Great Early Summer Perennials

yellow flowers wiith green leaves

As the days get longer and warmer and summer gets into full swing, gardens sometimes hit a “low spot” in bloom. The flush of spring bloom has ended and the newly planted annuals are still small but the summer reliables, like daylilies and coneflower, have not yet graced the garden with color. Any of the following perennials are great options for the Iowa garden to help add a little color in the early months of summer.

  • Ornamental Sage (Salvia xsylvestris) – many options in blues, pinks and whites
  • Beardtongue (Penstemon) – many options available. ‘Husker Red’ is easy to find and grow.
  • Coral Bells (Heuchera) – many cultivars are grown for their wonderful bell-shaped flowers
  • Hosta (Hosta) – Remember this plant has flowers too! They often attract humingbirds
  • Cranesbill (Geranium) – dozens of cultivars in pinks, blues, and white are perfect for part shade
  • Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis) – yellow flowers are a nice short-term addition to the attractive foliage.
  • Threadleaf Coreopsis (Coreopsis verticillata) – cut back after bloom for fall rebloom and control reseeding
  • Gardeners’ World Rose Campion (Lychnis coronaria ‘Blych’) – this cultivar is much improved over the species
  • Catmint (Nepeta) – cut back after first bloom to promote rebloom
  • Big Betony (Stachys macrantha ‘Superba’) – this cultivar is particularly nice
  • Ornamental Onion (Allium) – planting several of the dozens of species and cultivars allows for bloom well before and after early summer
  • Stokes’ Aster (Stokesia laevis) – plants don’t mind moist to almost wet soil conditions
  • Astilbe (Astilbe) – fluffy pink, white or red flowers are a great option for moist part-shade areas
  • Mountain Bluet (Centaurea montana) – likes the cool early summer conditions, deadhead to promote rebloom
  • Snow-in-Summer (Cerastium tomentosum) – great in rock gardens or walls, remove spent blooms to enjoy foliage the rest of the season
  • Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) – reseeds readily making this biennial behave more like a perennial in the garden
  • Red-Hot Poker (Kniphofia) – give this plant a little extra winter protection and never wet, heavy soils
  • Missouri Evening Primrose (Oenotherea macrocarpa) – yellow flowers give way to interesting winged fruit pods
  • Pincushion Flower (Scabiosa caucasica) – be sure to grow this in well-drained, moist soils – will not tolerate wet winter soils in particular
  • Spiderwort (Tradescantia) – if foliage looks “tired” by mid-summer cut-back for new growth and rebloom

Reiman Gardens has many of these wonderful perennials in full-bloom right now.

Prepared by Aaron Steil, Assistant Director

Photo caption: Threadleaf Coreopsis (Coreopsis verticillata)