Good Perennials for Beginning Gardeners

When starting a new hobby, there are tools to acquire, techniques to learn and materials to purchase. This is so true for flower gardening. The tools can be as simple as a trowel and a watering hose and as complex as irrigation systems and robotic lawn mowers. But for the beginning gardener, the vast variety of flowers, trees and shrubs can be overwhelming. (It still is for me, and I’ve been gardening for almost 40 years!)

Where do you start choosing the plants that you are going to grow in the flower beds? Starting with a plan before heading to the nursery or garden center is the best option. Knowing the garden “stats” will definitely narrow the plant choices. Your garden stats are: sun or shade, well-drained soil or soggy, size of the area, and hardiness zone.

Once you have the information in hand, check out your local Extension Service’s plant lists. The University of Kentucky breaks their perennial plant lists into “Perennials for Sunny Locations” (HO-76) and “Perennials for Shady Locations” (HO-77).

The other list that I would recommend is the Perennial Plant of the Year. They are found at

Asclepias tuberosa

2017 Perennial plant of the year- Asclepias tuberosa

Since 1990, the Perennial Plant Association picks one plant a year to be promoted as the Perennial Plant of the Year. Their goal is “to showcase a perennial that is a standout among its competitors. Perennials chosen are suitable for a wide range of growing climates, require low maintenance, have multiple-season interest, and are relatively pest/disease-free.”

Finally, pick a plant that fulfills a requirement for the garden. It could be the flower color, the height, the scent, or because it jumped in your cart and said, “Take me home!”

Submitted by Amy Aldenderfer, Agent for Horticulture, Hardin Co. Cooperative Extension Service