Q.: I have a few perennials for color in my yard, like daffodils, daylilies, phlox and hosta. I’d love more variety and color. What would you suggest?
A.: There are many that flourish well here in Zone 7B that you will like to add to your garden. An old favorite that comes in many colors is the Aster. It looks like a small daisy bloom, about 1-2 inches across with yellow centers and blooms in white, pink and purple way into November. Plant it in a sunny location and treat it like a mum by pinching it back severely in the summer to encourage a mound of flowers. Some I have neglected to pinch still look lovely on taller graceful stems. After all blooms have browned, cut the plant down to 3-4 inches high for the winter. They enjoy good mulch and are very resistant to disease and insects.
Coreopsis loves full sun and gives a multitude of yellow blossoms into late fall. After establishment, it requires little watering. It is truly a carefree perennial.
Pansies bloom all winter in a full sun or a 6 hour sunny spot. They certainly perk up the cold weather landscape with their cheery faces in yellow, purple, white, salmon and blended color combinations. Fertilize every 3 weeks for continuous flowering. I plant almost everything except trees with a good healthy shake of a continuous feeding fertilizer like Osmocote, which relieves me of the fertilizing duty for four or more months. Pansies love a good dose of well-rotted manure or compost.
Michaelmas Daisies give a pretty white color. They are like snow in our Southern gardens, where we rarely receive the real thing. They can suffer from some mildew, so be sure they are not in a wet place and they don’t need much watering. By a wet place I mean that the soil holds water for over 30 minutes before soaking in. No plant likes continuously wet feet, so if you have boggy areas raise them by adding soil conditioner – a large bag at the big box store is under $4 – and sand, mixing well with existing dirt.
There are perennial Geraniums! I know, I know, we habitually buy the pink, salmon, and red ones every spring for pots, but there are alternatives. They are easy to grow with little care. Shear back each spring to encourage growth and let them have at it. Every plant that blooms wants sun, so look for an appropriate location for these easy colorful ones.
Rudbekia have a yellow/orange’ish bloom, like a daisy with brown centers, and spread prolifically while blooming into late November or even December if in the sun. They want very light fertilizer in the spring and can pretty much look after themselves even in drought. I have redbekia goldensturm, which grows about a foot tall. Divide them often and give to friends.
Many of us have camellias sasanquas (the scientific name); probably the huge bushes like our parents grew. There is a new variety: the Shi Shi camellia (shishigashira). It grows only to about 4 feet and is covered with pink blooms at this time of year. It’s a great addition to your landscape and won’t overwhelm other plantings with great height. Another gorgeous pink blooming camellia is Debutante which looks like a fat rose or small peony. This type does grow to about 6 or more feet, so allow for that when choosing its home.
An unusual plant is Sedum. It looks like a succulent with fat leaves but thrives in any soil, and can take sun or shade. Cut back dead wood in spring to discourage splitting of stems. It can grow to a lovely 5 foot rounded clump and in fall has reddish blooms. There is a new pink one in the stores. This plant can take abuse, I planted one in red fill dirt years ago (before I ever read anything about gardening) and it’s still flourishing.