43 Perennials to Cut Back in the Spring

Plants to leave standing until spring

Black-eyed susan perennial bush with yellow flowers and red centers

The Spruce / Autumn Wood

Gardeners in warm climates can treat fall, and sometimes even winter, as supplemental growing seasons. But for gardeners who experience hard winters, fall is a great time to get a head start on garden clean-up. We hear a lot about four seasons of interest in the garden, but this rarely applies to perennial plants. Most perennials turn ugly as the temperatures drop. It's nice to get your garden in order in the fall and any plant that is diseased, infested, or otherwise in poor condition should certainly be cut back and disposed of rather than leaving them to over-winter.

However, there are perennials that simply don’t fare well if they are pruned too late in the season. They need the winter protection provided by their fallen leaves to help them survive. The following list is a selection of 43 plants that are best pruned in spring.

Gardening Tip

When plants have clear symptoms of bacterial or fungal disease, it's best to prune away and dispose of the affected foliage, even if the plant normally benefits from being allowed to stand through the winter. You don't want diseased plants to remain over winter, since the microbes can spread and infect other plants. This also goes for diseased leaves and other debris covering the ground. Remove this material and apply a clean, sterile mulch for those plants that benefit from winter protection.

  • 01 of 43

    Artemisia (Artemisia spp.)

    Silver leaves of Artemisia Powis Castle plant.

     John E. Kelly/Getty Images

    Often known by the common names wormwood or mugwort, most species in the Artemisia genus don’t like being pruned in the fall. The growth that results is too tender to survive the winter and the dieback is often enough to kill the whole plant. Instead, clean up these plants in early spring.

    Artemisia plants can be aggressive to the point of invasiveness. Make sure to control it if you choose to plant it in your garden.

    USDA Growing Zones: 5-9

    Color Varieties: Yellowish-brown or gray (flowers are fairly insignificant)

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

    Soil Needs: Dry to medium moisture, well-drained

  • 02 of 43

    Aster (Aster x frikartii, Aster spp. ,Symphyotrichum spp.)

    Aster in garden

    While there are some pure species in the Aster genus cultivated in the garden, most garden varieties are hybrid cultivars derived from a cross between A. amellus  and A. thomsonii. They are known collectively as Aster x frikartii, named after the Swiss hybridizer who developed them. Other species of asters fall into the Symphyotrichum genus.

    These fall-blooming asters have generally been pinched and forced several times throughout the growing season. Once they are finally allowed to bloom, they appreciate being left alone to recuperate until spring. Several bloom so late into the fall that the question of fall clean-up becomes moot.

    USDA Growing Zones: 4–9 (varies by species and variety)

    Color Varieties: Lavender, purple, pink, white

    Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained

  • 03 of 43

    Astilbe (Astible spp., hybrids)

    Astilbe in garden
    Photo © Bill Wren

    Astilbe plants don’t require much maintenance. Long considered a shade plant, newer cultivars are available that thrive in full sun. Fall clean-up is unnecessary and may weaken the plant’s tolerance for cold. Minimal spring clean-up is required.

    USDA Growing Zones: 3–8

    Color Varieties: Pink, red, white

    Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    Soil Needs: Loamy, slightly acidic

  • 04 of 43

    Autumn Joy Sedum (Hylotelephium 'Herbstfreude')

    autumn joy sedum
    Butterflies with pink autumn joy sedum Neil Holmes/Getty Images

    Once a member of the Sedum genus, this very familiar garden plant is now categorized in the Hylotelephium genus as H. 'Herbstfreude' (Autumn Joy), though it is often still sold as a Sedum or stonecrop. Like other tall sedums, this plant can remain attractive throughout the winter, even holding caps of snow on its flower heads. Birds will also continue to eat the seeds as long as they are present.

    ‘Autumn Joy’ in particular holds up very well through the winter. The basal foliage appears very early in spring, so sedum can be one of the first plants you prune after winter.

    USDA Growing Zones: 3–9

    Color Varieties: Rosy pink, turning rust red

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

    Soil Needs: Dry to medium moisture, well-drained

    Continue to 5 of 43 below.
  • 05 of 43

    Aven (Geum spp. and hybrids)

    Geum flowers in orange.

    Anna Yu/Getty Images 

    The Geum genus includes about 50 species, several of which are native wildflowers in North America. These plants often are known as avens, but individual species may have other common names. Prairie smoke, for example, is the common name for Geum triflorum, a common North American wildflower. There are also several common hybrid varieties that are common garden plants, such as 'Fire Storm', Totally Tangerine', and Banana Daiquiri'.

    Aven plants are clump-forming perennials with dark green leaves with scalloped edges. They bloom on long wiry stems in spring and early summer, and sometimes rebloom in fall. The plants can remain semi-evergreen throughout winter, so no fall pruning is necessary, especially if you’ve been deadheading and cleaning up dead leaves during the growing season.

    USDA Growing Zones: 5–7

    Color Varieties: White, red, yellow, orange (depends on species and cultivar)

    Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained

  • 06 of 43

    Basket-of-Gold (Aurinia saxatilis)

    Basket of Gold
    DEA/A. Moreschi/De Agostini Picture Library/Getty Images

    Although Aurinia fares best and lives longer if sheared back after flowering and not allowed to go to seed, the foliage can be evergreen in mild winters. There doesn’t seem to be any benefit to cutting it back until spring.

    USDA Growing Zones: 3–7

    Color Varieties: Yellow

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

    Soil Needs: Dry, sandy to average, well-draining

  • 07 of 43

    Bear’s Breeches (Acanthus spp.)

    acanthus mollis, norfolk, july
    Neil Holmes / Getty Images

    You may need to cut back old, dying bear's breeches foliage throughout the growing season, but the new healthy growth remaining in the fall could well remain evergreen throughout the winter, depending on weather conditions. In cold climates, leaving the growth in place over winter offers valuable protection to the plant.

    There are three principal species that go by the common name bear's breeches: Acanthus balcanicus , A. mollis, and A. spinosis. They have similar cultural needs.

    USDA Growing Zones: 6–10

    Color Varieties: White flowers with purple bracts

    Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained

  • 08 of 43

    Bellfower (Campanula spp.)

    Peachleaf Bellflower (Campanula persicifolia)

    Roel Meijer / Getty Images

     

    Various Campanula species go by the common name "bellflower." Some popular ones include Campanula portenschlagiana (Dalmation bellflower), C. rapunculoides, creeping bellflower), and C. persicifolia (peach-leaved bellflower).

    Most campanulas get sheared back at some point during the summer to clean up ugly or damaged foliage and encourage another flush of blooming. The fresh basal foliage that results should be left through winter so as not to encourage more tender growth in the fall.

    USDA Growing Zones: 3–8

    Color Varieties: Lavender, blue, white

    Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained

    Continue to 9 of 43 below.
  • 09 of 43

    Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)

    Rudbeckia hirta yellow flower with black brown centre in bloom, black eyed susan in the garden
    Iva Vagnerova / Getty Images

    Although not particularly attractive in winter, black-eyed Susan seed heads will provide plenty of food for birds. Remaining seeds will readily germinate the following spring and propagate volunteers in the garden.

    There are several other members of the Rudbeckia genus that also offer winter benefit to birds, including R. fulgida (orange coneflower), R. triloba (brown-eyed Susan), and R. maxima (large coneflower).

    USDA Growing Zones: 3–9

    Color Varieties: Yellow with dark brown centers

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

    Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained

  • 10 of 43

    Blue Beard/Blue Mist (Caryopteris x clandonensis)

    Blue Mist Spiraea (Caryopteris x clandonensis) 'Worcester Gold', September
    Chris Burrows / Getty Images

    Depending on climate, blue beard can be grown either as a woody shrub or a semi-woody perennial that dies back annually. When grown as a perennial, it can be very sensitive to cold and shouldn't be cut back until tree buds begin to green up in the spring. When spring arrives, trim it back quite early to 6 to 10 inches, as the plants will bloom in mid to late summer on new growth.

    USDA Growing Zones: 5–9

    Color Varieties: Blue, purple; pink cultivars also available

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

    Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained

  • 11 of 43

    Blue Star (Amsonia tabernaemontana)

    Amsonia tabernaemontana Plants
    Amsonia tabernaemontana has many descriptive common names, like Blue Dogbane, Eastern Bluestar, Willow Amsonia and Woodland Blue Star. Photo:© Marie Iannotti

    Blue star is a clump-forming perennial that produces clusters of star-shaped blue flowers in mid to late spring. It holds its shape better if sheared by about one-third after flowering. You’ll lose the seed pods, but you’ll prevent rampant self-seeding. However, after this initial shearing, Amsonia responds better to being cut back in the spring, rather than the fall. Spring pruning seems to rejuvenate it.

    USDA Growing Zones: 3–9

    Color Varieties: Blue

    Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    Soil Needs: Moist, loamy

  • 12 of 43

    Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii)

    Close-up image of the beautiful summer flowering Buddleja, or Buddleia, commonly known as the butterfly bush purple flowers
    Jacky Parker Photography / Getty Images

    Butterfly bush is another shrubby plant that is often grown as a perennial in colder climates, where it dies back to the ground and returns in the spring. When grown as returning perennial, leave the stems and foliage in place through the winter, which will lessen winter kill. When signs of green appear at the base in spring, cut the plant back to 6–10 inches.

    USDA Growing Zones: 6–9

    Color Varieties: Shades of purple; pink, blue, white, yellow cultivars are also available

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

    Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained

    Continue to 13 of 43 below.
  • 13 of 43

    Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)

    Zebra Swallowtail Feeding on Butterfly Weed
    Joesboy / Getty Images

    Although butterfly weed is a prolific self-seeder and should be deadheaded if dozens of new plants are not wanted, it winters better if the foliage is allowed to protect the crown.

    Butterfly weed is a native to North America that blooms in mid to late summer, immediately luring butterflies and other pollinators with its nectar-rich flowers. It grows to about 2 feet tall.

    USDA Growing Zones: 3–9

    Color Varieties: Orange, yellow

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

    Soil Needs: Dry, well-drained

  • 14 of 43

    Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

    Cardinal flowers
    Rockerboo / Flickr / CC By 2.0

    Although cardinal likes moist soil, it doesn’t like sitting in cold, wet soil all winter. Leaving the foliage and flower stems intact protects the plant from some of the ravages of winter, so it's best to hold off clean-up until spring. At that point, you can trim the damaged areas or simply cut back to the ground.

    USDA Growing Zones: 3–9

    Color Varieties: Red; pink, white cultivars also available

    Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    Soil Needs: Rich, moist

  • 15 of 43

    Coral Bells (Heuchera hybrids)

    heucera
    Border of colorful coral bells or heucera plants. Flickr member Amanda Slater

    Coral bells are prone to heaving in soils that freeze and thaw. Leaving the foliage intact helps to mulch the plants through winter.

    Most garden varieties of coral cells are complicated hybrids derived from  H. sanguinea, H. americana, H. micrantha, H. villosa and H. cylindrica. These hybrids are considerably more tolerant of full sun than most of the original species, which are largely shade-lovers.  

    USDA Growing Zones: 4–8

    Color Varieties: Red, coral, pink, white

    Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    Soil Needs: Rich, moist but well-drained

  • 16 of 43

    Cushion Spurge (Euphorbia polychroma)

    Euphorbia polychroma or cushion spurge green and yellow plant
    skymoon13 / Getty Images

    In warmer climates, Euphorbia can actually become a shrub and it’s fine to leave the plant alone until spring and then clean out the dead foliage. In colder climates, simply cut the plant back to its base in the spring. This plant freely self-seeds, so make sure to deadhead spent flowers if you want to prevent this.

    USDA Growing Zones: 4–8

    Color Varieties: Yellow bracts

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

    Soil Needs: Dry, well-drained

    Continue to 17 of 43 below.
  • 17 of 43

    Delphinium (Delphinium elatum)

    delphinium flowers growing in a garden

    The Spruce / Autumn Wood

    The most popular perennial species in the Delphinium genus is D. elatum, a designation that indicates hybridized forms of the plant. The pure species delphiniums are rarely grown as cultivated garden plants.

    Garden delphiniums are fairly finicky, short-lived perennials. Gardeners sometimes give up on growing them as perennials, but still plant them as annuals for the spectacular blooms that cover tall flower stalks.

    If you want to successfully grow Delphiniums as perennials, remove the flower stalks in fall but allow the foliage to remain until spring. This will maximize your chances of the plant returning in spring.

    USDA Growing Zones: 3–7

    Color Varieties: Blue, purple

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

    Soil Needs: Evenly moist, well-drained

  • 18 of 43

    Dianthus (Dianthus spp.)

    closeup of perennial dianthus

    The Spruce / Adrienne Legault 

    Dianthus is a large genus that includes many annual and perennial plants, but the perennial species most popular in garden cultivation include D. plumarius, D. superbus, and D. deltoides. Perennial dianthus plants go by many common names, such as pinks, sweet William, and carnation. In regions where they die in winter, they are often grown as annuals.

    Most Dianthus plants can remain somewhat evergreen throughout the winter and nothing is gained by cutting back in the fall. In fact, in borderline zones, the extra insulation offered by the dead foliage may allow the plants to return in the spring when they would otherwise be grown as annuals. All Dianthus plants will still need some clean-up in the spring.

    USDA Growing Zones: 3–9

    Color Varieties: White, purple, red, pink

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

    Soil Needs: Rich, well-draining, slightly alkaline

  • 19 of 43

    Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia)

    Foamflowers growing

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    The common name of this plant derives from the foamy pinkish-white flowers that bloom in spring for up to six weeks. Tiarella cordifolia enjoys the cool days of fall and may remain evergreen throughout the winter, so unless it will be covered in snow, it's best to leave the foliage in place until spring arrives.

    USDA Growing Zones: 3–8

    Color Varieties: White, with pink accents

    Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade

    Soil Needs: Rich, loamy

  • 20 of 43

    Foxglove (Digitalis spp.)

    Yellow Foxglove (digitalis lutea)
    Yellow Foxglove (digitalis lutea) Photo courtesy of nociveglia

    The Digitalis genus includes some species that are reliably perennial, as well as short-lived biennial forms. Perennial foxgloves, such as D. lutea and D. grandiflora (yellow foxglove), are usually pruned back after flowering and produce a rosette of basal growth that is generally left in place to protect the roots until spring when it is pruned away to make room for new growth.

    USDA Growing Zones: 3–8

    Color Varieties: Yellow, pink, orange

    Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained

    Continue to 21 of 43 below.
  • 21 of 43

    Fringed Bleeding Heart (Dicentra eximia)

    Fringed Leaf Bleeding Heart
    Fringed Leaf Bleeding Heart Marie Iannotti

    Fringed bleeding heart is the native North American wildflower cousin of the showy Asian bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis). Although the crowns of fringed leaf bleeding heart like to be high enough in the soil to be protected from dampness, the foliage is slight enough to leave for the winter and it almost disappears by spring.

    USDA Growing Zones: 3–9

    Color Varieties: Rosy pink to purplish-red

    Sun Exposure: Part shade

    Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained

  • 22 of 43

    Gas Plant (Dictamnus albus)

    Gas Plant, Dictamnus albus
    Raimund Linke / Getty Images

    Gas plant, sometimes known as dittany, is a clump-forming perennial that blooms from late spring into summer. The seed heads of the gas plant can look attractive well into fall and winter, but the real reason to cut back in early spring is that the sap that irritates gardeners' skin is not as pronounced during the plant’s dormant stage.

    USDA Growing Zones: 3–9

    Color Varieties: White, pink, lavender, red

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

    Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained

  • 23 of 43

    Gayfeather (Liatris spicata)

    Blazing Star Flower (Liatris spicata)

    Getty Images / Sharon Dominick

    Gayfeather, also known as blazing star, is another plant that is more sensitive to cool, wet soil than to cold temperatures. When left standing over winter, the seed heads provide food for the birds and may self-seed to make up for any plants that don’t survive. This native North American wildflower is famous for its ability to lure butterflies and other pollinators.

    USDA Growing Zones: 3–9

    Color Varieties: Reddish purple

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

    Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained

  • 24 of 43

    Globe Thistle (Echinops spp.)

    Oursin bleu (Echinops ritro) Small globe thistle.
    marcophotos / Getty Images

    Two species in the Echinops genus are garden plants commonly known as globe thistles: E. ritro (small globe thistle), and E. bannaticus (globe thistle). Several other species are also available (E. sphaerocephalus and E. gmelinii) but they are less common as garden plants.

    Much like coneflowers, Echinops will respond well to pruning in July, producing more flowers and sturdier plants that will stand for the winter and feed the birds. The plant’s winter survival seems improved if not cut back hard in the fall.

    USDA Growing Zones: 3–8

    Color Varieties: Blue

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

    Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained

    Continue to 25 of 43 below.
  • 25 of 43

    Heartleaf Bergenia (Bergenia cordifolia)

    Bergenia plants blooming.

     Ron Evans/Getty Images

    Heartleaf bergenia is a clump-forming plant normally used as a spreading ground cover for shady areas. Pink flowers rise as sturdy stalks in early spring. The shiny round leaves of Bergenia remain evergreen in mild winters, and even cold-damaged leaves can remain an attractive bronze color through the winter. Clean-up winter-damaged foliage in spring, only as needed.

    USDA Growing Zones: 3–8

    Color Varieties: Deep pink

    Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade

    Soil Needs: Humusy, well-drained

  • 26 of 43

    Italian Bugloss (Anchusa azurea)

    Picture of Italian bugloss with flowers of 2 different colors at once.
    Italian bugloss can have flowers in two different colors at the same time. David Beaulieu

    Italian bugloss is a member of the borage family, a short-lived perennial that grows 3 to 5 feet tall and produces loose spikes of flowers in late spring to early summer.

    Anchusa plants look better and self-seed less if sheared back after flowering. Anchusa can be sheared all the way back to the crown since its foliage declines rapidly after flowering. But after this, allow the plant to recover and don’t cut again until spring.

    USDA Growing Zones: 3–8

    Color Varieties: Blue to violet

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

    Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained

  • 27 of 43

    Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum)

    Joe Pye Weed Plants
    Mark Turner / Getty Images

    When a plant is bred from a common weed, you can usually assume that it doesn’t need much care to survive. Joe Pye weed, native to eastern and central North America, is a tall plant (4 to 7 feet) that will bloom well into the fall and then produce fluffy seed heads. You can cut it back if you choose, but it’s not necessary for the plant’s survival. Birds such as chickadees will continue to feed on the seed heads well into winter.

    USDA Growing Zones: 4–9

    Color Varieties: Mauve pink

    Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    Soil Needs: Moist, humusy

  • 28 of 43

    Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis)

    Lady's Mantle Flowers
    Photo: Anne Green-Armytage / Getty Images

    Lady's mantle is a mound-forming perennial with light green, circular leaves with scalloped edges. Stems of chartreuse flowers rise above the foliage in late spring to early summer. Lady’s mantle doesn’t really like to be sheared back frequently. Occasional shearing or selective de-leafing may be necessary because of sun scorch, but lady’s mantle will overwinter better if left intact and cleaned up in the spring.

    USDA Growing Zones: 3–8

    Color Varieties: Chartreuse

    Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained

    Continue to 29 of 43 below.
  • 29 of 43

    Lamb’s Ear (Stachys byzantina)

    Lamb's Ear - Stachys Byzantina K Koch - Lamiaceae
    tc397 / Getty Images

    There’s no point in trying to clean up lamb’s ear for the winter. Let it be and remove winter damage when the leaves perk up in the spring. In borderline zones, leaving the foliage in place will provide some protection to the crowns of the plant. Spring cleanup will be an easy matter of loosely raking up dead foliage.

    USDA Growing Zones: 4–8

    Color Varieties: Light purple (flowers are not showy)

    Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    Soil Needs: Medium moisture to dry soil, well-drained

  • 30 of 43

    Lavender (Lavandula spp.)

    wild catnip plant in bloom with lavender flowers

    ruhrpix / Getty Images

    There are several species of lavender that serve as great aromatic shrubby plants in the garden, blooming through the entire summer. Many areas have a hard time over-wintering lavender. The problem is more often moisture than cold, but cold is a factor. Don’t prune lavender late in the season, as new growth is extremely cold sensitive. Wait until new growth appears in the spring before removing winter dieback.

    USDA Growing Zones: 5–9

    Color Varieties: Purple

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

    Soil Needs: Dry to medium moisture, alkaline

  • 31 of 43

    Lavender Cotton (Santolina chamaecyparissus)

    Lavender cotton plant
    Plants Like Lavender Cotton Don't Tolerate Wet Feet Photo © Dan Hurt

    Lavender cotton is a broadleaf evergreen shrub with aromatic gray-green foliage, flowering with yellow blooms in summer. It is a great plant for dry conditions but does not like moist soils or humid conditions.

    Lavender cotton plants need time to harden before winter. Don’t prune at all after mid-August and wait until new growth appears in the spring before pruning.

    USDA Growing Zones: 6–8

    Color Varieties: Yellow

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

    Soil Needs: Dry, with very good drainage

  • 32 of 43

    Leadwort (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides)

    IMG_2146.JPG
    Plumbago auriculata Andrés Fortuño

    Also known as plumbago, leadwort is a low-growing ground cover perennial that produces blue flowers from mid-summer to mid-fall. There’s not much left to these plants as winter sets in, but many gardeners like to leave it standing to identify its location, since new growth is late to emerge in spring.

    This plant is an aggressive grower, however, and pulling unwanted plants out if fall may be advised if you want to limit its spread.

    USDA Growing Zones: 5–9

    Color Varieties: Blue

    Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained, acidic (fairly good tolerance for dry soils)

    Continue to 33 of 43 below.
  • 33 of 43

    Lupine (Lupinus)

    Lupine Flowers
    Photo: Clive Nichols/Getty Images

    There are several species in the Lupinus genus, but the common garden lupines are mostly hybrids, designated as Lupinus × hybrida. Most of these hybrids are derived from crossing Lupinus polyphyllus, a North American native, with various other non-native species.

    Garden lupines are generally short-lived perennials that are somewhat temperamental to grow. The flower stalks can be trimmed back after the blooms fade (this may prompt a second fall bloom), but leave the foliage in place to protect the root crown. This will improve the chances for the plant to survive the winter, especially in colder climates.

    USDA Growing Zones: 4–8

    Color Varieties: White, pink, red, yellow, blue, purple, bicolors

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

    Soil Needs: Rich, evenly moist, slightly acidic

  • 34 of 43

    Mums (Chrysanthemum)

    multiple bright pink Chrysanthemum flowers

    Treehugger / Steven Redmond 

    The profusely blooming florists mums are generally nursery-grown potted plants that don't do well when planted in the garden. But there are a number of hardy mums that are designed for garden use. These late summer and fall bloomers can be cut back to 6 inches or so in warmer climates to continue growing, but in colder climates it is best to leave the foliage in place to protect the root crowns over winter. Cutting back the plants severely will simulate late new growth, which will be very susceptible to winter kill.

    USDA Growing Zones: 5–9

    Color Varieties: Gold, white, off-white, yellow, bronze (rust), red, burgundy, pink, lavender, purple

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

    Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-draining

  • 35 of 43

    Pincushion Flower (Scabiosa columbaria)

    A Group of Lavender Scabiosa Flowers
    Maria Mosolova / Getty Images

    The Scabiosa genus includes several annual and perennial species of pincushion flowers. S. columbaria is one of the most common perennial types, a mound-forming 2-foot-tall plant that produces white, pink, blue, or purple flowers from May to September. You can remove old flower stems from the pincushion flower, but this plant is so temperamental that leaving the old foliage may be the only way you will know where the plant was come spring. In warmer areas, where it is hardier, the foliage may be evergreen.

    USDA Growing Zones: 5–7

    Color Varieties: White, pink, blue, purple

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

    Soil Needs: Loamy, evenly moist, well-draining

  • 36 of 43

    Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

    purple coneflower

    The Spruce / K. Dave

    Purple coneflower is a North American prairie native. While the flower heads are not particularly attractive in winter, wild birds will certainly find them appealing for the edible seeds. If you’d like both birds and aesthetics, you can always prune your coneflowers in July and get squat, sturdy plants that will provide seeds without flopping.

    USDA Growing Zones: 3–8

    Color Varieties: Purplish pink

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

    Soil Needs: Dry to medium moisture, well-drained

    Continue to 37 of 43 below.
  • 37 of 43

    Red-Hot Poker (Kniphofia spp. and hybrids)

    red hot poker plants

     Aimin Tang / Getty Images

    The Kniphofia genus includes several species that go by the common name red-hot poker plant, including  K, uvaria, K. galpiniK. northiaeK. rooperi , and K. thomsonii. More common as garden plants, however, are the many hybrids and cultivars derived from complicated cross-breeding of these species.

    You can trim back the foliage on red hot poker plants as it begins to decline, but don’t cut it back entirely. The crown is very sensitive to cold and leaving a clump of foliage will help protect it through the winter. Trimming by half will keep the foliage from completely flopping over and retaining too much moisture around the crown.

    USDA Growing Zones: 5–9

    Color Varieties: Combinations of red, yellow, orange

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

    Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained

  • 38 of 43

    Red Valerian (Centranthus ruber)

    Centrathus Ruber plants growing in a meadow

    Iva Vagnerova / Getty Images

    Red valerian, sometimes known as Jupiter's beard, is a bushy, woody-based perennials renowned for its ability to thrive in poor soils. Showy blooms of white, pink, or crimson are produced from spring to frost.

    Cutting valerian back to about 6 or 8 inches in late summer and then leaving that new growth over winter increases the plant’s chance of survival, but the spent flowers should be deadheaded if you want to control the rampant self-seeding.

    USDA Growing Zones: 5–8

    Color Varieties: Pale to dark red

    Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    Soil Needs: Sandy, well-drained; does not like wet soils

  • 39 of 43

    Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)

    Russian sage

    ​The Spruce / K. Dave

    Like its cousin, lavender, Russian sage doesn’t like to be trimmed back in the fall, because its tender growth is sensitive to cold. Wait until new growth appears in the spring and then cut back to about 6 to 8 inches. If the only new growth is from the base of the plant, the entire top woody section has died back and it can be pruned to the ground.

    USDA Growing Zones: 5–9

    Color Varieties: Blue

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

    Soil Needs: Medium moisture to dry, well-drained

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    Sea Lavender (Limonium spp.)

    Sea lavender flowers

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    The Limonium genus has more than 100 species, many of which are known as sea-lavender. They bear no relation to the common lavender herb, however, but are instead related to the leadwort/plumbago group of plants. Most types have pink, lavender, or purple flowers that bloom in mid to late summer. The most common species of sea lavender for garden use are L. platyphyllum and L. sinuatum. The name "sea lavender" comes from this plant's fondness for sea marshes.

    The flowers are held so high on this airy plant that it’s easy to forget the cluster of leaves at the base. Go ahead and forget them. Let them be for the winter and clean up any die-back in the spring.

    USDA Growing Zones: 3–9

    Color Varieties: Lavender blue

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

    Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained

    Continue to 41 of 43 below.
  • 41 of 43

    Tickseed (Coreopsis spp.)

    Tickseed.
    Tickseed. Photo: © Debbie Hadley, WILD Jersey

    Several species of the Coreopsis genus are commonly known as tickseed. Among them are C. tripteris (tall tickseed), C. Rosea, (pink tickseed), C. pubescens, (star tickseed), C. grandiflora (large-flowered tickseed), C. auriculata (ear-leaved tickseed), C. major (greater tickseed), C. lanceolata (lance-leaved tickseed), and C. verticillata (threadleaf tickseed).

    • All species of coreopsis seem to fare better if allowed to stand during the winter and cleaned-up in the spring.
    • USDA Growing Zones: 4–9
    • Color Varieties: Yellow to orange; some pink varieties available
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Varies by species; most prefer dry to medium moisture, well-draining soil
  • 42 of 43

    Turtlehead (Chelone lyonii)

    flowering rose turtlehead (Chelone obliqua)
    Justus de Cuveland / Getty Images

    Turtlehead is a clump-forming perennial that has hooded flowers that resemble those of snapdragons. It favors moist environments and does not do well in dry soils. Keeping the foliage on until spring seems to improve turtlehead's winter survival. The flower heads, however, should be deadheaded as they fade.

    USDA Growing Zones: 3–8

    Color Varieties: Pink, purple, or white

    Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    Soil Needs: Rich, moist

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    Wandflower (Gaura lindheimeri)


    Wand Flower - Gaura 'Sparkle White'
    Gaura 'Sparkle White' stays small and makes a nice edge of the border plant. I think guara looks best with a dark background. Photo Provided by All-America Selections (AAS)

    Guara lindheimeri goes by several common names, including wand flower, bee blossom, guara, and Indian feather. Whatever you call it, wandflower is such a short-lived perennial that allowing the flowers to remain so they can possibly self-seed may be the only way you’ll see another plant pop up in the garden next spring.

    USDA Growing Zones: 6–9

    Color Varieties: White, pink

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

    Soil Needs: Sandy loam, well-drained