How to Design a Perennial Garden

A perennial garden, properly designed, can provide lasting pleasure to any gardener. While a planned garden is certainly aesthetically pleasing, it is also environmentally advantageous because it provides a habitat and haven for birds and bees. The steps below outline how to design a perennial garden that is easy to maintain and relatively easy to create, even if you are a novice gardener.


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    Start small. Design a garden that will fit in a space that is no larger than 15’ (4,572 mm) wide x 6’ (1828 mm) deep. That’s enough room to create a 3 season garden and it won’t be an overwhelming chore to maintain it. The initial planning and preparation of a perennial garden is labor intensive; if you attempt to design and plant a large garden, you might get discouraged, both with the planting and the maintenance.
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    Choose the ideal garden spot. Walk around your property and observe the places where you spend the most time, or would like to spend the most time when you are outdoors. You can also walk through your house and look out of all the windows and decide where you would like to improve the view.
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    Sketch a simple map of the location you have chosen. Note the locations of large trees or shrubs and the average amount of sun and shade the spot gets every day.
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    Research types of perennials and decide how much time you are willing to devote to the care and maintenance of any plants you are considering. Some perennials are virtually maintenance-free once established, but others require diligent, sometimes daily, attention. Still others require full sunlight or partial shade. Look online or find books at your local library or book store that have full color photographs of perennials.
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    Think about other elements you can incorporate into your garden. Don’t reject a favorite site because it has a large boulder or tree that can’t be moved; you can easily plant flowers that will complement natural elements.
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    Consider spacing when you are researching the plants you’d like to put in your garden; many perennials multiply by themselves, so if you initially plant in every available space, your garden will soon be overcrowded. Fill in any gaps with annuals so that you allow your perennials room to expand over the years.
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    Plant groups of similar plants together. A minimum of 3 similar plants or a group of a single variety of flowers gives the maximum eye appeal.
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    Note the growing heights of the plants you are considering. Taller plants should be planted in the background and lower growing flowers should be in the foreground. Sketching out your choices on your design plan will help you visualize what your mature garden will eventually look like.
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    Choose perennials that have a mixture of colors, shapes and foliage.
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    Factor in the blooming times of each perennial you want; that way you will have a colorful garden from spring until fall.
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    Make sure your new perennial garden can be easily reached with a garden hose.


  • Use a color wheel to help you determine which colors work best together.
  • Cover your newly planted perennial bed with mulch so the soil will retain moisture and reduce weed growth. Any organic material may be used as mulch.
  • Nectar-rich flowers will attract bees and hummingbirds.
  • Here is a suggested combination of perennials that have a variety of heights, colors and foliage, and that will bloom from spring to fall:
    • Creeping Phlox (spring)
    • Giant Bearded Iris (spring)
    • Red Double Peony (late spring)
    • Pink Double Peony (late spring)
    • Chrysanthemums (spring, summer, fall)
    • English Lavender (summer)
    • Ground Cover Daylilies (summer)
    • Golden Sundrops (summer)
    • Painted Daisies (summer, fall)
    • Hydrangea (summer, fall)
    • Dwarf Asters (fall)
    • Dwarf Burning Bush (fall)
  • Accent your garden at night with solar lights.


  • Buildings will bounce back heat and light. If you plant too close the south or west sides of buildings, the extra heat and light can hurt the foliage plants.
  • Make sure your soil is well-spaded and that it has organic matter worked into it before you start planting.

Things You’ll Need

  • Sketchpad or paper
  • Pencil

Sources and Citations

Article Info

Categories: Theme and Feature Gardens