. I love them. They require no maintenance, the delicate little flowers bloom through the spring, and they also look good in the winter.

Top 10 Shade-Loving Perennials

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Bleeding hearts usually reach 2'-3' in height with a similar spread. The plants' flowers are either pink or white, and they appear in April or May.

Foliage and Flowers

If you desire to add height to your spring garden, Astilbe 'Purple Candles' is the way to go, says Angie Rose, a New England gardener. Blooming in late spring, Astilbe 'Purple Candles' is also deer and rabbit resistant.

Photo By: Photo courtesy of Angie The Freckled Rose Photography

Helleborus x ballardiae 'HGC Pink Frost'

VIgorous 'HGC Pink Frost' starts blooming in mid-February, with pink, outward-facing flowers that mature to a darker pink-red. This hellebore takes part sun to light shade.

Photo By: Courtesy Plant Delights Nursery, Inc.

My favorite and probably one of the most popular shade-loving shrubs is the deer-resistant hydrangea. It takes a couple years for hydrangeas to become truly established, but once they do, you end up wishing you had more. I'm thinking about getting more rhododendrons and azaleas too. I've ignored the ones in my yard for years and they still look great, plus they're evergreen so they add some color to the winter landscape. 

8 Best Perennial Shrubs

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'Paraplu'

This Hydrangea macrophylla has a compact habit and glossy foliage add to its appeal. Will reach 2 ½-3 feet in height, and is hardy to zone 5.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Proven Winners

Rhododendron (subgenus Azalea) 'Brazil'

Rhododendron (subgenus Azalea) ~Brazil~ (02)

'Blue Satin' Rose of Sharon

Hibiscus 'Blue Satin' Rose of Sharon

Photo By: Image courtesy of Proven Winners

On the edible side of perennials, thyme and oregano are super hardy groundcovers that’ll make your food taste great. Fortunately, deer don’t seem to enjoy their flavor. Lavender and rosemary plants can last for years. They look sort of similar to one another so I paired them up in the same bed. 

8 Popular Perennial Herbs

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How to Cut Herbs So They Keep Growing

Trimming and pruning is important to the health of your herb garden.

Photo By: Emily Fazio

Lemon Thyme

Wonderful lemon aromas arise from the glossy leaves of this pretty thyme. It grows well in small pots and is a great choice for an apartment garden. Use the leaves or whole stems to flavor fish, veggies, salads or beverages.

Photo By: Johnny’s Selected Seeds

The Allium Family

Easy to grow alliums are perennials, and they’re related to chives, shallots and onions. If deer, voles, rabbits or other animals browse in your garden, you’ll find they usually leave these bulbs alone. Plant alliums in the fall, in well-drained soil, giving them plenty of sun.

Photo By: Longfield Gardens

If you want to attract butterflies to your garden, specifically monarchs, plant milkweed and butterfly weed. Other nectar plants like Indian blanket, coneflower, Joe Pye weed, sage and dahlias are also butterfly friendly.

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