Garden & Landscape Tips

Plant breeders have come up with another worthy new crop of perennial flowers for 2018 that blooms longer, fights disease better, and comes in new colors.

Here’s a look at 10 of the best new perennials showing up in garden centers this gardening season:

Bluestar 'Storm Cloud'
Bluestar 'Storm Cloud'
Photo courtesy Proven Winners

Bluestar ‘Storm Cloud’

Spring-blooming perennial bluestar (Amsonia tabernaemontana) isn’t very well known, although it is a U.S. native species. ‘Storm Cloud’ is a new cultivar of bluestar from Proven Winners that has the usual star-shaped blue flowers in spring on unusual black stems. It has a compact habit, growing only about 2 feet tall and wide, and thrives in full sun. In addition, it’s deer-resistant and drought-tolerant.

Betony 'Summer Crush'
Betony 'Summer Crush'
Photo courtesy Intrinsic Perennial Gardens

Betony ‘Summer Crush’

Betony (Stachys) is another little-known, under-used perennial that’s one of the longest blooming and low-care perennials.  Until recently, the foremost variety of betony available in garden centers has been ‘Hummelo’, with its spiky summer-long light purple blooms. ‘Summer Crush’ is a new introduction from Intrinsic Perennial Gardens. It also blooms for months, but with spikes of  bicolored white-and-pink flowers, that are mildly fragrant. Like bluestar, betony plants are seldom bothered by deer or rodents. Grow it in full sun to light shade.

Stoke’s aster ‘Blue Frills’

Another long bloomer is this new cultivar of Stoke’s aster (Stokesia), which produces white-centered, bluish-purple flowers, 2”-3” across, for about two months in mid-summer. ‘Blue Frills’ grows 16-18 inches tall, and does best in full sun to light shade.   It is being introduced in the Rozanne and Friends line by Aris Horticulture.  Makes a fine cut flower.

Coral bells Forever Red®
Coral bells Forever Red®
Photo courtesy Terra Nova Nurseries

Coral bells Forever Red®

Lots of new bright-leafed coral bells (Heuchera) have hit the market in the past 10 years, but this one from Terra Nova Nurseries has the reddest leaves yet. The rich-red leaves are ruffled along the edges. Plants grow about 8 inches tall, and dainty white flowers on wiry stems poke up to about 14 inches in mid-summer. Grow Forever Red® in part shade.

Catmint ‘Cat’s Pajamas’

Catmint (Nepeta) is one of the easiest perennials to grow, sloughing off heat, drought, bugs, animal attacks, and most everything except wet clay soil. Compact ‘Cat’s Pajamas’, a new introduction from Proven Winners, has an exceptionally long bloom time, with indigo-blue flowers from late spring through mid-summer. Shear the silvery-green foliage after that first round of flowering to encourage ‘Cat’s Pajamas’ to rebloom from late summer to early fall. Plants grow 14 inches tall and do best in full sun.

Orange  Coneflower Kismet® 'Intense Orange'
Orange Coneflower Kismet® 'Intense Orange'
Photo courtesy Terra Nova Nurseries

Coneflower Kismet® ‘Intense Orange’

Coneflowers (Echinacea) bloom naturally with lavender-pink flowers, but breeders have been working to develop hot, bright colors for the past dozen or so years with varying results. Terra Nova Nurseries introduces this newcomer that could be the best orange version yet. Compact ‘Intense Orange’ blooms heavily over a long season, with flaming orange flowers. In trial plantings, it’s also overwintered well – a factor that’s been a pitfall for many of the first bright coneflowers.  Plants grow about 18 inches tall and bloom best in full sun.

Lavender Big Time Blue®
Lavender Big Time Blue®
Photo courtesy Concept Plants

Lavender Big Time Blue®

A compact habit and big spikes of fragrant, purplish-blue flowers over a long season are the standout traits of this new lavender (Lavandula) from Concept Plants.  Big Time Blue® is a bit smaller than last year’s hit lavender, Phenomenal®, but the blooms are denser and more robust. The foliage is silvery-green, the flowers attract butterflies and bees, and plants grow about 20 inches tall, ideally in full sun and well-drained soil.

Mum ‘Firedance Igloo’

If you love red, check out this new mum (Dendranthema)with 2-inch flowers that are fire-engine-red with a hot yellow eye. The whole Igloo series from Must Have Perennials, a brand of Aris Horticulture, is one of the most winter-hardy and heaviest-blooming series of mums on the market. ‘Firedance Igloo’ usually starts blooming in August into fall. It grows about 20 inches tall, ideally in full sun.

Verbascum ‘Snowy Spires’

Sometimes nicknamed “mullein,” verbascums (Verbascum)are upright perennials that produce slender spikes of flowers in late spring to early summer. ‘Snowy Spires’ is a new introduction from the W. Atlee Burpee Co.  It’s “blue-eyed” white flowers attract pollinators. Plants grow 24 to 30 inches tall and flower best in full sun. It also makes a nice cut flower.

Dianthus Rockin’ Red®

The display time of this new red-flowered perennial dianthus (Dianthus) rivals the season-long bloom of annual flowers, from spring into early fall. This cold-tough selection from Ball Horticultural Co. has mildly-scented flowers with lacy or “pinked” edges. Rockin’ Red® grows 18-24 inches tall, and blooms best in full sun to part shade.

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