30 Great Ornamental Plants For Your New Garden

  • 01 of 30

    Yarrow - Achillea (Yarrow)

    Achillea (Yarrow) 'Moonshine' and 'Coronation Gold'
    Achillea (Yarrow) 'Moonshine' and 'Coronation Gold'. Marie Iannotti

    This perennial is a member of the daisy family, known for its colors, lacey leaves and reliability. It is very easy to grow in most garden soils, and is available in many different cultivars. It spreads heartily, and can crowd out some other plants. 

    • Zones: 3 - 10 (depending on cultivar)
    • Colors: Pastels, Rust, Deep Red
    • Height: 2 - 4' Width: 1 - 2'
    • Bloom Period: Early Summer - Fall
    • Exposure: Full Sun
    • Notes: Benefits from a shearing after the initial bloom fades.

    Full Profile and Growing Suggestions for Achillea (Yarrow)

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  • 02 of 30

    Ajuga (Bugleweed)

    Ajuga 'Chocolate Chip'
    Ajuga 'Chocolate Chip'. Photo Courtesy of STEPABLES®.

    Bugleweed is a great ground cover that comes in different leaf colors and spreads very nicely. It prevents weeds from growing and blooms in late spring with tiny beautiful blue flowers. It grows well in sun or shade, has no problems to speak of and as it spreads you can dig up the new plants and move them elsewhere. 

    • AKA: Bugle Weed, Carpet Bugle
    • Zones: 3 - 9
    • Colors: Blue
    • Height: 2 - 6" Width: Groundcover
    • Bloom Period: Late Spring/ Early Summer
    • Exposure: Full Sun/ Partial Shade
    • Notes: Grown for its foliage. All parts of the plant are poisonous if eaten.
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  • 03 of 30

    Aquilegia (Columbine)

    Growing Aquilegia (Columbine)
    Growing Aquilegia (Columbine). Marie Iannotti

    Columbine is a great perennial with a cultivar that is suitable to almost any climate. Native to mountainous regions, they are a member of the buttercup family, and include almost 75 diffferent varieties, many hybrids now bread for brightly colored flowers. This is very easy to grow flower, perfect for beginners. 

    • Zones: Depends on variety 3 - 9
    • Colors: White, Pink, Lavender, Peach, Blue, Yellow, Bi-colors
    • Height: 12 - 24" Width: 12 - 24"
    • Bloom Period: Late Spring / Early Summer
    • Exposure: Full Sun/ Partial Shade (They don't like to fry in summer.)
    • Notes: Check on the species you are buying. Some prefer moist woodland conditions, others are alpine species that need good drainage.
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  • 04 of 30


    New York Asters (Symphyotrichum novi-belgii), Michaelmas Daisies
    New York Asters (Symphyotrichum novi-belgii), Michaelmas Daisies. Marie Iannotti

    Another member of the daisy family, asters are very hearty plants, but they do not like either too-wet or too-dry soil. They self-sow very freely, and root groups need dividing every couple of years. A strong virtue is the fact that asters bloom very late in the season, after many other perennials are done for the year.

    • Zones: 4 - 9
    • Colors: Lavender, Blue
    • Height: 3 - 4' Width: 2 - 3'
    • Bloom Period: Late Summer / Fall
    • Exposure: Full Sun
    • Notes: Needs to be pinched early in the season, to produce bushy plants and fall blooming.
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  • 05 of 30

    Brunnera macrophylla (Siberian Bugloss)

    Brunnera macrophylla, the False Forget-Me-Not
    Brunnera macrophylla, the False Forget-Me-Not. Marie Iannotti

    Siberian blugloss is a great spring-blooming perennial for partial shade. Brunnera is one of the few plants that have true blue flowers. After bloom time is over, the dark green foliage is a great foil for small to medium-sized variegated shade plants such as hostas. 


    • AKA: Siberian Bugloss, False Forget-Me-Not
    • Zones: 3 - 9
    • Colors: Blue
    • Height: 12 - 18" Width: 12"
    • Bloom Period: Late Spring
    • Exposure: Shade / Partial Shade
    • Notes: The foliage can get a bit ratty as the weather warms. Cut it back to new growth, to rejuvenate.
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  • 06 of 30

    Buddleia (Butterfly Bush)

    Buddleia, Butterfly Bush
    Buddleia, Butterfly Bush. Marie Iannotti

    The common name for this perennial plant indicates its main virtue--it draws butterflies and ohter pollinators, such as honeybees and hummingbirds. With thick, woody stalks, it is sometimes condsidered a shrub. Not all varieties are hardy in northern climates, so check carefully before buying. 

    • Zones: 5- 9
    • Colors: White, Purples, Pinks
    • Height: 5 - 10' Width:4 - 15'
    • Bloom Period: Summer (Long season of bloom)
    • Exposure: Full Sun
    • Notes:Prune to 8-12" in early spring. No need to deadhead. Yes, it really does attract butterflies.
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  • 07 of 30

    Senecio Cineraria hybrids (Cineraria)

    Cineraria stellata
    Cineraria stellata. Photo Provided by Katherine P. Bretz. Used with Permission.

    Cineraria is an annual from the daisy family.  It has gorgeous huge purple or blue flower heads. Looks great with ferns. It comes back reliably, reseeds itself, and it can grow in amazingly shallow soil. It is not bothered by deer. It grows best in semi shade and prefers cool weather.

    • Zones: 9 - 10
    • Colors: White, Pinks, Purples, Blues
    • Height: 1 - 3' Width: 12 - 18"
    • Bloom Period: Late Winter - Early Summer
    • Exposure: Partial to Full Shade
    • Notes: Most of us only see Cineraria as cut flowers in the florist shop, but it is also a good garden plant.
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  • 08 of 30


    How to Grow and Prune Clematis
    How to Grow and Prune Clematis. Marie Iannotti

    Most clematis are climbing vines with huge, colorful flowers, among the most spectacular of ornamental garden plants. They are not hard to grow, but the root areas require cool shade while the tops of the plants need full sun. Planting them among low perennials is a good idea, or shading the root area with thick mulch can also help them grow robustly 

    Clematis, the queen of vines, are divided into 3 categories: Early Flowering, Late Flowering and Repeat Bloomers.

    • Zones: Generally 4 - 9
    • Colors: White, Pink, Yellow, Purple, Burgundy
    • Height: 8 - 10' Width: 3'
    • Bloom Period: Depends on variety
    • Exposure: Full sun, but roots need to be shaded or mulched.
    • Notes: The old saying goes: Head in the sun, feet in the shade. Clematis will climb toward the sun, but they like their roots cool. That's why they grow so well under other plants, like roses.
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  • 09 of 30

    Coreopsis (Tickseed)

    Coreopsis Grandiflora Photo
    Coreopsis Grandiflora Blossom. Marie Iannotti

    Like other members of the perennial daily family, coeopsis/tickseed is a very easy-to-grow, durable plant. It blooms in summer, and for a longer period than almost any other perennial.  There are two major forms: lanceolata (shown above) and verticillata, also known as Threadleaf Coreopsis.

    They bloom over the entire summer and fall season, there are lots of colors to choose from (mostly shades of yellow, also  raspberry and white) and they can be split into five or six smaller plants every 2-3 years s

    • Zones: 4 - 9
    • Colors: Yellows, Pink, Red
    • Height: 1 - 3' Width: 1 - 2'
    • Bloom Period: Early Summer - Fall
    • Exposure: Full Sun
    • Notes: Responds well to deadheading or shearing. Needs dividing every 3 years or so.

    Full Profile and Growing Suggestions for Coreopsis (Tickseed)

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  • 10 of 30

    Dicentra (Bleeding Heart)

    Bleeding Heart, Dicentra spectabilis
    Bleeding Heart, Dicentra spectabilis. Marie Iannotti

    Dicentra is a rather delicate perennial shade plant with small flowers. The plant requires deep shade and very moist soil, making them good for shady natural gardens, but not suitable for other conditions. The delicate flowers in early spring make them worth a try, even for novice gardeners. Once they find a suitable spot, they are dependable. 

    • Zones: 3 - 10
    • Colors: Pastels, Rust, Deep Red
    • Height: 2 - 4' Width: 1 - 2'
    • Bloom Period: Early Summer - Fall
    • Exposure: Shade to Partial Shade, Can sometimes tolerate sun in cool climates if kept very moist.
    • Notes: Benefits from a shearing after the initial bloom fades.
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  • 11 of 30

    Echinacea (Cone Flower)

    Echinacea, Purple Cone Flower
    Echinacea, Purple Cone Flower. Marie Iannotti

    Coneflower is another long-blooming perennial member of the daisy family, another sun-lover. Once known primarily as "purple coneflower," cultivars with other colors have recently been developed.

    They bloom all summer and attract birds (mostly finches) and butterflies. The birds like the seed heads in winter too. It is a very easy plant to grow, and spreads either by self-sowing its own seeds or by dividing the roots. 

    • Zones: 2 - 10
    • Colors: Purple, Pink-Purple, White, Yellow, Orange (and more coming)
    • Height: 2 - 3' Width: 2 - 3'
    • Bloom Period: Mid-Summer - Fall
    • Exposure: Full Sun / Partial Shade
    • Notes: Deer resistant. Self-sows. Seeds are popular with birds.

    Full Profile and Growing Suggestions for Echinacea (Coneflower)

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  • 12 of 30

    Mirabilis jalapa (Four O'Clock's)

    Mirabilis jalapa (Four O'Clocks)
    Mirabilis jalapa (Four O'Clocks). Photo: © Marie Iannotti (2008) licensed to About.com, Inc.

    The four o'clock is unusual in that a single plant can have flowers of different colors. As the name implies, the flowers open up in the late afternoon, then close up again in the morning. The individual flowers are short-lived, but new ones open constantly. The plant is perennial in warmer climates, but is grown as an annual in colder zones. 

    Zones: 7 - 11 (Can be grown as an annual elsewhere and the tubers can be lifted and over-wintered.)

    • Colors: Red, Pink, Yellow, Cream
    • Height: 3 - 4' Width: 15 - 18"
    • Bloom Period: Mid-Summer
    • Exposure: Full Sun
    • Notes: Plant parts are poisonous if ingested, and have been known to kill pets. 

    Read more tips for growing 4 O'Clocks

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  • 13 of 30

    Gaillardia (Blanket Flower)

    Gaillardia, Blanket Flower Photo
    Gaillardia, Blanket Flower. Marie Iannotti

    A native perennial in both North and South America, blanket flowers are related to the common sunflower. It is tolerant of just about any soil, and produces beautiful daisy-like blooms of red/orange/yellow all summer long. The varieties normally grown are annuals, but they readily reseed themselves in the garden. 

    • Zones: 4 - 10
    • Colors: Mahogany, Red, Yellow, Orange, Bi-color
    • Height: 2 - 3' Width: 2 - 3'
    • Bloom Period: Mid-Summer - Fall
    • Exposure: Full Sun
    • Notes: Very drought tolerant. Attractive to bees and butterflies. Will self-seed, but not always true to seed.
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  • 14 of 30

    Geranium sanguineum (Bloody Cranesbill)

    Geranium sanguineum Photo
    Geranium sanguineum Photo. Marie Iannotti

    A delicate looking perennial that is surprisingly sturdy, bloody cranesbill, once established, will last for many years. It blooms first in early- to midsummer, and often reblooms in early fall. It is one of the easiest flowers to grow, and is great in the forefront of the garden.

    • Zones: 4 - 9
    • Colors: Pinks, Blues
    • Height: 8 - 12" Width: Spreads
    • Bloom Period: Early - Mid-Summer, Will probably repeat bloom
    • Exposure: Full Sun / Partial Shade
    • Notes: Geraniums can look ragged after their first bloom. Shear back and new growth and flowers will follow.
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  • 15 of 30

    Gerbera jamesonii (Gerber Daisies, African Daisy)

    Gerbera jamesonii (Gerber Daisy)
    Gerbera jamesonii (Gerber Daisy). Photo Courtesy of Norhayati Ibrahim

    Another member of the perennial daisy family, gerbera daisies are usually grown as annuals in all but the warmest climates. They are very easy to grow, with flowers of very vivid hues that continue to bloom for many months. A must for gardeners to love bright colors. 

    • Zones: 9 - 10, often grown as annuals
    • Colors: Shades of white and vivid yellow, orange, pink and red
    • Height: 6 - 18" Width: 12 - 18"
    • Bloom Period: Repeat bloomer, mid-spring through fall
    • Exposure: Full Sun
    • Notes: Deer resistant and very popular with butterflies & bees. Gerber daisies don't like to dry out.
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  • 16 of 30

    Hemerocallis (Day Lilies)

    Hemerocallis (Day Lily)
    Hemerocallis (Day Lily). Marie Iannotti

    One of the very best ornamental perennial flowers, with literally hundreds of varieties available. Ideally suited for new gardeners, as they are disease, deer, and insect resistant. There is an endless choice of colors, bloom shapes and sizes, and bloom times. Rarely need dividing, but can be lifted and split in early spring to increase your stock or share plants with others. 

    • Zones: 4 - 10
    • Colors: Pastels, Yellow, Orange, Red
    • Height: 2 - 5' Width: 2 - 4'
    • Bloom Period: Either Summer or Repeat Blooming, depending on variety
    • Exposure: Full Sun / Partial Shade
    • Notes: Vast number of variations are available, with new ones introduces each year. 
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  • 17 of 30

    Heuchera (Coral Bells)

    Heuchera (Coral Bells)
    Heuchera (Coral Bells). Marie Iannotti

    Depending on whether you want them for foliage or blooms, there is a variety of Coral Bell to suit almost everyone's needs. Leaves of many varieties have attractive veined patterns; the flowers are usually less showy. A prime choice for shade gardens, but will also grow in sun, especially in cooler climates.

    • Zones: 4 - 8 (depends on variety)
    • Colors: Grown for their foliage, which is being bred in many patterns of variegation as well as leaves of burgundy, silver, butterscotch, bronze and yellow.
    • Height: 12 - 18" Width: 12 - 18"
    • Bloom Period: Late spring / Early Summer
    • Exposure: Full sun to Partial Shade
    • Notes: Heuchera are currently very popular with breeders and many new varieties are introduced each year.
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  • 18 of 30

    Hosta (Plantain Lilly)

    Hosta. Marie Iannotti

    A widely popular shade perennial, hostas are available in hundreds of varieties, from tiny "mouse ears" plants to enormous plants with elephant-ear leaves. The plants do bloom, but it is the varying shades of green and blue leaves, often variegated or ruffled, that are the real draw. 

    • Zones: 3 - 8
    • Colors: Grown for their foliage, in greens, blues and yellows
    • Height: 6" - 2' Width: 8" - 5'
    • Bloom Period: Grown for their foliage. The flowers are usually removed.
    • Exposure: Partial Shade (Some varieties can tolerate more sun.)
    • Notes: One of the easiest plants to grow. Unfortunately, they are also popular with all kinds of animal pests.
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  • 19 of 30

    Iris (Bearded Iris)

    Iris (Bearded Iris)
    Iris (Bearded Iris). Marie Iannotti

    Bearded Iris are among the showiest plants in early spring, and are among the easiest flowers to grow, though they can be susceptible to worm damage from borer insects. Some varieties favor warmer climates, but there are iris suitable for even subarctic environments. The most popular type, the tall bearded iris, may need staking to prevent the flower stalks from falling over. 

    • Zones: 3 - 9
    • Colors: White, yellow, shades of purple
    • Height: 2 - 3' Width: 1 - 2'
    • Bloom Period: Mid-spring / Early summer
    • Exposure: Full Sun
    • Notes: The're not called tall without good reason. Staking is usually required. One good rain will toppled these top heavy bloomers.
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  • 20 of 30

    Lavendula (Lavendar)

    Lavendula (Lavender)
    Lavendula (Lavender). Marie Iannotti

    The various varieties of this plant are short-lived perennials or annuals, depending on the zone in which they are planted. The pale lavender, purple or light blue flowers are both attractive in the landscape, and also can be used in cooking or in essential oils. 

    • Zones: 5 - 10, depending on species, used as annuals in cooler climates
    • Colors: Lavender and white
    • Height: 1 - 3'' Width: 2 - 5'
    • Bloom Period: Summer (May repeat)
    • Exposure: Full Sun
    • Notes: Lavender's hardiness is affected by winter dampness. Lavender does not like to sit in wet soil.

    Growing Lavender Anywhere

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  • 21 of 30

    Leucanthemum x superbum (Shasta Daisy)

    Shasta Daisy Photo
    Shasta Daisy. Marie Iannotti

    Shasta daisies are the "classic" daisy, a legacy perennial plant popular in cottage gardens everywhere. Very popular for cut flowers, this is a rare perennial that can be started from seed. It spreads very well in the garden, and tolerates some amount of partial shade, though thrives best in full sun. 

    • Zones: 4 - 10
    • Colors: White with Gold Center (New varieties can be double petaled and ruffled, even scented.)
    • Height: 2 - 3' Width: 18 - 24"
    • Bloom Period: Mid-Summer - Fall
    • Exposure: Full Sun / Partial Shade
    • Notes: Extremely drought tolerant. Attracts bees and butterflies. Will self-seed.
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  • 22 of 30

    Lilium orientalis (Oriental Lily)

    Lily 'Casa Blanca'
    Lily 'Casa Blanca'. Marie Iannotti

    Planted from perennial bulbs, oriental lily flowers in early summer, after the Asiatic lilies have seen their day and just before most of the daylilies get started. They have a delightful aroma, often with spicy overtones. Many varieties will produce tiny bulblets, and will gradually, but controllably, spread in the garden. delightful aroma, often with spicy overtones. Many varieties will produce tiny bulblets, and will gradually, but controllably, spread in the garden. They thrive in slightly acidic soil, or if fed with an acid fertilizer. 

    • Zones: 4 - 8, depending on species
    • Colors: White, yellows, pinks, reds and orange
    • Height: 2 - 5' Width: 18" - 2'
    • Bloom Period: Summer
    • Exposure: Full Sun/ Partial Shade
    • Notes: There is great variety, even among lilies of the same species. Some require a period of cold dormancy. Many, like the 'Casablanca' Oriental Lily pictured here, are fragrant.
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  • 23 of 30

    Lupinus (Lupine)

    Lupins - Growing Lupins
    Lupins - Growing Lupins. Photo Courtesy of Anna Runesson Hedin / Stock.xchng. Used with Permission.

    Most varieties of Lupines are fairly short-lived perennials, but they start fairly easily from seeds. They produce beautiful, exotic flowers in early- to mid-summer, and sometimes rebloom in early fall with a less-showy display. They may readily self-seed in soils that are very favorable. 

    • Zones: 4 - 8
    • Colors: White, yellows, pinks, blue/ purple
    • Height: 2 - 3' Width: 12 - 18"
    • Bloom Period: Early - mid-Summer
    • Exposure: Full Sun / Partial Shade
    • Notes: More lupines are done in by hot summers than by cold winters. They aren't usually long-lived, but they are worth growing even as annuals.
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  • 24 of 30

    Narcissis (Daffodils)

    Narcissis (Daffodils)
    Narcissis (Daffodils). Marie Iannotti

    An early-spring perennial planted from bulbs, daffodils look great in the garden or naturalized in a lawn or woodland area. They are sometimes used in a shady garden, since they bloom before trees and shrubs leaf out. They are great cut flowers for spring arrangements. 

    • Zones: 4 - 11
    • Colors: Whites, yellows, pinks
    • Height: 6 - 12" Width: 9 - 12"
    • Bloom Period: Early - mid-Spring
    • Exposure: Full Sun / Partial Shade
    • Notes: The American Daffodil Society the words daffodil and Narcissus are synonyms. Whatever you call them, they signal spring in many areas. Daffodils are deer and rodent resistant and many will naturalize over time. You can often tell where houses used to be, by the sweep of narcissus that were once planted along the foundation.
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  • 25 of 30

    Peonies (Paeonia)

    Paeonia (Peony)
    Paeonia (Peony). Marie Iannotti

    Granted it's got a relatively short bloom season, but for its spectacular flowers, robust foliage and near-immortality, peonies can't be beat.  Once established, peonies will last virtually forever, oven outliving a home's owners. They do not like to be moved, however, so plant them in a location where you want them to stay. Recent cultivars have returned to single flowers that don't collapse under their own weight. A delightful specimen plant is the fern-leaf peony, expensive to purchase but a true conversation piece in the garden. 

    • Zones: 3 - 8
    • Colors: Whites, Pinks, Reds
    • Height: 2 - 3' Width: 2 - 3'
    • Bloom Period: Late Spring / Early Summer
    • Exposure: Full Sun / Partial Shade
    • Notes: Long-lived plants that hate to be disturbed.

    Full Profile and Growing Suggestions for Paeonia (Peony)

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  • 26 of 30

    Rudbeckia hirta (Black-Eyed Susan, Brown-eyed Susan)

    Rudbeckia (Black-Eyed Susan)
    Rudbeckia (Black-Eyed Susan). Marie Iannotti

    Black-eyes Susan is an upright, daisy-like flower native to North American prairies. It is now widely grown as an ornamental garden plant, where it's very long bloom period from summer into fall make it very appealing. Some gardeners use large clumps as shrubby shapes in the garden.  

    • Zones: 3 - 9
    • Colors: Yellows
    • Height: 18 - 24" Width: 18 - 30"'
    • Bloom Period: Early Summer through Fall
    • Exposure: Full Sun/ Partial Shade
    • Notes: leave the stalks and seed heads on the plant at the end of the season; they are a favorite of winter birds. 
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  • 27 of 30

    Salvia nemorosa (Meadow Sage)

    Salvia nemorosa (Meadow Sage)
    Salvia nemorosa (Meadow Sage). Marie Iannotti

    This tough perennial has the virtue of being very tolerant of drought. The flowers of violet, purple or white will rebloom if the spent flowers are deadheaded promptly, extending the bloom period into fall. It will survive light frosts. 

    • Zones: 4 - 9
    • Colors: Violet-Blue
    • Height: 1 - 3' Width: 15 - 18"'
    • Bloom Period: Spring through Summer
    • Exposure: Full Sun
    • Notes: A favorite of butterflies and other pollinators
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  • 28 of 30

    Scabiosa columbaria (Pincushion fFower)

    Scabiosa 'Blue Butterfly'
    Scabiosa 'Blue Butterfly'. Marie Iannotti

    These members of the honeysuckle family can be either annual or perennial, depending on the type. Most common are the annual pink or blue types, which lend a nice pastel tone to the garden. Pincushion flowers bloom non-stop, attract butterflies, only requiring some deadheading to keep the blooms going. 

    • Zones: 3 - 9
    • Colors: Pink,  Blue
    • Height: 1 - 2' Width: 12 - 18"
    • Bloom Period: Late Spring through Fall
    • Exposure: Full Sun / Partial Shade
    • Notes: Blooms longer if deadheaded. Perennial types can be short-lived (2 yrs.)
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  • 29 of 30

    Sedum 'Autumn Joy' or 'Autumn Fire' (Showy Stonecrop)

    Sedum 'Autumn Joy'
    Sedum 'Autumn Joy'. Marie Iannotti

    Sedums are fleshy-leaved perennials that come in dozens of different forms; these are the tall varieties that lend earthy colors to the fall garden. Mauve pink, rust or red hues appear in very late summer through fall. The 'Autumn Fire' cultivar had a tighter growth habit that doesn't flop over as readily as does 'Autumn Joy.'

    • Zones: 3 - 9
    • Colors: Mauve Pink
    • Height: 2 - 3' Width: 18 - 24"
    • Bloom Period: Late Summer / Early Fall
    • Exposure: Full Sun / Partial Shade
    • Notes: Looks good all season.

    Full Profile and Growing Suggestions for Sedum (Showy Stonecrop)

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  • 30 of 30

    Tulip (Tulips)

    Tulips. Photo: © Marie Iannotti (2008) licensed to About.com, Inc.

    No list would be complete without tulips to lend bright color to the early spring garden. Many, many varieties are available, some native species and others wildly creative hybrids with double petals or ruffled petals. New varieties are created each year. Tulips will naturalize easily in colder climates, but the bulbs need to be planted as annuals if you want to enjoy tulips in warmer climates, as the bulbs require a cooling period in order to bloom.  In cooler climates, fall is the time to plant tulip bulbs for the following spring. 

    • Zones: 4 - 6 (There are a few that can survive in Zones 7 & 8.)
    • Colors: White, Yellow, Pink, Red, Purple
    • Height: 6" - 2' Width: 12 - 24"
    • Bloom Period: Spring
    • Exposure: Full Sun/ Partial Shade
    • Notes: There are about 100 species of tulips and many more varieties within those species. There should be a tulip for every taste, but deer and squirrels love to eat tulip flowers and bulbs.