Garden & Landscape Tips

Growers and plant breeders have been hard at work developing improved plants for the 2017 gardening season. In the perennial-flower section of the garden center, look for new choices that bloom longer, come in new flower colors, and do a better job at fighting off diseases. Here's a look at some of the best new perennial newcomers:

Japanese forest grass SunFlare
Japanese forest grass SunFlare™
© HarkAway Botanicals

Japanese forest grass SunFlare™

Forest grass, also known as Hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra), is one of the shorter ornamental grasses at 18" tall. It's also shade-tolerant. The variegated- and gold-leaved types are especially colorful. SunFlare™ is the most colorful yet. Its arching blades are chartreuse when young, then develop dark crimson flecks. By fall, the foliage display is burnt-orange to burgundy-red.

Sunflare™ does best in well-drained soil (no wet clay), ideally in morning sun and afternoon shade. It makes a colorful, textural container plant. Look for it to hit the market in late 2017. USDA Hardiness Zones 5-9.

Sedum Sunsparkler Firecracker
Sedum Sunsparkler® 'Firecracker'
© Chris Hansen

Sedum Sunsparkler® 'Firecracker'

Fans of dark foliage will appreciate this new drought-tough, succulent groundcover for hot, sunny spots. The pinky-nail-sized leaves of 'Firecracker' are deep burgundy to plum purple color all season, which pairs nicely with the clusters of rosy-pink flowers that appear in late summer. The low, dense mats about 6" tall do not flop apart as do some taller sedums. Excellent at the front of any sunny border, bed, or in rock gardens. USDA Zones 4-9

Anemone Wild Swan
Anemone Wild Swan™
© George Weigel

Anemone Dreaming Swan™

Japanese anemones, sometimes called windflowers, are 3', late-season, white or pink bloomers that make a wispy addition to the shade garden. This cousin (Anenome rupicola) is not only more compact, but blooms much longer. Dreaming Swan™ is one of the longest-blooming perennials of any kind, starting in late spring and producing non-stop until fall. The single flowers are white with yellow centers. A bonus is the undersides of the petals are lilac-blue, visible when a breeze blows the flowers upward.

Dreaming Swan™ is similar to last year's introduction Wild Swan™, only with larger flowers on slightly taller, nearly 2' stems. Both plants are sterile, so there are no unwanted seedlings. Full sun or part shade, USDA Zones 6-9.

Liriope Purple Explosion™

Liriope Purple Explosion
Liriope Purple Explosion™
© George Weigel

Liriope (lilyturf) is a grass-like, workhouse perennial, that's mostly used as a groundcover, due to its versatility and hard-to-kill reputation. Lilyturf even tolerates dry shade and root competition under trees. Purple Explosion™ is a fairly new variety that qualifies it as an attractive bloomer too, worthy of ornamental use alongside coneflowers, lavenders, and salvias in the garden. This variety produces significantly more spikes of purple flowers than older selections, and produces them earlier, longer, and on stems that poke up more prominently above the mass of green foliage.

Plants grow 10"-12" tall, and clumps spread slowly — no shallow, over-aggressive roots as some liriopes produce. Full sun to part shade, USDA Zones 5-10.

Yarrow New Vintage™ series

Yarrow New Vintage Red and New Vintage Scarlet
Yarrow New Vintage™ 'Red,' left, and New Vintage 'Scarlet'
© Penn State Trial Gardens

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is an old-favorite, sun perennial with silvery lacy leaves and umbrella-like clusters of flowers in early summer. Its main “Achille's heel" is that its heavy flower heads cause the stalks to flop as bloom peaks.

This new four-color series of heat- and drought-tolerant yarrows grows only 12" -14" tall, making it more compact than most other yarrows. New Vintage™ yarrows also bloom longer (starting in late spring) and rebloom nicely in late summer. Encourage reblooming by cutting spent flower stalks to the ground after the first flush of flowers.

Colors choices are rose, red, violet, and white. Best in full sun, USDA Zones 4-9.

Phlox Fashionably Early Crystal and Fashionably Early Lavender
Phlox 'Fashionably Early Crystal,' left, and 'Fashionably Early Lavender'
© Walters Gardens

Phlox 'Fashionably Early' series

Tall garden phlox is a showy native perennial that blooms in mid-summer. Its main problem isn't flopping (despite heights of 3 feet or more) but powdery mildew disease that attacks the foliage with a disfiguring white growth.

The 'Fashionably Early' series is the latest introduction to tackle the mildew problem, and it adds early and longer bloom time as well. This four color hybrid line starts blooming two to three weeks sooner than most tall garden phlox. The series includes 'Princess' (fuchsia pink), 'Flamingo' (lavender pink), 'Crystal' (white), and 'Lavender Ice' (lavender with a pink eye). Plants grow 28"- 36" tall. Best in full sun, USDA Zones 4-8.

Monarda Bee-You Bee-True
Monarda Bee-You™ 'Bee-True'
© Plants Nouveau

Monarda Bee-You™ series

<pHere's another native perennial with a mildew challenge that breeders are solving.

The new Bee-You™ series of bee balm has excellent mildew-resistance and is also more compact than older strains, topping out at 18" -24" tall. As the nickname implies, bee balms are popular bee-attracting perennials.

The Bee-You™ series comes in five colors: 'Bee-Merry' (coral pink), 'Bee-Free' (maroon), 'Bee-Happy' (red), 'Bee-Lieve' (pale pink), and 'Bee-True' (purple). Best in full sun and damp soil, USDA Zones 4-9.

Lamium Purple Chablis
Lamium Purple Chablis™
© Proven Winners

Lamium Purple Chablis™

Lamium (dead nettle), with colorful silver-variegated leaves and pink or white flowers is planted primarily as a groundcover for shady to partly shaded areas. The new Purple Chablis™ variety has the same silver-green foliage as the most popular existing lamiums, including Pink Chablis™, but its turtle-head-shaped flowers are purple. Plants grow only 10"-12" tall and bloom for months, starting in late spring and continuing most of the way through summer and well into fall.

Purple Chablis™ is heat- and drought-tough, isn't bothered by deer, and tolerates nearly full sun in addition to nearly full shade. USDA Zones 4-8.

Rudbeckia 'American Gold Rush'

Black-eyed Susan 'Goldsturm' is one of America's best-sellers, but increasingly it is attacked by a septoria leaf-spot disease in late summer. This causes blackening of the foliage.

'American Gold Rush' is a new variety bred mainly for better disease resistance. Its leaves are narrower than most black-eyed Susan leaves, but it blooms as heavily as any for about two months from mid to late summer. Plant height is 2'. Also sold under the brand name Everlasting Sun™. Best in full sun, USDA Zones 4-9.

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