University of Illinois Extension
Create Your Plant List - Perennial Selection - Stepping Stones to Perennial Garden Design - University of Illinois Extension

Creating Your Plant List

Review your overall garden goals. Review your color scheme. Review your garden site assessment. All these steps now become important as you start your plant list and transfer this information to a scaled drawing.

Remember from session one, when gardening with perennials the ultimate goal is a personally pleasing flow of plant material from season to season. This flow can consist of flower color, foliage color, plant texture, plant shape, plant size, or any other desirable ornamental feature. For many beginning perennial gardeners, it is often easiest to plan for flower color, with two to three peak seasons. This is a great place from which to start and mature. In a garden based on continuous blooming, expect to see a fair amount of green foliage intermittent with flowers. Plan on keeping a garden journal listing what is blooming when. Some gardener’s video their gardens monthly and then review them later. Over the long winter, you can further research and add to the garden next year.

Determine your seasons of interest and then select plants that will offer an ornamental characteristic at that time. Call it your Wish List. A simple place to start is with spring, summer, fall and winter seasons. Your wish list should look something like this:

Wish List

Spring
April, May, early June

Summer
Late June, July, August

Fall
September & October

Winter
November through March

Daffodils

Daylily
Hemerocallis sp.

Fall Mums
Dendranthema sp.

Porcupine Grass
Miscanthus sinensis 'Strictus'

Tulips

Purple Coneflower
Echinacea purpurea

Purple Dome Aster
Aster novae-angliae 'Purple Dome'

Showy Stonecrop Sedum
Sedum spectabile

Virginia Blue Bells
Mertensia virginica

Tall Garden Phlox
Phlox paniculata

Monch Aster
Aster X frikartii 'Monch'

Black-eyed Susan
Rubdeckia hirta var. pulcherrina

Candytuft
Iberis sempervirens

Black-eyed Susan
Rubdeckia hirta var. pulcherrina

Porcupine Grass
Miscanthus sinensis
'Strictus'

Blue Fescue
Festuca cinerea

Peony
Paeonia hybrids

Moonbeam Coreopsis
Coreopsis verticillata
'Moonbeam'

Showy Stonecrop Sedum
Sedum spectabile

 

Blue Fescue
Festuca cinerea

Coral Bells
Heuchera sanguinea

Blue Fescue
Festuca cinerea

 

Oriental Poppy
Papaver orientale

Shasta Daisy
Leucanthemum X superbum 'T. Killin'

Silver Mound
Artemesia schmidtiana 'Silver Mound'

 

False Indigo
Baptisia australis

Small Globe Thistle
Echinops ritro

   

Siberian Iris
Iris siberica

Silver Mound
Artemisia schmidtiana 'Silver Mound'

   

Creeping Phlox
Phlox subulata

     

Bleeding Heart
Dicentra spectabilis

     

Seasonal wish lists don't have to be equal in length at this point. If one season is lacking, you can always continue your research later. Also, notice that some plants have more than one season of interest. Blue Fescue is a cool season ornamental grass that flowers in spring, is dormant in the heat of the summer, starts growing again in fall and may remain evergreen all winter depending on cultivar chosen. Silver Mound is another foliage plant that offers a long season of interest.

Once you have your wish lists, you need to create more detailed, specific seasonal plant lists. For proper placement in your garden, further information is needed. It is very easy to place perennials when drawing your garden to scale, if you have all the information in front of you in a concise, easy to read format.

Spring

Name

Cultural requirements

Bloom time

Mature size/
Plant shape

Flower color/
Flower shape

Foliage color/ texture

Comments

Mt. Hood Daffodils

Sun

May

15-17" tall

White

green/course grass-like

Dies down after flowering

Angelique Tulips

Sun

May

14-16" tall

Pink/double

green

Dies down after flowering

Virginia Blue Bells
Mertensia virginica

Partial Shade/rich organic soil

April-May

12-24" tall/
vertical

Blue/ nodding bell shape

green/ medium

Dies down after flowering

Candytuft Iberis sempervirens

Full Sun/ well drained soil

April - May

10" tall X 24" wide/ mounding

White/head-like

green/ evergreen

 

Peony
Paeonia hybrids

Full Sun/ well drained soil

May

3' tall X 3' wide

many colors- prefer rose red

green

Cut back foliage in late winter

Blue Fescue
Festuca cinerea

Full Sun/ well drained soil

spring - summer

foliage is 10" tall and 12" wide - Flowers are 15-18" tall/ mounding

Silver

Blue

Attractive spring, summer and fall

Oriental Poppy
Papaver orientale

Full Sun/ partial shade/ well drained soil

May- June

3' tall X 1' wide/ oval habit

Scarlet red/ solitary

green/ medium coarse

Foliage dies after flowering

False Indigo
Baptisia australis

Full Sun/ partial shade/ well drained soil

May

3-4' tall X 3-4' wide/ erect habit

Indigo Blue/ spike

blue green/ medium

Attractive foliage all season - good background plant

Siberian Iris
Iris siberica

Full Sun/ partial shade/ Slightly moist soil

May

3' tall X 2' wide/ upright

Blue & purple shades

green/ strap-like

Good looking foliage the rest of the growing season

Creeping Phlox
Phlox subulata

Full Sun/ well drained soil

April-May

6" tall X 2' wide/ creeping

Rose pink

bright green

 

Bleeding Heart
Dicentra Spectabilis

Shade/ Moist, well drained soil

May

2-3' tall X 2-3' wide

Pink

Blue green/ medium

Dies back in summer


Your detailed plant list should reveal specific information. Looking over the example, what do you notice? First of all, five of the plants will die to the ground after blooming. You will need to place these plants near wide arching plants that will cover up the resulting hole, but won't invade into the space. Or, plan on planting summer blooming annuals in that area. Also notice sun requirements. If your garden is full sun, you can eliminate Bleeding Hearts and Virginia Blue Bells. What about the colors? It appears to be a pink & blue spring garden. Is that your goal? If so is a scarlet red poppy going to appear out of place? Perhaps you would want to select a softer shade. What about flower shape, plant size and texture? Is there variety?

Suggested Perennials for Beginners

Yarrow (Achillea sp.)
Rock Cress (Arabis sp.)
Siberian Bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla)
Coreopsis (Coreopsis sp.)
Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis)
Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
False Sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides var. scabra)
Daylily (Hemorocallis sp.)
Hosta (Hosta sp.)
Chinese Silver Grass (Miscanthus sinensis)
Catmint (Nepeta sp.)
Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata)
False Dragonhead (Phystostegia virginiana)
Orange Coneflower (Rubdeckia fulgida)
Autumn Joy Sedum (Sedum spectabilis 'Autumn Joy')

Seasonal Plant Lists

For a "wish list" of perennials with seasonal interest, select a season below: