Hidden Gem Perennials


If you live in the southern or southwestern United States, you may find using certain perennials in your zone to be a bit of a challenge. If you live in more northern climates, you might not be familiar with the unique accent that perennials can add to summer combination containers. Enter “tender” perennials: plants that can be used as part of a mixed container, seasonal border or perennial border (in warmer zones).

So how does a “tender perennial” differ from an annual? It’s all in the lifecycle. A tender perennial, such as Spanish lavender, is hardy in its native range (zone 7a-9b) and will thrive and survive the winter in warm climates, but it won’t overwinter in colder zones. An annual (such as a marigold) completes its lifecycle in one year, setting seed and dying, regardless of what zone it grows in. Only volunteers from seeds dropped the year before sometimes appear.

Consumers who are always on the prowl for the “new and different” will find many innovative forms of tender perennials available to pique their interest. Whether used in borders or containers, they are easy to grow and provide exceptional visual impact and interest. Here are a few currently available from Green Leaf Plants:

Erysimum ‘Jenny Brook’ features unique multi-hued flowers that progress from purple to mauve to peach simultaneously. It’s a favorite of Allan Armitage in the University of Georgia trials. “It wowed us from January until June with a delightful color palette of apricot and lavender. A plant worth getting to know, this Erysimum [from Blooms of Bressingham] is the best wallflower we have ever trialed, bar none,” he says.

Calocephalus brownii adds unusual color and texture to any sunny planting. With a tidy habit and irresistible silver-white twigs, it provides the perfect foil for hot companion colors.

Rudbeckia hirta Denver Daisy or ‘Indian Summer’ (a.k.a. Gloriosa Daisy) make a spectacular show in the garden and are terrific used in hot spot pots. Long blooming but short-lived in the garden, they will sometimes seed in.

Salvias such as ‘Black and Blue’, ‘Hot Trumpets’, ‘Ultra Violet’ and ‘Wendy’s Wish’ range from tall to short, in hot to cool colors, and flower all summer long–they love the heat and won’t quit or melt down.

Talinum paniculatum is tough and extremely heat resistant. It displays tall sprays of dainty pink flowers over waxy, thick green or chartreuse foliage through all the summer months. It’s lovely used as filler to soften and weave between other plants. It will sometimes self-seed.

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