Does your perennial garden peak early and disappoint from midsummer on?

Asters are stars of the late-summer show. Shown here are two types of asters paired with a fall-blooming allium (Allium thunbergii ‘Ozawa’)
Aster at the nursery

In the garden center, this plain-looking aster has a hard time attracting buyers. Still, avid gardeners can see its potential.

Does your perennial garden peak early and disappoint from midsummer on? You’re not alone. In most parts of the country, the majority of commonly-grown perennials bloom in the first half of the summer. But there’s another reason that most of us are lacking color in our late summer gardens. We need to be better shoppers!

Ask a garden center manager or nursery owner about when people buy perennials. You’ll likely to hear that 80% of their sales are in May and June. Next, you could ask them the difference in sales potential between a plant that’s in bloom and one that’s not. They will probably say that they sell 10 plants in bloom for every one plant that’s not in bloom.

What’s in bloom during May and June when people like us are buying perennials? It’s the early-season flowers: peonies, columbine, lady’s mantle, delphinium and iris. When we’re out shopping, the late-summer perennials are nothing but tufts of green. For the same price, they’re just not as appealing.

The solution? Once in awhile you need to shop with a list, not with your heart. It’s tough to do, but when late summer rolls around you’ll be patting yourself on the back. There are lots of wonderful perennials that bloom in late summer, including coneflower, asters, mums, Russian sage, cimicifuga, sedum, rudbeckia, and phlox.

Next time you’re at a garden center, roaming around in the perennials, challenge yourself to buy something that’s not in bloom. Check the tag and buy a plant or two that blooms in August or even September.

Now’s the time to tuck a few annuals into your perennial borders, too. Read Late-Summer Flowers, which tells you what to choose.

Kathy LaLiberte, Director of Gardening, Gardener’s Supply