Maria is a master gardener and master of public health. She & her husband, known online as The Gardener & The Cook, live in coastal Alabama.
After starting an article highlighting both popular perennials and annuals, it quickly grew far too long. So I divided it into two articles: one for annuals and one for perennials.
There are many sun-loving flowering plants that come back year after year. These are called perennials, and the best thing about them is that they multiply. They can be divided every few years and spread throughout your garden, or passed along to other gardeners. I have divided this article into separate sections for annuals and perennials. Hence, the phrase “pass-along plants”.
Perennials are more expensive, but they’re worth it because they multiply. One iris rhizome will quickly become four or five. One daffodil bulb will become two, the next year, those two will become four, etc. Daylilies, on the other hand, multiply like crazy. Most will need to be divided every three to four years.
Although amaryllis (Hippeastrum) bloom in the spring, they are often thought of as a Christmas flower because so many forced bulbs are sold during the winter holidays. Each year during the holidays, I try to buy one of a color I don't already have. We enjoy it indoors, then plant it in the garden when warm weather returns.
This is a genus of approximately ninety species and more than 600 cultivars and hybrids. They grow from very large herbaceous bulbs, with the tops of the bulbs above the soil. They prefer full sun, but will be happy in filtered or dappled light, as well. Drought-tolerant, they can go without rainfall for over a year, but this will likely affect flowering. So plant them in well-drained soil.
They do multiply, and can be separated to increase the spread of them in your garden beds, or to share with a friend. If the pups are very small, they will not flower for a few years. I suggest separating them after the pups are larger, and doing this in the fall winter, depending on where you live.
Because of their botanical name, Agapanthus africanus, these gorgeous flowers are affectionately called “Aggies” by those who love them most. Lily of the Nile, Blue Lily, and African Blue Lily are also among their common names.
Their blossoms are in clusters of small lavender, blue, violet-blue, or white flowers that look like tiny lilies. I’m told there are also pink Aggies, but I have never seen them.
I have an article entitled, How to Grow Lily of the Nile, (Aggies), which contains much more information on successfully growing these gorgeous long-lived perennials. The link to that article is embedded in my name in the photo of the white Aggie below.
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The day lily (Hemerocallis) is popular millions of gardeners probably because of their wide range of colors and the fact that they are nearly indestructible. They are drought-tolerant, and they aren’t picky about their soil. Of course, with good soil they will perform better for you. They are amazingly easy to grow, and will spread quickly, giving you many pups to move around your garden or share with a neighbor.
Plant so that the crown is about one inch beneath the soil, in an area that is well-drained. Plant them in full sun, away from trees and shrubs that will compete with them for water and nutrients.
They are available with both solid colors and bi-color flowers. They can be expensive, especially the more showy ones, but they are also among the flowers known as “pass-along plants”. If you have a friend, relative, or neighbor whose day lilies need to be divided, it’s almost a sure bet he or she will share some with you.
The Siberian iris is especially popular among gardeners who live too far south to grow bearded iris. I tried growing my beloved bearded iris in central Florida (Zone 9a), but they were not happy there, as it does not get cold enough, long enough in winter.
I also had some purple Siberian irises, and they multiplied like crazy. I brought three tiny sprigs with me when we relocated two years ago. Now I have four large clumps that need to be divided again.
They will need to be divided every two or three years. If they get too crowded, the flowers will be smaller and on shorter stems.
Cultivated (as opposed to native) geraniums fall into a category known as “tender perennials”. This is because, in all but the warmest climates, if left in the ground over the winter, they will not come back. While they are not true annuals, in some climates they are treated as annuals.
They come in a huge range of colors, with both solid and multi-colored clusters of flowers. They can be grown from seed, but I have never attempted that, so I will not speak to it here.
One method of keeping them alive over the winter is to grow them in pots, and take them indoors during winter. I like seeing them growing in the ground, as did my mom. She came up with the idea of putting them in clay pots (which are porous) then sinking the pots in the ground. When cold weather was near, she lifted the pots, brushed or washed off the soil, and took them into her basement to sit in the window until spring. I have copied her methods, and now have some geraniums that I have had for five years. The photo below shows one of them.
For those of us living along the gulf coast, a favorite spring flower is the Louisiana iris. Once exclusively a wildflower, they have been hybridized to bloom in a rainbow of colors on tall stems with large, showy flowers. You can often see the native wildflower blooming in boggy or swampy areas and in ditches alongside roadways.
Louisiana irises fit really well with the popular and increasing use of native plants in landscapes. They make the perfect addition to aquatic gardens and rain gardens, but they also can grow in regular garden beds.
There are five species known as the Louisiana irises, but it is only in south Louisiana that all five species can be found growing naturally. These five iris species interbreed readily. The crossing of the species has resulted in the Louisiana iris hybrid cultivars now found in nurseries and garden centers.
They are available in a broad range of solid colors, including red, yellow, pink, blue, purple, gold, lavender, burgundy, white, and even brown. Bi-colors of contrasting shades, markings, and ruffles have been cultivated, as well.
The best time to plant these beauties is August and September when they are dormant, but you can plant them while they are blooming and choose which colors and types of flowers you like best. If planted while blooming, take care to be handle them carefully to avoid damaging the foliage and flower buds.
Carolina Spider Lily
This is one that was given to me by another gardener. When we relocated, I left some behind, and took a few with me. They are now growing happily in my new garden.
The Carolina Spider Lily (Hymenocallis caroliniana), also known as the Coastal Spider Lily, is often confused with the Cahaba Lily (Hymenocallis coronaria) because of their similar appearance. The Cahaba Lily, however, grows in running water, such as the Cahaba River, and other rivers and creeks.
Carolina Spider Lily is a perennial native to the southern coastal lands from North Carolina to Florida and Alabama. It typically blooms in spring, with clusters of fragrant flowers, which makes it attractive to pollinators.
This herbaceous perennial bulb grows best in consistently moist soil, and should not dry out between watering. It needs full sun to part shade, and can be grown in Zones 7a to 9a.
In the landscape, it is best used in water gardens, rain gardens, or along ponds. In the wild, it can be found in moist soil with up to 6 inches of standing water, in tidal marshes and banks of backwater rivers.
The dark green, strap-like leaves resemble the leaves of amaryllis and Agapanthus. In fact both are in the botanical family, Amaryllidaceae.
Of the more than 300 species in this genus, the most well-known is the tall (at least 28 inches) bearded iris. It is also the symbol of Florence, Italy, and has been the royal standard (fleur-de-lis) of France for many years.
Bearded irises are often considered by many to be old-fashioned flowers – everyone’s grandmother had them. I think they are exotic-looking with their three large outer petals called “falls” and three inner upright petals called “standards.” It is the beards (or crests) of soft hairs along the center of the falls that gave them the name.
Depending on where you live, your irises will flower in early-to-mid spring or early summer. There are now some hybrids that will bloom again in late summer. Even after they have finished blooming, their sage-green sword-like foliage adds interest to the garden, and serves as a nice backdrop to smaller colorful flowers.
I have written an article entitled, Bearded Iris and How to Plant Them that contains more information, such as when and where to plant, how to plant (it’s not the usual way), how to fertilize, and how to protect from rot. The link to that article is embedded in my name as the source of the photo above.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 MariaMontgomery