Perennial Flower Garden Design

Perennial flower garden design guide. Pictures and info to help you plan flower beds and choose plants for sun or shade. Lists of different types of perennials.

Spiky plants like the delphiniums above add height to the middle of the border.

When planting against a wall or fence:

Place the tallest plants in back, against the structure. 

Install the rest in descending order of height, ending by placing the shortest plants at the edge or front of the bed.

Perennial flower gardening can be approached from many angles.  For the purist, nothing but long herbaceous borders filled with plants that are attractive during the growing season but then die down for the winter will satisfy.

This kind of perennial garden is traditionally planted in front of a wall or hedge which protects the plants from desiccating winds and excessive cold while also providing them with a backdrop--a canvas, of sorts, on which to paint the picture.

Modern perennial landscape design leans away from the traditional herbaceous plants only thinking toward mixed plantings which look good year round.

If you design a perennial flower bed using small trees and flowering shrubs to provide some of the color, you can create a much more "permanent" garden with some winter interest.

To extend the season of interest even further, cheat a little by including bulbs and even (gasp) a few annuals in your design.

Choosing and Planting Perennials

Long herbaceous borders filled with pink, blue, and white flowers.

Balance in perennial flower garden design is enhanced by the use of contrast.

To this end, leaf shape is just as important as flower color.

Using perennials in your garden is the easiest way to add lasting color to the landscape. (Perennials vs Annuals explores the virtues and vices of each group in depth.)

What you want to achieve, in the garden as a whole as well as in each individual bed, is a sense of balance. 

How do you do that?


Except where you are using a single large plant as a focal point, plant in multiples.  Install smaller plants in groups of 3 or 5 so that each group "reads" like a single plant and has greater impact. Then, repeat the groupings throughout the planting to establish a cadence within the design.

Larger plants may be installed singly but, also, at regular intervals throughout the planting to maintain the rhythm.

You are more than halfway there now, but your carefully planned garden symphony could still fall into disharmony unless the plants that are supposed to sing together come into bloom at the same time.

It's no use trying to contrast a winter blooming white hellebore against a summer flowering blue Lily of the Nile, so remember to match the bloom times before ordering plants.

There are lists of summer and fall blooming plants further down this page.

Perennial Garden Hard Scape

Wisteria blossoms overhang a slate path through a beautiful spring garden.

These pages cover the practical side of planning a perennial garden.  Things like:

Shade Perennial Gardens

Proof that flowering perennials and trees can coexist.

If you accept the need to choose from a completely different range of plants than a sunny garden would support, your shady perennial flower garden will be a huge success.

A shady garden is a positive asset.  It can be enjoyed during the dog days of summer when the heat would render a sunny garden uninhabitable.  In fact, the shade cast by a Magnolia, or other large tree, provides the perfect atmosphere for a garden bench.

While it is true that green is the easiest color to cultivate in this setting, there are also many flowers that will bloom in all but the densest shade.

Many of these will be spring species, like primroses, which are used to competing with tree roots and are prudent enough to take advantage of the brighter light before the trees come into full leaf.

Other spring bloomers for shady spots include: bluebells, Epimediums, Erythroniums, and hellebores.

For summer flowers, plant: lilies, foxgloves, Nicotiana, and hardy geraniums.

Best Perennial Plants for Summer

Summer blooming perennials are most responsible for the look we all adore--long borders crammed with bounteous bloom. 

White shasta daisies with their yellow centers feed the gardener's soul like a plate of eggs, sunny side up.

Delphiniums, foxgloves, and lupins, in shades from creamy white through orange and midnight blue, compete daily to see who can add the most color to the middle border.  Discrete staking will aid these statuesque beauties in their task.

Purple catmint creeps along the edges, growing lushly enough to smother weeds while bringing rich color right to the ground.

The following plants are sure to keep your summer perennial flower garden design bursting with bloom:

Perennial Hibiscus

Favorite Daylilies

Coneflower 'Harvest Moon'

Cranesbill Geraniums

Dianthus deltoides


Perennial Phlox

Echinacea 'Ruby Star'


Hot Poker Plants



Perennial Flower Garden Design Color Tips:

  1. Repeating colors lends continuity to a garden and leads the eye around it.
  2. To call attention to a focal point, plant flowers that bloom in warm colors around it.
  3. Cool colors are more useful near outdoor seating areas as they invoke a sense of tranquility.

Fall Perennials

Black-Eyed-Susans, purple coneflowers, and Joe Pye Weed at pondside.

Planning a fall blooming perennial garden is a particular pleasure.  Colors take on a special intensity as the air turns crisp.  Trees sporting leaves of blazing red and burnished gold play a starring role in the fall garden drama, but bright yellow coneflowers and flaming hot poker plants compete with them for the part.

The drop in temperatures prompts the rust, bronze, and orange petals of Helenium flowers to unfold.  Skirted cones of Echinacea echo their flower form but extend the color palette into white and pink.

The foliage of ornamental grasses waves on every breeze.  Later in the season, it will take on its winter hue.

The following plants are sure to steal the autumn stage in any perennial flower garden design:

Black Eyed Susan

Perennial Sunflowers

Hardy Chrysanthemums

Mexican Hat

Pampas Grass

Coneflower 'Tiki Torch'

Purple Fountain Grass

Amsonia - Yellow fall foliage


Perennial Plant Lists

List of Perennial Border Plants Divided by Height

List of Flowering Perennials Divided by Color

List of Flowering Perennial Vines

Using Yucca Plants in the Landscape

White Flowering Shrubs

Deer Resistant Plants

Yellow Perennial Flowers

Pink Perennial Flowers

Orange Perennials

Orange Coneflowers

Green Coneflower Varieties

Double Coneflowers

Butterfly Garden Plants

French Garden Flowers

Types of Ferns

Top 20 White Perennials

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Your plant guides,

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