15 Perennial Plants for a Zone 8 Garden

Colorful Perennials for Spring and Summer

Stella de Oro daylily yellow flower closeup.
David Beaulieu

Perennial plants in zone 8 gardens must be able to tolerate a fair amount of summer heat. This challenge can be mitigated through mulching, irrigation, and proper site selection. Or, you could plant early-spring bloomers that grow and before the summer heat sets in.

Your choices include not only classic flowering perennial plants but also plants that grow from bulbs and tubers, ground covers, and ornamental grasses.

  • 01 of 15

    Tall Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata)

    Closeup of deep-pink garden phlox flowers.

    Jacky Parker Photography/Getty Images 

    Tall garden phlox is a must-have for the summer garden. It is a long-blooming perennial (mid-summer to fall), produces an impressive display (numerous flowers on a plant that usually grows 24 to 36 inches tall), and comes in many colors. It is, however, susceptible to powdery mildew, especially in zone 8 and higher. Powdery mildew will not kill the plant, but it will negatively impact its appearance. To minimize infestations of powdery mildew, provide tall garden phlox with plenty of space, seek mildew-resistant varieties, and avoid overhead watering (irrigate it at ground level).

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8
    • Bloom Color: Purplish-red, white, lavender, pink, rose, purple, coral; some varieties have a contrasting dark eye
    • Sun Exposure: Partial shade (full sun in colder zones)
    • Soil Needs: A fertile, loamy soil that drains well
  • 02 of 15

    Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis)

    Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis) flowers in pink.

    shene/Getty Images

    Some plants that consider to be shade plants can actually take quite a bit of sun in colder zones, providing they are given an adequate amount of water. The common bleeding heart is one of them. But, in zone 8, this perennial should definitely be treated as a shade plant. Standing about two feet tall, its claim to fame is its unique heart-shaped flowers that resemble a heart.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9
    • Bloom Color: Pink, red, white
    • Sun Exposure: Full shade in zone 8 (partial shade in colder zones)
    • Soil Needs: Good drainage, evenly moist, humusy
  • 03 of 15

    Firebird Coneflower (Echinacea 'Firebird')

    Firebird coneflower with its orange flower.
    David Beaulieu

    The 'Frebird' coneflower grows up to to 34 inches tall and sports blooms with a bright orange color. It attracts birds to the yard, offers winter interest with its seed heads, and makes a good cut flower. Its drought tolerance is a real plus in hot Zone 8 summers.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Bloom Color: Orange; many color choices are available for other coneflower varieties
    • Sun Exposure: Partial sun in zone 8 (full sun in colder zones)
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained, average-to-below-average water requirements, tolerant of poor soil
  • 04 of 15

    Shasta Daisy (Leucanthemum × superbum 'Becky')

    Becky shasta daisy flower closeup.
    David Beaulieu

    Shasta daisy 'Becky' grows three to four feet with a clumping habit that not require staking due to its sturdy stalks. This perennial bears the classic daisy flower shape with white petals surrounding a yellow center. It requires well-drained soil because water-logged soil in winter can kill it. Divide it every three years or so to rejuvenate it. Deadhead spent blooms to encourage additional blooming.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
    • Bloom Color: White with yellow centers
    • Sun Exposure: Partial shade in zone 8 (full sun in colder zones)
    • Soil Needs: Good drainage is the main requirement
    Continue to 5 of 15 below.
  • 05 of 15

    Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans)

    Ajuga plant with blue flowers.
    David Beaulieu

    Bugleweed spreads via rhizomes, making it useful as a ground cover because it reaches only six to nine inches tall, even when in bloom. Unfortunately, that same quality makes it potentially invasive, so check with your local county extension office before planting it. If you decide to grow it, select a location away from flower beds and lawns where you don't want it to intrude. Not only does it bear pretty blue flowers, but the foliage is also an attractive dark color on some cultivars, such as 'Black Scallop'.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 10
    • Bloom Color: Blue
    • Sun Exposure: Partial shade in zone 8 (full sun to partial shade colder zones)
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained, average water requirements
  • 06 of 15

    Spotted Deadnettle (Lamium maculatum)

    Spotted deadnettle with a pink flower.
    David Beaulieu

    Another perennial ground cover option is spotted deadnettle. It grows less than than one foot tall and it is somewhat less aggressive than bugleweed. This perennial has attractive variegated foliage in addition to its blooms. It needs little care if planted in full shade, you just need to keep the soil evenly moist.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Bloom Color: White, pink, purple
    • Sun Exposure: Full shade in zone 8 (partial shade to full shade in colder zones)
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained, with average water and fertility
  • 07 of 15

    Creeping Thyme (Thymus spp.)

    Red creeping thyme in bloom.
    David Beaulieu

    A better-behaved ground cover than either bugleweed or spotted deadnettle is creeping thyme. It is low growing, reaching just two to six inches tall (depending on variety). The trade-off, however, is that it is neither as showy nor as good at suppressing weeds. The flowers are small, but this perennial does boast aromatic foliage. Care primarily takes the form of keeping soil evenly moist and removing weeds that spring up within it to avoid overcrowding and competition.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Bloom Color: White, and shades of pink, purple, and lilac
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained, evenly moist, and of average fertility
  • 08 of 15

    Daylily (Hemerocallis 'Stella de Oro')

    Stella de Oro daylily flower closeup.
    David Beaulieu

    'Stella de Oro' daylily bears golden yellow, trumpet-shaped flowers and is widely used as an edging plant. While daylily flowers last only for a day, they are quickly replaced by other buds that go into bloom. This cultivar is one of the best-known reblooming daylilies and can re-bloom in summer until September and October, especially when spent flowers stalks have been deadheaded. 'Stella de Oro' foliage grows nine to twelve inches tall with flower scapes a bit taller and needs minimal maintenance. Mix in compost into the soil annually to promote fertility and drainage. This daylily performs best in zone 8 when it receives a bit of shade in the afternoon.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 10
    • Bloom Color: Golden yellow
    • Sun Exposure: Partial shade in zone 8 (full sun in colder zones)
    • Soil Needs: Average moisture, humusy, well-drained
    Continue to 9 of 15 below.
  • 09 of 15

    Stargazer Lily (Lilium 'Stargazer')

    Closeup of Stargazer lily blossoms in deep pink.
    David Beaulieu

    Unlike the 'Stella de Oro' daylily, the stately 'Stargazer' lily, which grows up to four feet tall, is a true lily. It is grown for its large, bright, bi-colored flowers. A full-sun plant in colder zones, it requires some shade in zone 8 unless you are sure that you can keep its soil evenly moist at all times. Although perennial, 'Stargazer' is grown from a bulb. You can plant the bulb in either spring or fall, six to eight inches deep.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Bloom Color: Pink to crimson, with white margins and dark spots
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial sun in zone 8 (Full sun colder zones)
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained, evenly moist, and loamy
  • 10 of 15

    Reticulated Iris (Iris reticulata 'Harmony')

    Reticulated iris flower closeup.
    David Beaulieu

    Another recommended bulb for your zone 8 garden is 'Harmony ' reticulated iris . Among the first plants to bloom in spring, it produces tri-colored flowers that are primarily dark purplish-blue, with a touch of yellow and white. A short variety, it reaches six inches tall when in bloom. Reticulated iris often spreads via offsets; if it doesn't do so for you on its own, divide the bulblets it after its blooming period.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
    • Bloom Color: Purplish-blue
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained and evenly moist; fertilize with a bulb fertilizer
  • 11 of 15

    Dahlia (Dahlia)

    Bi-colored dahlia flower.
    David Beaulieu

    Dahlias grow from tubers and, unlike the reticulated iris and 'Stargazer' lily, are tropical and sub-tropical plants. Even though they are technically hardy to zone 8, many zone 8 gardeners dig up the tubers in fall and overwinter them indoors to protect the tubers from freezing in winter which will cause them to rot. Dahlias are an incredibly diverse genus and are valued for their large, colorful blooms Petals can take many forms: pointy, rolled, rounded, flat, swirled, single, or double. Bloom size ranges from one to ten inches in diameter, and the plants range in height from one to six feet depending on the variety.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 8 to 11
    • Bloom Color: Every color except true blue, true black, or green; color pattern can be solid, bi-colored, or tri-colored
    • Sun Exposure: Partial sun in zone 8 (full sun in colder zones)
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained and evenly moist; fertilize with organic flower food with a low nitrogen ratio
  • 12 of 15

    Red Hot Poker Plant (Kniphofia uvaria)

    Yellow 'Mango Popsicle' torch lily flowers.
    David Beaulieu

    Some cultivars of the red hot poker plant are short, only two feet tall, while the standard red hot poker plant can reach four feet in height. In either case, this plant is grown for its long, colorful flower spikes. This plant has a long bloom period, and you can coax more flower production through deadheading.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 6 to 9
    • Bloom color: Red, orange, yellow, white, bi-colored
    • Sun Exposure: Partial sun in zone 8 (full sun in colder zones)
    • Soil Needs: Good drainage is its main requirement.
    Continue to 13 of 15 below.
  • 13 of 15

    Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

    Paprika yarrow with its red flower head.
    David Beaulieu

    Because, as with tall garden phlox, yarrow is susceptible to mildew, take steps to minimize infestations. Be sure to provide it with more than enough spacing to promote air circulation, buy mildew-resistant varieties, and avoid overhead watering.

    You will be rewarded for your efforts with a perennial as valued for its feathery foliage as it is for its flowers. The flowers are small but come in tightly packed flower heads, and they are available in a number of bright colors. Yarrow stands three feet tall.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8
    • Bloom Color: White, red, yellow, pink, salmon,
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial sun in zone 8 (full sun in colder climates)
    • Soil Needs: Lean, dry to medium soil with good drainage.
  • 14 of 15

    Siberian Bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla)

    Brunnera Jack Frost in bloom with variegated leaves.
    David Beaulieu

    Siberian bugloss performs well in zone 8 if it receives shade and you keep the soil most. The 'Jack Frost' cultivar is named for the silvery appearance of its foliage. This cultivar can grow to 18 inches tall when in bloom but is a more compact plant when not in flower. It is a perennial, with blue flowers in spring. The flowers are reminiscent of forget-me-nots, but its variegated foliage (green and silver) is its more-valued characteristic.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8
    • Bloom Color: Blue
    • Sun Exposure: Partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained, rich in organic matter, and kept consistently moist
  • 15 of 15

    Golden Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola')

    Garden bed of Hakone grass plants.

    Jacky Parker Photography/Getty Images 

    Don't forget ornamental grasses when planting your zone 8 garden. Their foliage can provide a great foreground or backdrop for your flowering plants. Golden Japanese forest grass (also commonly known as Hakone grass) offers a rich golden color that makes it worth growing in its own right. It grows 12 to 18 inches tall. In zone 8, it is important to keep its roots cool during the summer months.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Bloom color: Yellow-green (but the flower is insignificant)
    • Sun Exposure: Partial shade; ensue roots are kept cool
    • Soil Needs: Moist but well-drained
Article Sources
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  1. Farinas C, Jourdan P, Paul PA, Peduto Hand F. Development and Evaluation of Laboratory Bioassays to Study Powdery Mildew Pathogens of Phlox In Vitro. Plant Disease, 103,7,1536-1543, 2019, doi:10.1094/PDIS-01-19-0031-RE

  2. Yard and Garden. University of Nebraska School of Natural Resources

  3. Diseases of Achillea sp. (Yarrow). University of Illinois Extension Focus on Plant Problems