Perennials for Summer

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner
Perennials for Summer

There are myriad perennials for the summer garden.  For the best effect combine them with annuals, trees, shrubs and bulbs. 

Consider not only the flowers but the texture and size of the foliage and the plant.  

Usually, if space permits, two or three of the same variety planted in a group makes more of an impact than one plant of many different types.   Listed below are some perennials that I grow for their summer blooms. All of these will thrive in full sun and a few will tolerate part-shade too. Certain plants like garden phlox may put out a second flush of flowers if you cut them back by a few inches after their first flush of flowers.  

Asclepias tuberosa, butterfly weed, is a drought tolerant native that loves full sun and heat. The flowers range from lipstick red to orange and yellow. Plants reach 1 to 2’ tall and clumps are up to 2’ wide. Don’t try to dig this up from the wild, it has a taproot and is difficult to transplant. The flowers are a nectar source for many butterflies and a food source for monarch caterpillars.  (Zone 3 to 9)

Asclepias tuberosa at Smith Gilbert Gardens June 28

Calamintha nepeta nepeta, lesser calamint, forms a mound about 1.5 by 1.5 ft. A member of the mint family, the tiny fragrant lavender to white flowers is good filler between other tall perennials.  (Zone 5 to 7) It reminds me of baby’s breath but is much easier to grow and flowers for months.


Hemerocallis, daylilies offer a wide range of flower colors over a long period of time.  There are both single and double types as well as miniature forms. (Zone 3 to 9) Daylilies are great on a slope or individual plants make good focal points in the border. 


Iris ensata, Japanese iris offer large flowers measuring 6 to 12” across. The colors are rich and include white, purple, maroon, yellow and more. Plants grow 3 to 5’ tall and love wet feet.  Site these at the edge of a pond, stream or in the flower border. (Zone 4 to 9)


Kalimeris pinnatifida, kalimeris is workhorse in the garden putting out masses of 1” double white daisy-like flowers with yellow centers. Clumps grow 2 to 3’ tall and wide.  Kalimeris thrives in full sun or light shade. (Zone 4 to 9)


Phlox paniculata ‘David,’ David garden phlox is a white flowering form that is  consistently a good performer and is resistant to powdery mildew; a problem with many varieties of garden phlox.  Plants reach 3 to 4’ tall at maturity.  I like it combined with white ‘Casa Blanca’ lilies. (Zone 3 or 8)


Rudbeckia nitida ‘Herbstonne,’ Shining coneflower is covered with yellow flowers with green cones in the center.  It attracts Monarchs and  reaches  up to 7’ tall. I combine mine with Joe-pye weed and the cup plant.  Planted out by the street I let them get as tall as they like.  (Zone 3 to 9)


Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers,’ Henry Eilers sweet cone flower, displays unusual quilled yellow flowers that surround a purple-brown center. Plants will grow 4 to 5’ tall, perfect for the middle or back of the border.  (Zone 4 to 8)