Perfect Perennial Plants for Spring

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Spring Perennials

Photo courtesy of Colletta Kosiba

With spring on its way, it’s time to think about showy, colorful plants for the garden. Here are three of my favorite low-maintenance perennial plants:

Butterfly Weed

The term “weed” refers to something growing where you don’t want it to be growing. Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) once grew in farmers’ fields, hence its common name. This extremely hardy and long-lived perennial is a native of North America’s prairies. Butterfly weed is the larval host to monarch butterflies, so you may see all the leaves gobbled up by the caterpillars, but this doesn’t harm the plant. During the 2012 drought, its clusters of flat-topped, small, bright orange flowers were full of butterflies. The taproot may reach 10 feet down, so transplanting a mature plant is impossible. Buy seed or purchase very small plants. The plant, which emerges in late spring, grows to three feet tall and requires full sun. Every garden needs this bright splash of summer color.

Oriental Poppies

Want to add “wow” to your garden? Try an Oriental poppy (Papaver orientalis). The huge flowers may be up to six inches across on stems up to four feet tall. Colors include red, salmon, orange, crimson and white. They bloom in late spring to early summer and then go dormant. In autumn, the leaves come up to form a mound of finely cut, hairy foliage that remains over the winter.

Plant seed in early spring about 1/8-inch deep. Oriental poppies will form large clumps by self-seeding from their exploding seed heads. These flowers, which are resistant to deer, also require full sun.

Bleeding Hearts

The shape of these blooms, grown by my grandmother, amazed us as kids. In fact, bleeding hearts (Dicentra spectabilis) are the only naturally occurring heart-shaped flowers. They come in deep pink or sparkling white. A new variety called Gold Heart has chartreuse foliage with pink blooms. Bleeding hearts grow up to three feet tall and have attractive mounded green foliage. Plant them in light shade. When the weather gets hot, bleeding hearts usually die back and become dormant. The flowers may be used in a vase, though I have used them in Mother’s Day corsages as well.

Fringed bleeding heart (Dicentra eximia), is wonderful native shade plant. It has deeply cut, blue-green foliage with sprays of small pink flowers from April to September. The fringed bleeding heart adds color to my shade garden all year, and it self-seeds.

Perennials are the workhorses of our gardens. Try one these wonderful plants – or all of them. You will be glad you did!

1 Comment

  1. trudy avey

    June 11, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    I would love to have this but the site doesn’t say where to find them or a way to purcase the bulbs unless their available at Home Depot etc. As I’m new to Michigan & it’s plants can u email what’s my best option.. I thank you sincerely Trudy. P.S. if u have any other good ideas for my commercial blding. that doesn’t have alot of space for plants & absolutely no grass here I wouls appreciate some ideas for front flower beds that will add lots of lovely bright colors & ideas what looks good together so they inspire themselves. . Alot to ask I know but this is new to me & especially in the north can u help??

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