By Susan Albert
When adding to your perennial garden, consider selecting a coneflower (Echinacea spp.) or two -- long-blooming performers that do well as cut flowers and wildlife magnets. Birds, particularly goldfinches, love the seeds. Butterflies flock to the nectar.
A person could go “cone crazy” with all the new coneflower varieties released each year. The drooping petals and cone-shape center that are the hallmarks of coneflowers are now in an expansive range of colors and styles.
I’ve noticed a steady stream of coneflowers coming through Lowe’s this summer, including the traditional “purple” coneflower (Echinacea purpurea ‘PowWow Wild Berry’), white coneflower (‘PowWow White’ and ‘White Swan’), as well as a yellow variety. If you prefer spicy-hot colors, how about the sombrero series? Sombrero Salsa Red coneflower (Echinacea x hybrida ‘Balsomsed’) is a vibrant red-orange variety that really stands out. It grows about 2 feet tall and 16–22 inches wide, and is cold hardy to minus-30 degrees F.
Another attention-getting coneflower is the Double Scoop Cranberry (Echinacea ‘Double Scoop Cranberry’), which sports a row of drooping petals and a mophead center in a rich-cranberry color. Waterwise coneflowers prefer full sun and well-drained soil.
Investing in perennials can turn out to be a wise move. Although they cost more than annuals, most perennials are long-lived and return for many years.
Besides coneflowers, here are some favorite perennials you can find in Lowe’s garden centers. (Selections vary by store.)
- Hostas are perfect for brightening a semi-moist shady area. They come in a multitude of sizes and color variations. Predominantly variegated, blue, chartreuse, or green foliage sends up shoots in summer, with bell-shape flowers that hummingbirds adore. Pictured clockwise from left are ‘American Halo’, ‘Dream Queen’, and ‘Winter Snow’.
- Coreopsis varieties are must-haves in any garden. Two of my favorites are ‘Moonbeam’ (Coreopsis verticillata ‘Moonbeam’) and ‘Zagreb’ (C. verticillata 'Zagreb'). Coreopsis is happy in full sun, and is waterwise when established. ‘Moonbeam’ sports airy foliage and light-yellow blooms. ‘Zagreb’ has fine foliage too, but with larger and deeper-yellow flowers.
- Oxeye sunflower (Heliopsis ‘Winter Sun’) boasts variegated foliage and daisylike, lemon-yellow blooms. Growing 2–3 feet tall and about 2 feet wide, it prefers sun and moist soil. Snip faded flowers to encourage continuous blooming.
- Variegated liriope (Liriope muscari 'Variegata') is my favorite edging plant. Not a true grass, the green and white arching foliage reaches 12–20 inches tall and 1 foot wide. Deep-purple spikes bloom in late summer, followed by dark berries. Liriope performs best in part sun. The grass is evergreen in a mild winter, but the edges may turn brown in harsher years. Mow in spring to rejuvenate.
- Garden phlox (Phlox paniculata) is another long-blooming, long-lived perennial. Its large, fragrant flower clusters sit on 3-foot-tall stems. Popular shades are pink, rose, lavender, white, coral, and red. Plant in a sunny area.
- False indigo (Decadence ‘Lemon Meringue’) is prized for its blue-green foliage and bright, cheery lemon-yellow flowers that form up and down charcoal-gray stems. Site in full to part sun.
- Hameln dwarf fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’) is a nice-size green perennial grass, with lots of fuzzy seed heads when mature. Only reaching 20 inches tall and wide, it’s great for a small space.
Check the Lowes.com plant care guide for any pruning needs such as deadheading or removing dead foliage. The helpful guide includes plant care information, landscape tips, and garden plans.
See more South Central Gardening Articles.