5 Classic Summer Perennials

Tried and true, these perennials are classics for good reason.

By Graham Rice


Classic summer perennials are those trouble-free, dependably attractive, well-proven varieties that should be high on the list for every flower garden. Of course, no one wishes to see the same few plants in every yard, but these are five summer perennials that every gardener should at least consider when planning a flower garden.

Whether they first came on the scene 150 years ago or just 15, these varieties have established themselves as widely popular simply because they’re so good.

'Honorine Jobert' Japanese Anemone

Anemone x hybrida ‘Honorine Jobert’
Pure white flowers, featuring broad overlapping petals around a golden center, open on branched airy stems from late summer into fall above bold dark leaves. Happy in sun or a little shade, and best staked discreetly—just in case—but can be vigorous. Introduced back in 1858, and sometimes sold simply as ‘Alba’.
Height: 20 to 48 inches; hardy to USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 4

Honorine Jobert Japanese Anemone
Firewitch Alpine Pink

‘Firewitch’ Alpine Pink

Dianthus ‘Firewitch’
Small, prolific, strongly scented and prettily fringed vivid magenta-pink flowers in summer and fall are backed by evergreen tufts of silvery foliage. This variety of Dianthus is tough, adaptable, very hardy, and one of the best in humid heat. It needs sun and good drainage. Perennial Plant of the Year in 2006. Sometimes listed as ‘Feuerhexe’.
Height: 8 inches; Zone 3

Rozanne (‘Gerwat’) Cranesbill

Geranium Rozanne (‘Gerwat’)
Attractive marbled green foliage is dotted with white-eyed blue flowers for a very long season from early summer well into fall. Good groundcover around roses or shrubs, or as a specimen in containers, and best in moist, well-drained soil in sun. Vigorous, but does not spread by rhizomes like some other geraniums. Perennial Plant of the Year in 2008.
Height: 15 inches; Zone 5

Rozanne Gerwat Cranesbill
Sugar Blues Bearded Iris

‘Sugar Blues’ Bearded Iris

Iris germanica ‘Sugar Blues’
This is the bearded iris with everything. Its gorgeous rich blue coloring really sparkles, with the additional flash from its white beards; it’s a dependable rebloomer all over the country, its fragrance is strong and sweet, and it lasts well when cut for the house. Just give it plenty of sun and divide every 3 years.
Height: 3 feet; Zone 3

‘Becky’ Shasta Daisy

Leucanthemum x superbum ‘Becky’
Classic, orange-centered white daisies open over an unusually long season. Good in borders and for cutting, and popular with butterflies, it’s best in sun and in any reasonable soil. Descended from the original Shasta daisy hybrids developed by the pioneer of plant breeding Luther Burbank in 1890. Perennial Plant of the Year in 2004.
Height: 3 feet; Zone 4

Becky Shasta Daisy

Photos: © Gardenphotos.com

Garden writer Graham Rice  Award-winning garden writer Graham Rice publishes regularly at OrganicGardening.com/GrahamRice