5 Perennials for Beginning Gardeners

I was teaching a garden design class last week and several of the students were totally new to gardening in Connecticut. A few had moved here to Connecticut from overseas and a few had recently purchased their first house and were starting their first gardens. They all wanted to know which perennials would be easiest to grow and would flower for a long time.

So, for any newbie gardener, whether you garden in Connecticut or someplace a bit farther afield, here are 5 perennials that are easy to grow and will make you feel like a gardening success.

All of these perennials will look best in your garden if you plant them in groups of three or more.

Baptisia australis (False indigo)

photo courtesy of White Flower Farm

Baptisia australis is a North American native that, when mature, it really the size of a small bush.

◊ Plant in full sun and well-draining soil.

◊ False indigo has a long taproot which means it is drought tolerant once established but it also means it doesn’t like to be moved.

◊ Flowers in late Spring.

◊ Insect and deer resistant.

◊ Baptisia grows to about 36″ tall. Plant them in the back of a mixed border.

◊ Leave the spent flowers on the plant so the seedpods can develop. They eventually turn black and give the plant a whole new look.

◊ There are several new cultivars with flowers that are white, smoky purple, orange or yellow. Personally I love the violet flowers of the species but it’s nice to know there are options available.

◊  Hardy in zones 3 – 9.


Coreopsis verticillata (Tickseed)

photo courtesy of White Flower Farm

◊ Plant in full sun to partial shade. You’ll get more flowers with more sun.

◊ Coreopsis prefer well-drained soil although some do tolerate dry, lean soil. They don’t like to have wet feet, especially in the winter.

◊ Flowers from early summer through fall. You can find coreopsis with flowers that are yellow, white, pink, peach, red, …

◊ There are many varieties and cultivars available but most grow to about 18″ – 24″ tall. Plant coreopsis in the front or middle of a flower border.

◊ They attract butterflies and bees and are deer resistant.

◊ Hardy in zones 3 – 8 (hardiness may vary depending on the cultivar).

Echinacea purpurea (Purple cone flower)

◊ Echinacea purpurea is a North American native and is great for attracting birds, bees and butterflies to your garden.

◊ Drought tolerant once established (after the first year or two).

◊ Plant in full sun in a spot with well-draining soil. Wet or soggy soil can kill cone flowers.

◊ Flowers from mid-summer through fall.

◊ There are many, many, many cultivars of coneflowers available with a rainbow of flower colors – from white to magenta to green to orange. Many of these new cultivars can be finicky to grow. Do yourself a favor and stick with the species (Echinacea purpurea), it will be much easier to grow.

◊ Purple cone flower grows to about 30″ tall. Plant in the middle of a mixed border.

◊ Leave the spent flowers on the plant through the fall and winter. You’ll be amazed at the birds to visit to fee on the seeds.

◊  Hardy in zones 4 – 8.

Geranium ‘Rozanne’

◊ Think of ‘Rozanne’ as the friendly neighbor of your flower bed, she likes to weave among her nearby neighbors but she’s never aggressive.

◊ Violet blue flowers from May – October and red fall foliage make ‘Rozanne’ a great plant for adding several seasons of interest to your garden.

◊ Plant in full sun to partial shade and well-drained soil.

◊ ‘Rozanne’ grows to 18″ and 30″ wide. She is ideal for the front of your border.

◊ I find deer leave ‘Rozanne’ alone in my garden but they do seem to like some of my other perennial geraniums, so keep that in mind.

◊ Hardy in zones 5 – 8.

Rudbeckia (Black-eyed Susan)

◊ Bright yellow flowers from late summer into fall.

◊ This North American native perennial is another bee and butterfly favorite.

◊ Use black-eyed Susan in the middle of your border since she generally grows to about 36″ tall.

◊ Grow in full sun and well-draining soil.

◊ Not reliably deer-resistant but the rabbits do seem to leave it alone.

◊ Hardy in zones 3 – 8.

Which perennials top your ‘easy-to-grow’  list?