16 Long-Living Perennials That Will Last for Decades with Little Care

November 6, 2023

16 Long-Living Perennials That Will Last for Decades with Little Care

Plant perennials and they'll generally come back year after year, instead of needing replanting like annuals do. But not all perennials are alike. Some will bloom beautifully for a few seasons and then slowly decline unless you intervene, while others have some serious staying power, lasting for decades without needing much care from you. Here's a roundup of the longest-lasting perennial varieties to try in your garden.

Peony


pink peony flowers
PHOTO: ANDREAS TRAUTTMANSDORFF

If you want to leave a flowering legacy, plant peonies (Paeonia spp.). These hardy perennials will last for decades. In fact, peonies that were planted in the Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden® in the 1950s are still vibrantly blooming today. Add grid stakes around your peonies to provide support when the plants are blooming to keep the flowers from toppling over.

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade and well-drained soil
Size: To 3 feet tall
Zones: 3-8


Liriope


liriope purple flowers grass-like leaves
PHOTO: DEAN SCHOEPPNER

Also called lilyturf (Liriope spp.) liriope is has narrow, grasslike foliage that can be green or variegated. It's an excellent groundcover or edging plant that is often planted to control erosion on steep slopes. This problem-solving perennial can persist for years. In fact, it has been found growing in long abandoned Southern gardens.

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade and well-drained soil
Size: To 18 inches tall
Zones: 5-10

Daylily

daylily yellow flowers

As tough as they are long-lived, daylilies (Hemerocallis spp.) are rugged enough to grow and bloom in commercial landscapes, along highways, and steep hillsides. Available in a seemingly endless assortment of colors, bicolors, and flower forms, daylilies will persist for years in your garden. They need to be divided every few years to keep them blooming, but the plants will remain alive even if you ignore them.

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade and well-drained soil
Size: To 1 foot tall
Zones: 3-10

Hosta

Montana Aureomarginata Hosta
PHOTO: GREG RYAN
Year after year you can rely on hostas (Hosta spp.) to brighten shady corners of your landscape. Varieties for your shade garden are available in numerous colors, sizes, leaf shapes, and textures. Their only enemies are snails, slugs, and deer, so if you can keep those pests at bay, you'll be able to enjoy hostas long after you plant them.

Growing Conditions: Part to full shade and well-drained soil
Size: To 3 feet tall
Zones: 3-8

Iris

yellow iris flower
PHOTO: ROB CARDILLO
The iris family boasts a large number of long-lived relatives. Bearded iris, shown here, can often be found blooming around abandoned houses or in historic cemeteries. Siberian and African irises are two other species that will persist in your garden with little attention from you. All irises, including those that rebloom, need to be divided every few years to promote flowering, but they'll live on even without the extra attention.

Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil
Size: To 3 feet tall
Zones: 3-10 for Bearded; 3-8 for Siberian; 9-11 for African

Oriental Poppy

prince of orange papaver oriental poppy
PHOTO: DAVID NEVALA
After seeing its crepe-paperlike blooms, you might think that Oriental poppy (Papaver orientale) is a delicate plant, but this power perennial will thrive despite the toughest conditions. In fact, it's been found growing around long-neglected farmsteads. Native to Central Asia, Oriental poppies survive summer drought by going dormant after they flower in the spring and then reappear in the early fall. Once poppies are established in the garden, it's best not to move them; however, poppies can be divided and transplanted in the fall, if necessary.

Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil
Size: To 3 feet tall
Zones: 3-7

Baptisia

Baptisia australis

PHOTO: SUSAN GILMORE
Commonly called false indigo, baptisia (Baptisia australis) is a native prairie plant that's been given a modern makeover with a number of new color options. These tall, mounding perennials develop gorgeous spikes of pea-like flowers and blue-green foliage that's pretty enough to stand on its own. Because it's naturally drought- and insect-resistant, baptisia will last for decades in your garden. It's relatively slow growing, so buy the largest plant you can find to enjoy its flowers as soon as possible.

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade and well-drained soil
Size: To 4 feet tall
Zones: 3-9


Sedum

sedum perennial
PHOTO: PETER KRUMHARDT
Drought-tolerant and almost foolproof, sedums (Sedum spp.) return year after year. There are many species of sedum to choose from, but some of the best sedums are the groundcover varieties, such as 'Dragon's Blood', shown here. These beautiful rock garden plants will slowly carpet your garden with color even under extreme weather conditions.

Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil
Size: To 6 inches tall
Zones: 4-9

Catmint

catmint purple flowers
PHOTO: EDWARD GOHLICH
Pollinators can't seem to get enough of catmint (Nepeta spp.). Add these fuss-free plants to sunny beds and borders, where they'll develop wands of pretty blue or white nectar-rich flowers from late spring into summer. After flowering, cut back flower spikes to encourage more blooms. The tidy mounds of green, aromatic foliage look attractive on their own, too.

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade and well-drained soil
Size: To 30 inches tall
Zones: 4-8

New England Aster

New England aster Symphyotrichum novae-angliae 'Purple Dome'
PHOTO: JANET MESIC-MACKIE
A native wildflower, New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) is a top choice for providing late season color for your garden. This bold perennial is literally smothered in pink or purplish blue flowers from late summer into fall. It's a favorite plant for butterflies, particularly migrating monarchs, which flock to the nectar-rich blooms. Pinching the plant before mid-July helps keep it a bit more compact, but staking might still be necessary.

Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil
Size: To 6 inches tall
Zones: 4-8

Agapanthus

agapanthus africanus
PHOTO: KARLIS GRANTS
A super reliable and long-lived perennial in warm climate areas, agapanthus (Agapanthus spp.) produces tall flower stalks with colorful balls of white or blue trumpet-shape flowers that make a great fresh cut flower. The plants also have straplike evergreen foliage (much like daylilies) that looks lush even when the plants are not in bloom. In Northern gardens, grow agapanthus in containers and move the plants indoors during the winter.

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade
Size: To 4 feet tall
Zones: 6-10

Wisteria

wisteria purple flowers tree over fence
PHOTO: DENNY SCHROCK
Often blooming for generations, wisteria vines (Wisteria spp.) offer trailing purple or white, fragrant spring flowers. A vigorous climber, wisteria requires strong support because as the vine matures it can become heavy enough to collapse lightweight arbors or trellises. In northern climates, some wisteria varieties will grow but not bloom because the flower buds freeze during the winter. Look for a variety, such as 'Blue Moon', that was developed specifically for colder regions. In the south, look for the native varieties that are less aggressive than the Asian species.

Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil
Size: To 25 feet tall
Zones: 3-9

Trumpet Vine

Yellow trumpet vine
PHOTO: JAY WILDE
Hummingbirds will flock to your garden if you've got a trumpet vine (Campsis radicans) in bloom. This vigorous native plant will quickly scramble up and over trellises, fences, and arbors, producing quantities of trumpet-shape crimson, yellow, or orange flowers all summer long. However, trumpet vine can become weedy, sending up suckers throughout your garden and self-seeding, so it's best to give it plenty of space. Some varieties, such as 'Apricot' and 'Indian Summer' stay more compact so are easier to keep under control.

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade and average soil
Size: To 40 feet tall
Zones: 4-9

Heliopsis

Heliopsis flowers up close
PHOTO: KINDRA CLINEFF
Often called false sunflower or oxeye daisy, heliopsis (Heliopsis spp.) is a native wildflower that develops wave after wave of cheerful yellow blooms in mid to late summer. It's an unfussy perennial that will flower even in poor soil or during times of drought. Its nectar-filled flowers draw butterflies and other pollinators.

Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil
Size: To 6 feet tall
Zones: 3-9

Moss Phlox

moss phlox creeping perennial groundcover with pink blossoms
PHOTO: PETER KRUMHARDT
One of the shortest members of the phlox family, moss phlox (Phlox subulata) puts on a big spring flower show every year. Covered in blue, pink, white, or violet blooms, this low-growing plant makes an excellent groundcover for small slopes or rock gardens. To maintain its form and to jumpstart a possible rebloom, cut back its stems after flowering by one half.

Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil
Size: To 6 inches tall
Zones: 3-9

Yarrow

moonshine yarrow achillea yellow flowers
PHOTO: BOB STEFKO
Yarrow (Achillea spp.) doesn't mind drought or poor soil. It produces flat flower heads above lacy foliage in mid to late summer. Flower colors vary from yellow, cream, pink, red, or bicolor. The plants can become floppy by late summer, so cut them back right after flowering to encourage compact growth and an additional flush of bloom.

Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil
Size: To 3 feet tall
Zones: 3-9


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