Piece of Cake Perennials

Perennials are the floral backbone of my garden because they develop over time and last. I look for exciting new ones each year. Whenever a newly introduced perennial exceeds expectations and gets rave reviews, the plant will almost certainly find itself included on my spring shopping list.

I shared my favorites with customers when I managed the perennial section of a local nursery in Bloomington, Indiana. Now I can share them with Black Gold readers! I tend to like both easy and beautiful perennials with a long season of garden interest. All of the plants mentioned are pollinator favorites!

Piece of Cake Perennials

Old-fashioned lemon daylilies and tall purple phlox pair beautifully in the garden.

Daylilies (Hemerocallis hybrids, USDA Hardiness Zones 4-9, ) are notoriously hard to kill. That is why you can often find old-fashioned forms, like lemon lilies (Hemerocallis flava), blooming in vacant residential properties years after anyone has been around to feed or water them. Rebloomers and specialty varieties in vibrant shades of red, yellow, orange, pink, and purple. Some are very tall, such as the late-blooming ‘Autumn Minaret’ (5.5 feet), while others are compact, like the 12-15 inch ‘Little Grapette‘. Favorites with specialty blooms are ‘Diva’s Choice’, with bright, deep pink petals, and heavily ruffled yellow edges, and ‘Pansy Face Charmer’, yellow with dark purple edges that look like pansies.

Because of their ease of growth, daylilies are ideal plants for novice gardeners. Plant daylilies in full to partial sun in the mid-spring. They like average to fertile soil with good drainage. Bloom time varies, but most flower in the early summer. Rebloomers can continue to flower intermittently into fall with good care.

Tall phlox (Phlox paniculata, Zones 4-8) is a pretty, long-flowering perennial native to the eastern U.S.  Height varies, depending on the variety, but they tend to reach between 2 and 4 feet tall.  Cultivated forms have flowers that range in color from white, red, pink, and purple. Look for the vibrant-fuchsia-flowered ‘Material Girl’ (3 feet), coral-pink-flowered ‘Sunset Coral‘ (2.5 feet), and pink-flowered ‘Jeana‘ (4 feet) with its large panicles of small flowers known to attract pollinators in high quantities.

Grow tall phlox in the full to partial sun and fertile soil amended with Black Gold Natural & Organic Garden Compost Blend.  With care, they can bloom for a month or two from mid- to late-summer.

‘Autumn Fire’ tall sedum has particularly bright pink flowers.

Tall and creeping hardy sedums (Sedum species and hybrids) comprise hundreds of hardy species of creeping, and mound-shaped plants, with thick, oval, succulent leaves.  The popular tall, fall-flowering ‘Autumn Fire(18-24 inches) has brilliant pink blooms. The even taller ‘Thunderhead’ (30″) is an all-round beauty with its deep purple leaves and glorious rosy-purple fall flowers. Good low-growing forms for foliar and floral appeal include Proven Winner’s rose-flowered Rock ‘N Round® ‘Superstar’ (12 x 20 inches)and the spreading, fully evergreen, golden-leaved ‘Angelina‘ (Zones 5-9) with yellow flowers in early summer.

Give plants sharply drained soil with average to good fertility. They are almost exclusively sun-loving and drought-resistant, save for rare exceptions like the eastern US native, two-row stonecrop (Sedum ternatum). Flowering time varies from summer to fall, depending on the type.

Purple coneflowers are truly effortless perennials loved by many pollinators. The cultivar ‘Magnus’ is shown.

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea and hybrids, Zones 3-9) are easy to grow, loved by pollinators, and their seeds feed songbirds. The popular purple coneflower is a member of the sunflower family native to eastern North America and adapted for life on open prairies. Established plants are hardy, drought-tolerant, and notably hard to kill as long as they are planted in a good location. Give them full sun, average to organic-rich soil and they will bloom from June to July. Some varieties will even flower into August.

One of the best classic varieties available is the vigorous, large-flower ‘Magnus‘ ( 3-4 feet) with its extra bright purple-pink flowers. According to an Echinacea trail at the Mount Cuba Center the red-flowered hybrid Lakota™ Santa Fe Coneflower, the raspberry-pink flowered KISMET® Raspberry, and the compact, warm coral-pink flowered SOMBRERO® Poco Hot Coral were some of the very best performers in northern Delaware’s hot summer weather.

Hostas are varied and colorful!

Hostas (Hosta species and hybrids, Zones 3-8) are a spectacular group of perennials that hail from eastern China and Japan. They are prized for their ornamental foliage and regarded as shade-garden superstars. There are is no shortage of varieties and aficionados. Presently there are more than 3,000 varieties in existence and plenty of collectors and enthusiasts!  The best source for additional information is the American Hosta Society. The sturdy plants can either be very large or miniature and flower only briefly, in either spring, summer, or early fall, depending on the variety.  Some of my favorites are the gold and green ‘Glad Rags’, gigantic blue-green-leaved ‘Blue Angel’, variegated, wavy-leaved ‘Fire and ‘Ice’, and very large, infallible ‘Sum and Substance’ with its waxy, chartreuse leaves. Grow them all in fertile soil with plenty of organic matter.

The very old, double-pink ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ peony is one to support with a cage in the spring.

Common peonies (Paeonia lactiflora, Zones 3-8) (an old-fashioned flower pronounced “piony” by my grandparents’) are elegant spring-flowering plants native to central and eastern Asia. The large, late-spring bloomers have large single or double blooms that run the gamut from white to pink and red. Peonies are noteworthy for the sweet-sap-seeking ants that visit their globose flower buds. The ants do not harm the plants, so my advice is to leave the insects alone. Double-flowered varieties tend to have heavy blooms that flop in the rain, so many gardeners cage the bushy plants to better support the weighty flowers (click here to learn more). Full to partial sun is the preferred light and well-drained loamy soil is the preferred ground. The best time to plant them is in early spring or fall.

Pollinators of all sorts enjoy monarda flowers, including sphinx moths!

Beebalms (Monarda hybrids) are another group of plants native to North America and members of the mint family. The two most common garden spaces are Oswego tea (Monarda didyma, Zones 4-9), with its scarlet-red flowers collared by red-tinged bracts, and common beebalm (Monarda fistulosa, Zones 3-8), which features light lavender to pinkish-white flowers surrounded by green bracts often tinted with pink.  Both plants are hummingbird favorites!

Monarda hybrids are common and numerous and are in shades of lavender, white, pink, and red.  A common problem is powdery mildew, a foliar disease causing powdery white spots. Numerous resistant varieties are available, including ‘Red Velvet’ with its cherry-red flowers and bronzy foliage, and the compact ‘Leading Lady Razzberry’. Give the plants well-drained soil and full sun. Flowering occurs in the summer.

Perennials are very satisfying flowers. They bloom every year, and I always find room to plant new ones.  When small plants arrive from catalogs or online nurseries, I always pot them up using Black Gold® All Purpose Potting Soil to let them grow larger before I put them in the ground.  When they are large enough to plant in the ground in late spring, I amend the soil with Black Gold Natural & Organic Garden Compost Blend.  Two of my favorite online perennial sources are Bluestone Perennials and Roots and Rhizomes.

Can You Force Daylilies for Indoor Enjoyment?

“My mother is ill and can’t get out of the house. She misses her garden, especially her daylilies. Would it be possible for me to move some of these into pots and have them thrive indoors? If so, any special care for them? Thank you!” Question from Jenifer of Saint Petersburg, Florida

Answer: We are so sorry to hear that your mother is ill and hope that she recovers soon. Daylilies (Hemerocallis hybrids) are hardy, summer-flowering perennials that grow best outdoors. They can, however, be forced to bloom early, so you could force some for indoor enjoyment for several weeks or more. Another option is to look for blooming specimens at local garden centers to bring to your mother. If you cannot find any, then try forcing your mother’s daylilies. Here are some recommendations.

Daylilies For Forcing

Most daylilies can be forced, especially newer, reblooming varieties. Because the plants will be potted and you want flowers fast, avoid forcing tall or late-blooming daylilies. Stick with compact, early, heavy-flowering types. The time it takes to force flowers varies from variety to variety.

How to Force Daylilies

We gathered this information from Greenhouse Product News magazine, which is for professional growers. Here is a shortened version to better help home gardeners force daylilies if desired.

  1. Larger clumps will produce more flowers, so start with a good-sized clump (perhaps 5-6 inches across at the base) that is either dormant or recently leafed out. Make sure that all of the roots are intact.
  2. Pot the daylily in a medium-sized pot with drainage holes at the bottom and a saucer to catch water. Be sure to cover the roots and leave the shoots or buds above the soil surface. Plant the daylily in quality, well-drained potting mix, such as Black Gold All Purpose Potting Mix.
  3. Water the pots in until water drains out of the bottom. Keep the soil lightly moist, never saturated.
  4. Daylilies are day-neutral plants that like lots of sunlight. High-intensity light will encourage them to bloom fastest and encourage full growth, so place them in the sunniest window of the house. You may need to provide supplemental grow lights if you lack a sufficiently sunny window.
  5. Cool growing temperatures help daylilies bloom faster. The article author, Paul Pilon writes: “In these trials, reducing the temperature from 75° F to 60° F increased the time to flower by eight to 15 days for most cultivars. I recommend growing daylilies at 65° F in environments with high light intensities for best results.”
  6. Plants take several weeks before growing full and budding out.

I hope these tips help. Start by contacting local garden centers to see if they offer blooming plants. Some may even be able to order flower daylilies for you. If not, now you have another option.

All the best,

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist

Five Great Daylilies for Continuous Bloom

Rainbow Rhythm® Tiger Swirl is an extra pretty, large-flowered everbloomer. (Image care of Proven Winners)


Daylilies (Hemerocallis spp.) are one of the most welcome flowers of summer, but most bloom for just four to five weeks, some blooming earlier and others later. This is why daylily hybridizers have worked to breed daylilies with longer bloom times. These days, there are more and more great rebloomers on the market for gardeners to plant and enjoy.

About Daylilies

A garden filled with daylilies flowering in late summer.

Daylilies belong to the genus Hemerocallis–a name derived from the Greek words hemera (day) and kallos (beauty).  The genus was originally named by Swedish botanist Linnaeus, the father of modern taxonomy and plant classification.  Linnaeus originally classified these plants as part of the lily family but more recently they have been moved into their own plant family, Hemerocallidaceae.

These flowers have a long history and are known to have been cultivated during the time of Confucius, (551-479 BC).  Originally these long-lived perennials were grown for food and medicine. The Asian natives reached Europe in the 1500s and, along with peonies and lilacs, were one of the earliest ornamental plants taken to the New World by colonists. The standard ditch lily (Hemerocallis fulva) was the common species grown. The wild nature of these orange-flowered daylilies made them less garden worthy by the standards of today, but nevertheless, they offered seasonal color in early gardens.  They were also easy to grow, required little care, and could grow in diverse environments.


About Reblooming Daylilies

The pale yellow reblooming daylily ‘Happy Returns’ is low growing, too. (Image by Ateragramm)

Before the 1970s, daylilies were less popular in ornamental gardens.  This was because of their relatively short bloom period, the straggled and unkempt look of their late-season foliage, and the bank of more garden-worthy flowering plants with continuous summer blooms. Then reblooming daylilies began to appear. The most popular of these was the 1975 introduction, ‘Stella de Oro’. It was the introduction of this daylily that inspired a widespread change in perceptions about daylilies.  ‘Stella de Oro’ has compact foliage, golden flowers. and probably the most important feature,  a long blooming season.  It became the new role model for daylilies and is still one of the most popular landscaping daylilies today.

With the attributes of ‘Stella de Oro’, a new interest in daylilies began and home gardeners suddenly began using them in their ornamental gardens. Plant breeders began to make crosses, and soon there were new colors of daylilies that were rebloomers. (I recently spoke with a daylily grower about rebloomers, and he commented that for summer-long bloomers he preferred the term continuous bloomers because they begin blooming in mid-June and continue through the summer and often into September.) Here are some of the best rebloomers beyond ‘Stella de Oro’.

Reblooming daylilies come in all colors from apricot to purple to palest yellow.

Hemerocallis ‘Apricot Sparkles’: Introduced in 2000, this compact, continuous bloomer has apricot-colored flowers that are large and showy.

Hemerocallis ‘Buttered Popcorn’: This award-winner is a reliable rebloomer that was bred in 1971. Despite its fine, fragrant, butter-yellow blooms on 32-inch stems, it did not win the quick popularity of the more compact ‘Stella de Oro’.

Hemerocallis Daring Deception‘: Grow this 1994 rebloomer for its wonderfully fragrant flowers of pale lavender pink with purple edges and a central eye. The plants reach 24-inches tall.

Hemerocallis Happy Ever Appster® Daylily Series: Bred by famed daylily breeder Dr. Darrel Apps, the daylilies in this series include many favorites, many of which are ‘Stella de Oro’ hybrids. The series includes popular varieties, such as the classic ‘Happy Returns’, a compact rebloomer from 1996 with cheerful primrose yellow flowers.

Hemerocallis Rainbow Rhythm® Daylily Series: There are so many beautiful, reliably reblooming daylilies in this group that its cultivars are sold by Proven Winners. Try the spectacular variety Rainbow Rhythm® Tiger Swirl, which has huge 7-inch flowers of gold with a red central eye.

‘Daring Deception’ is a fragrant daylily with flowers of pale lavender-pink and a black purple edge and eye.

This is just a small sampling of the many rebloomers available. After visiting several garden centers and looking at catalogs and online sources for daylilies, the selection of “continuous” bloomers is vast.  There is huge diversity in daylily flowers in lots of colors, many with dark edges and centers. Flowers not only come in single forms but semi-doubles and doubles as well as those with ruffled edges. Most have arching foliage, and plant height is variable with some growing only about 12-inches tall and others reaching 3-feet high or more.

Growing Daylilies

Daylilies are easily divided in spring or fall if their clumps become too large.

Luckily for gardeners, daylilies are exceptionally easy to grow.  They perform best in a soil that has been amended with compost. Black Gold Garden Compost Blend is ideal.  Give daylilies a location where they will receive sun for at least 5 hours a day. Plant the crown of a new plant slightly below the soil surface to protect the overwintering buds. Placing mulch around the base of your daylilies in the fall to further protect them during the winter. Daylilies are easily divided if their clumps become too large for an area.

As with many plants, keeping the old blooms picked off will encourage more flowers. If the foliage starts to look unkempt in late summer, gently pull off the browning leaves to refresh the plant’s overall look.

If you think of daylilies as short-season blooming plants, check out the many new continuous bloomers.  This is an excellent time to plant them, and plants from a local garden center will probably be in bud or bloom providing instant color.