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How to Identify Perennial Flowers

By S.F. Heron ; Updated September 21, 2017
Identifying perennials is difficult due to the wide variety of flowers.
bellis perennis image by Annett Goebel from Fotolia.com

Perennial flowers grace home landscapes across the country with a profusion of color and beautiful foliage. These hardy plants thrive during the growing season and die off during the cold months of winter. In spring, tender shoots reappear as the plant ramps up to produce another season of foliage and flowers. Learning to identify perennial plants involves following the growth patterns of these plants during an entire growing season. Watching the plant during the winter months also provides clues to identify perennial flowers.

Identify the location of the plant in early spring by checking for the appearance of new sprouts around dead foliage. Perennials retain foliage into the fall months with a slow die-off as the weather cools. The appearance of sprouts in the center of a mound of dead foliage indicates the location of a perennial plant. Mark the area to indicate potential growth of an ornamental plant to limit damage to new shoots.

Wait a few weeks for consistent foliage to unfurl around the base of the plant. Identifying perennials from foliage alone can be difficult. If you must know the type of plant immediately, snap a picture of the plant and visit a garden center to determine the type of flower. Garden centers employ knowledgeable horticulturists who can identify native plants easily.

Carefully prune a small portion of a single stem of the plant to take to the nursery for identification. Place the cut directly above a bud or two-leaf point on the stem of the plant. Avoid this method of providing a sample if at all possible to limit damage to the plant.

Examine the plant during the flowering period of the growing season. Very few plants have identical flowers so note the color, number of petals, length of flower stem and any unique characteristics such as brightly hued centers or variegation in color. Take a picture to help identify the plant.

Research native plants by state for your area. Limit the search parameters to respected university cooperative extension services by adding "site:.edu" to the end of the search text. Also consult the list of common perennial plants listed in additional resources.

Wait until the following growing season to see if the plant actually is a perennial. Plants that reappear each spring for three years running qualify as perennials.


Things You Will Need

  • Perennial Plant Index
  • Plant stakes
  • Notepad
  • Pencil
  • Camera
  • Pruning shears