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Keeping a Perennial Bloom in the Garden


Question: I'm tired of replanting annuals every six months. What long-blooming perennials could I plant that do well here?

J.K., La Habra

Answer: Many perennials bloom for months if you deadhead (cut off spent blooms) and water them properly. Below are some of our favorites, which can thrive and bloom a long time in Orange County:

* Achillea (yarrow): Thrives in drier spots and blooms throughout summer and sporadically throughout the year. A long bloomer to consider is A. 'Moonshine,' a ferny, gray-foliaged plant with bright yellow blooms, or A. taygetea, with lighter-yellow blooms, which seems to bloom indefinitely. The latter is a little harder to find. Both grow 1 to 2 feet.

* Alstroemeria: Likes full sun to part shade in inland areas. There are a vast array of hybrids and color variations to choose from.

* Anigozanthos (Kangaroo paw): Tubular blooms in red, purple, green or yellow from late spring to fall. Plant in full sun.

* Aster frikartii 'Monch': Wonderful lavender blooms that peak in late summer when the garden is baked by September sun.

* Campanula (bellflower): Numerous varieties to choose from, ranging from small tufts to tall varieties for the back of the border. Most campanulas prefer filtered shade inland. C. portenschlagiana, C. rotundifolia and C. takesiana are three species among many.

* Chrysanthemum: Five species to consider are C. coccineum (painted daisy)--a 2- to 3-foot-tall variety that blooms throughout summer in shades of pink, red and white. C. leucanthemum (Ox-eye daisy, common daisy) grows 2 feet tall with white flowers and yellow centers. C. morifolium (Florist's chrysanthemum) blooms brighten the autumn garden in many colors. C. parthenium (feverfew) is another good choice, as well as C. maximum (Shasta daisy).

* Erigeron karvinskianus (Santa Barbara daisy): Mounding perennial with white and pink flowers. Tolerates dry conditions and naturalizes easily. The variety 'Moerheimii' is more compact, with lavender blooms.

* Erysimum 'Bowles Mauve' (wallflower): Can grow to 3 feet tall and 6 feet wide, blooming almost continuously.

* Gaillardia grandiflora (Blanket flower): Yellow, bronze or scarlet blooms on 2- to 4-foot-tall plants from June to frost.

* Gaura (G. lindheimeri): An airy, 2- to 4-foot plant that will lighten any border and easily reseeds. White and pink varieties available.

* Geranium (Cranesbill): There are many varieties. Most, except G. incanum, seem to prefer part shade in hot, inland areas. Try varieties such as G. cantabrigiense 'Biokovo' with white blooms, G. endressii 'Wargrave Pink' with rose-pink blooms May to November; G. incanum with magenta pink blooms spring to fall, or G. magnificum.

* Gerbera jamesonii (Transvaal daisy): Their peak bloom is early summer and late fall. In the off-season, their foliage can die back a bit, and they prefer to have their crowns planted high, but their beautiful colors are worthy additions to your garden.

* Helleborus: An underused plant that blooms for several months in winter and spring. Consider H. argutifolius corsicus, which has beautiful chartreuse blooms. It prefers a shady location and seems to hold its own and thrive in areas near trees where other perennials couldn't compete with the tree roots for nutrients. Other hellebores include H. foetidus, and H. orientalis (Lenten rose), which has greenish blooms with hints of rose.

* Lavandula (lavender): Consider long-bloomers such as L. dentata (French lavender), a 3-foot mound of light purple that blooms almost continuously, or L. Canariensis (Canary Island lavender).

* Pelargonium (geranium): A species to consider is P. Peltatum (Ivy geranium), which tend to be colorful and good for hanging baskets.

* Rudbeckia (yellow coneflower): Try R. fulgida varieties such as 'Goldsturm,' a 1- to 3-foot-tall plant with Black-eyed Susan flowers. Rudbeckias prefer full sun to light shade.

* Salvia (flowering sage): Most salvias prefer full sun and dry conditions. If you have the space (many varieties can grow to 4-foot-plus mounds), these are good choices. Consider Salvia leucantha with deep purple blooms. Salvia guaranitica has rich indigo-blue blooms to 5 feet.

* Sedum (stonecrop): Though these tough succulent perennials don't make a major yearlong contribution, their versatility and length of bloom make them worthy of consideration. They thrive in full sun to a fair amount of shade and require little summer water. They are quite easy to propagate from cuttings and will shine when the rest of the garden is suffering from September heat. Choice varieties are 'Autumn Joy,' which has pink blooms in late summer that fade to a rusty terra cotta, and sedum 'Vera Jameson,' which has pink blooms and beautiful blue-green foliage.

* Verbena: These are tough, heat- and drought-tolerant perennials that bloom all summer. They prefer full sun. Consider V. bonariensis, a tall airy perennial with purple blooms that can tuck into the middle or back of your border. Another tough performer is Verbena ridiga, a spreading plant with lilac flowers that needs little water.

Have a problem in your yard? University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) Master Gardeners are here to help. These trained and certified horticultural volunteers are dedicated to extending research-based, scientifically accurate information to the public about home horticulture and pest management. They are involved with various outreach programs, including the UCCE Master Garden hotline, which provides answers to specific questions. You can reach the hotline at (714) 708-1646 or send e-mail to Calls and e-mail are picked up daily and are generally returned within two to three days.

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