How to Choose Perennial Plants


Perennial plants come in a wide array of colors, sizes and textures to suit the home landscape. These choices allow home gardeners to select plants that add dimension to the exterior of the home. Perennials fall into the ornamental plant category to add a decorative accent to the landscape. These plants survive for multiple years to expand in the home garden. Learning how to choose perennial plants requires a blend of personal preference as well as knowledge of plant suitability to a landscape location.

Step 1

Locate your USDA hardiness zone to determine planting requirements for your climate. Hardiness zones reflect the lowest possible temperature that hardy (tough) plants tolerate for your area. Garden centers label plants with this information to assist buyers in making the correct choices for landscape plants that will thrive in a certain location.

Step 2

Check the sunlight availability of your planting sites. Monitor how the sun moves across the garden space over the course of a day. Document this---whether the area experiences full sun with six or more hours of direct sun each day. Full shade receives no sun. Partial-sun plants tolerate exposure of four to six hours of typically early morning or late day sunshine. Part shade plants prefer areas with two to four hours of sunlight either early in the morning or late in the afternoon.

Step 3

Decide the purpose of your perennial garden. Perennial plants offer the gardener a predictable schedule of bloom times each year. Select plants, suitable for the location, that produce blooms at different times. This creates a wave of color throughout the growing season.

Step 4

Delve into other options to include varieties of foliage perennials. The limited blooming time of a perennial begs the gardener for consideration of other aspects of the plant. Check foliage and height to determine if the plant will be useful in your design beyond the production of flowers.

Step 5

Visit the garden center and peruse the offerings. Local nurseries provide labels with each plant to determine USDA hardiness zone, sunlight requirements and other growing specifications. Most nurseries carry native perennials that will thrive in the climate and soil conditions. Keep a list of the perennials that appeal to you the most, based on your site requirements and personal preferences.

Step 6

Check the plant labels to determine the exact blooming period of each perennial. Select a wide variety of plants for each location to produce a succession of blooms throughout the growing season.

Step 7

Recognize that perennials are more expensive, permanent additions to the landscape. Assess the size of each plant at maturity when making selections for your perennial garden. Allow plenty of space in your landscape design for each plant. Many perennials expand so well that gardeners must divide the plant within three to five years. Add your choices to your landscape plan and execute the construction of your perennial garden.

Things You'll Need

  • USDA hardiness zone map
  • Landscape diagram
  • Pencil
  • Eraser


  • University of Vermont: Perennials: Choosing and Planting
  • University of Arizona: Flower Bed: Perennials
Keywords: choosing perennials, choosing perennial flowers, choose perennial plants

About this Author

S.F. Heron is an avid gardener with three years of experience in online writing and a working background in aviation and earth and ocean sciences. She is published on various sites, including Helium, eHow and Xomba. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from the University of Maryland.