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How to Plan a Perennial Flower Garden

This is a small section of a larger garden.

This is a small section of a larger garden.

How to Design Perennial Flower Beds

The first thing to consider when planning a perennial flower garden is what goal you have in mind. Would you like to have flowers that bloom all season? Do you plan on mixing in annuals? Will the garden show from all four sides? After you figure all of these things out, then it is time to come up with a plan. We'll take a look at the following aspects of garden design:

  • Choose the Right Location
  • Plan the Shape
  • Plan the Arrangement of Plants
  • Consider When Flowers Bloom
  • Choose Plants by Height and Width
  • Choose Plants by Color
  • Consider a Theme Garden
  • Use Raised Beds

Choose the Right Location

Some flowers do well in full sun, while others like morning and late afternoon sun only. If you are in the South, partial shade may be better. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule.

Sun or Shade?

Decide if you want a sunny garden or a shade garden. Shade plants are harder to find, but there are hostas, ferns, etc. that do well. Asiatic lilies do well as do most wildflowers that can be found in the woods. Be careful with the wildflowers, though—some of them will take over the entire garden. Violets are one of these.

Keep in mind which types of plants you'd like before choosing the spot. If you have a mostly sunny yard or mostly shade, then you may not have a choice. Just keep this in mind when choosing the flowers you'd like.

A Perennial Shade Garden

A Perennial Shade Garden

Plan the Shape

Plan before you dig. Using a garden hose to plan the shape of the garden can help. Flower gardens look best without straight lines.

A kidney shape is pleasing, or if the garden is going to be against a fence or building, think about a curvy line. After you shape your garden with the hose, you can adjust it until you get the desired shape.

The entire garden isn't shown. It is planted all along the fence. Placing a table in the area can provide a nice peaceful place to sit in the summer months.

The entire garden isn't shown. It is planted all along the fence. Placing a table in the area can provide a nice peaceful place to sit in the summer months.

Plan the Arrangement of Plants

Get out a piece of paper and pencil before you begin planning which plants to purchase. Measure the garden, and then draw a picture. Get out a plant catalog and look at the plants you'd like and check the heights and widths, colors, and bloom time. You'll find more information below to help you.

Flowers look best in uneven numbered groups. It is best to start with a grouping of three unless it is an extra-large plant like a bleeding heart.

Fill in the paper before you start purchasing plants. If necessary, you can move the plants later that don't work, but it helps to do it right the first time.

Hostas look nice in a shade garden.

Hostas look nice in a shade garden.

Consider When Flowers Bloom

If you'd like to have flowers that bloom all season without using annual flowers, this can be a challenge. It is doable. Don't start buying plants and plopping them in the garden without some thought first.

  • Early Spring: Tulips and daffodils bloom early as do most spring bulbs. Many of the wildflowers bloom in the early spring. Bleeding Hearts are an early bloomer.
  • Spring to Early Summer: Next, irises will bloom. Soon, Asiatic lilies follow. Different Asiatics are available that bloom at different times. The patio varieties bloom a little earlier than the others, so think about including those.
  • Midsummer: In midsummer, there is a wide variety to choose from. Daylilies, coneflowers, rudbeckia, Shasta daisies, oriental lilies, and the list goes on.
  • Fall: Late-blooming daylilies and mums bloom in the fall. If you've kept your flowers deadheaded after they bloom, some of these will still be blooming in the fall.

Choose Plants by Height and Width

If your bed can be seen on all four sides, you'll need to plant the taller plants in the middle. If they are going to grow against a fence or building, plant the tall ones in the back. Next, use the mid-size plants, and then plant the small plants in the front.

Lollipop Asiatic lilies make a nice addition for blooms in June.

Lollipop Asiatic lilies make a nice addition for blooms in June.

Choose Plants by Color

Would you prefer pastels or brightly colored flowers? Look at a color wheel and choose the opposite color on the wheel—an example is purple and gold. This can make a real statement. One of my neighbors used these two colors in sweeping gardens across her yard, and we admired them every time we walked by.

White always looks nice with any bright color. A soft white would go well with pastel colors.

Think about plants that have colorful leaves. I've purchased some coral bells with purple leaves this year, and they make a nice splash of color before and after other flowers bloom.

Consider a Theme Garden

You may want to have a theme garden. Here are a few ideas for themes:

  • Family Garden: A family garden is a nice idea. Just choose plants with the names of your family members. Many varieties of flowers have the names of people. An example is the Becky Daisy which is a tall variety of Shasta daisy that spreads well. Daylilies are available that are named with people's names.
  • Memorial Garden: A memorial garden is a nice way to remember someone special that has passed away. Plant all of the flowers the person loved or reminds you of them.
  • Souvenir Garden: If you like to visit garden centers, stop at one on each vacation and bring back a plant to remember the good times you had.
  • Sports Team Garden: Plant a garden in your favorite team's colors. These always look nice.
This is a fairy garden that I saw at a garden show. Children love these.

This is a fairy garden that I saw at a garden show. Children love these.

Use Raised Beds

By mounding up the dirt, you can raise the height of your garden. This has advantages. From the street, your garden will look beautiful because it will raise it to a higher level which will show it off more. A raised bed doesn't need as much bending to care for, and you can use soil that is richer than that available in your area.

Of course, a raised bed isn't necessary, and it does take more work to create—the choice is yours.

Your Hard Work Will Pay Off With Years of Flowers

You'll enjoy your perennial flower bed for years to come. Because it has been carefully planned, it will look beautiful. Even if you are a beginner, the garden will add to your lawn, and the birds and butterflies will enjoy it too.


Barbara Badder (author) from USA on August 13, 2015:

Chantelle, Yes, I love gardening. Have fun creating your memorial garden.

Chantelle Porter from Ann Arbor on August 12, 2015:

Great article. I can tell you love to garden. I'm in the process of planning a memorial garden for my Grandma. It was nice to see we are on the same wavelength.

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on June 20, 2015:

Hazel Abee, Thank you for the compliment. Orchids are beautiful and you are fortunate that you can grow them where you live.

Hazel Abee from Malaysia on June 20, 2015:

So beautiful garden .... MY balcony is filled with Orchids only .. as i am staying in an apartment.

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on March 22, 2015:

Peggy, Thanks for looking at my photos. I hope your garden is beautiful this year.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 22, 2015:

Your garden is absolutely beautiful! I do like incorporating perennials into our garden along with a few annuals each year just for a splash of additional color. UUB votes and will share.

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on July 29, 2013:

Sally, Thanks for reading and voting it up. I love my gardens too and I have some of the native plants.

Sally Branche from Only In Texas! on July 28, 2013:

I love perennial plants, especially native and naturalized ones. They make having a pretty, natural yard so much easier! Voted up and useful! ;D

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on February 18, 2013:

Gail, Thanks for visiting the hub and voting up and sharing. Thanks for the compliments too.

Gail Meyers from Johnson County, Kansas on February 18, 2013:

You have beautiful landscaping and took good pictures. Thanks for sharing the beautiful and informative hub. Voted up and shared.

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on January 23, 2013:

eugbug, My sister had something eat all of her lily bulbs too. Otherwise they just keep multiplying. We left one in the same place for 5 years and I couldn't believe how many bulbs were underneath them and how big they were. Now I have more red ones than anyone could want and have given them to lots of people. I don't have a lot of tiger lilies. They don't seem to do so well here for me. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Eugene Brennan from Ireland on January 23, 2013:

Hi Barbara! I love the Asiatic lilies, I can never get mine to last more than a couple of years. I reckon something must be eating the bulbs. Tiger lilies are very long lasting and hardy though.

Enjoyed the hub and voted up!

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on January 21, 2013:

Organised Kaos, Thanks for the compliments. Gardening is one of my other hobbies.

Anne from Hobart, Tasmania ~ Australia.(The little bit broken off the bottom of AUS) on January 21, 2013:

What an absolutely lovely garden. Admired the healthy plants. Nice work and ideas in here. Thanks.

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on September 06, 2012:

Eddy, Thanks for your nice comments. You take care too.

Eiddwen from Wales on September 06, 2012:

So very well informed/useful and interesting.

Here's to so many more to share on here.

Take care


Barbara Badder (author) from USA on July 19, 2012:

ishwaryaa22, Thanks so much for all of your nice comments and for voting up and sharing.

Ishwaryaa Dhandapani from Chennai, India on July 19, 2012:

You got a large and beautiful garden. After reading this engaging hub, you spoke like a garden expert, highlighting the importance of trimming the garden and making them beautiful forever. Your suggestions are clear and helpful. I will take up some of your valid points for my garden in my terraces. The photos looked very pretty. Well-done!

Thanks for SHARING. Pressed all the buttons except funny(sorry). Voted up & Socially Shared.

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on July 07, 2012:

i4u, Thanks so much and thanks for the compliments. We have shrubs here and I should use them in the garden more, but I have a bit of a shade problem already. I enjoy gardening too and it is a relaxing hobby for me.

i4u on July 07, 2012:

Wonderful information to bring out a flower garden indeed. Gardening is a joyful hobby and I do help my mom out in our garden which not only has flowers but some amount of delightful shrubs.

Your advices are very useful in lot of ways and the photos looks amazing too by the way.

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on June 30, 2012:

brsmom68, Thanks for reading. You'll have fun when you do get your own property.

Diane Ziomek from Alberta, Canada on June 29, 2012:

This is great advice for anyone planning a perennial garden. I have used mostly annuals as we live in a rental. I will be referring back to this when we buy our own property and I can plan my garden the way I want it. Voted up, useful, interesting and pinned. :)

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on June 24, 2012:

Glimmer, Thanks for reading and thanks for voting up. I'd like to see your garden.

Claudia Porter on June 24, 2012:

Love your flowers and the ideas. My husband and daughter always get me a special perennial for mother's day so I have some interesting plants. Voted up!

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on June 04, 2012:

Little Red Wagon, Thanks for commenting. Yes it does make the work easier if you have help. I've always had a problem with my husband wanting to plant shrubs in all the wrong places. Right now we have one in front of our front window that will grow 10-12 feet high, because he insisted that is where it should go. I have to trim it down every year. Thanks for commenting.

Mickie’s Little Red Wagon from The South on June 04, 2012:

Thank you for the inspiration. I am planting perennials in a bed in front of my house. I find that my husband is a hindrance rather than a help. He just does not understand my vision. Unfortunately, his help is needed when I build up the beds and need his help with making a border. I guess I just need to work on my communication skills.

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on June 04, 2012:

lj, I need to get busy and do the same thing here. I have a granddaughter that wants everything extra I have though and that will help. Thanks for reading.

lj gonya on June 04, 2012:

Beautiful hub. I've been planting perennials for over 40 years and still make the mistake of not checking out height before planting. Right now, I need to go out and "divide and conquer" a few of my out of control varieties. Great job.

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on May 30, 2012:

mommytalks, I'd miss that part myself. Thanks for commenting.

mommytalks on May 29, 2012:

great Hub! Living in Arizona, I miss gardening in Michigan. Hostas, tiger lilies, pacysandria .... *sigh*

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on May 20, 2012:

billybuc, I'm happy you'll be able to use the ideas. Thanks for commenting.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on May 20, 2012:

Wonderful suggestions! We are going to move in three years so I won't be doing this now but at our new place I want perennials by the boatload and I will use your suggestions at that time.

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on May 06, 2012:

alocsin, Thanks for your commenting and voting up.

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on May 06, 2012:

I've always wanted to have one of these but never found the time. When I get around to it, this is hub is the first place I'll visit. Voting this Up and Useful.

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on April 21, 2012:

Thanks Angela.

Angela Michelle Schultz from United States on April 21, 2012:

I'd recognize that backyard anywhere! Very pretty!

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on April 17, 2012:

Prasetio, Thanks for reading the hub and voting up. I'm happy to hear you loved the photos.

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on April 17, 2012:

Very informative hub. I love gardening and I learn much from this hub, including all stunning pictures. Thanks for writing and share with us. Rated up!


Barbara Badder (author) from USA on April 17, 2012:

susann23b, I'm happy to hear that you are able to use this info. You should enjoy your new perennials.

susanm23b on April 17, 2012:

This is a very informative hub with lovely photos! I always love reading gardening hubs. Gardening is not something that I naturally gravitate towards, but I love flowers. We are looking to replace some of the shrubs in our front yard with perennials. Thanks so much for the inspiration. Voted up! Useful and beautiful!

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on April 13, 2012:

Movie Master, Thank your for the compliment and commenting on the hub. I'm happy you enjoyed it.

Movie Master from United Kingdom on April 13, 2012:

I like the idea of planting by colour, I have never considered planting a border just using a couple of colours.

Your garden is lovely and thank you for the information and advice.

Voted up.

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on April 12, 2012:

Arlene, Thanks for reading and commenting on the hub. You've got to add a few flowers just for the fun of it. We had something like 20 roses, but we lived in an area with blackspot that was so bad, that we finally gave up. Now we live where there is no blackspot. Maybe we'll get into roses again.

Arlene V. Poma on April 11, 2012:

Voted up! Thank you for the inspiration, Barbara Kay. I do have some flowers, but most of my gardening has been limited to roses, herbs and vegetables. I enjoyed your writing and your illustrations.

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on April 11, 2012:

dagny roth, You'll have to share the pictures in a hub, so we can all see it. Thanks for commenting.

dagny roth from Neverland on April 11, 2012:

Very beautiful! I am working on a raised bed wildflower garden and have been really enjoying the fruits of my labor.

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on April 11, 2012:

teaches12345, I have yet to make a raised bed myself. My hubbie just doesn't like the idea because of mowing around it. I myself don't think it would be any harder. As long as he does the mowing though, I go along with him. Thanks for commenting.

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on April 11, 2012:

sen.sush23, I have many more gardens around our yard. Some are big and some small. They all do have the same guidelines for creating them. Thanks for commenting.

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on April 11, 2012:

SMD2012, My husband is a musician and our gardens looked better when he helped with them. He enjoys home decorating too and everything has to have a perfect balance in our home too. Thanks for reading the hub and I enjoyed your comment about your Dad.

Dianna Mendez on April 11, 2012:

I like the idea of a theme garden. Also, raised beds have always been attractive to me. This is a very useful hub topic and I enjoyed the ideas you listed.

Sushmita from Kolkata, India on April 11, 2012:

Barbara, though your garden seems to be quite big, the ideas you have given can be used even in planning a small garden. I do love the idea of the curvy line, which really would give even a small garden some flow. Very interesting Hub. Voted up.

S Davies on April 11, 2012:

You have a lovely garden! It reminds me very much of the garden in my old family home. My Dad loved creating curved beds, winding paths and tree canopies. He said gardening was like conducting a symphony. As each flower bloomed at a different time of the year, you had to create balance and harmony so that there was always something beautiful happening in the garden, there was always "music" being played by one or more sections of his floral orchestra. - Sarah