Planning a Perennial Garden

By Joanna P., Certified Master Gardener

Cabin Fever. The Winter Blahs. Freezing temperatures. What’s a better time to think about  warm summer days and your gardens! Winter is a great time to start planning a new perennial garden or additions to an existing garden.

Here are some tips brought to you by the experts at TLC for starting a perennial garden:

Research plants

There are endless resources for flower/plant shopping available even in winter. Online websites, catalogs and gardening books provide ample information on perennial choices. Also, you may consider consulting your local nurseries. No matter your preference in plant color, size and shape there are bound to be many options for you to choose from. Here are some wonderful resources


When hunting for perennial plants for your gardens, you must pay attention to zone hardiness. Hardiness zones determine which plants are capable of growing and surviving based upon annual average low temperatures.

USDA Plant Hardiness Zones

In Teton County, Wyoming, we are Zone 3 (−40°F – −30°F), which means it’s cold here! Nevertheless, many perennials not only survive here but thrive. It’s always a safe bet to find native or indigenous plants to ensure survival and optimal growth/bloom.

Some of our Wyoming native plants include:

    • Columbine
    • Coreopsis
    • Heuchera
    • Malva/Mallow
    • Penstemon
    • Rudbeckia

Sun or Shade

Light requirements are another essential aspect in choosing plants for your gardens. If you are planning a garden which receives full sun, you will want to be certain the perennials you plant appreciate that much light. Or you may have a shaded garden in mind. And, of course, there are perennials that do just fine with a mixture of sun and shade.

Full sun perennials: Poppies, Sedum, Coreopsis, Delphinium, Calla Lily and Columbine.

Shade plants:  Hosta, Helleborus, Ferns and Athyrium.


It is important to check water requirements of perennials you are considering. Some plants prefer low water, well drained soils such as Sedum, Achillea and Echinacea. If you have a garden that gets lots of water, be sure to choose plants that are able to live in moist soil. Astilbe, Trollius and Ligularia all love having “wet feet”.


Wind can play a role also. If you live in a high wind area, check whether or not your perennials can sustain in a windy environment. Excessive wind can dry out the soil,  burn plants and cause wind chill effect, which makes it extra cold for plants.


Here in Jackson Hole, we must contend with Moose, Elk and Chiselers eating perennials. We’ve noticed Elk love dining on Columbine while Chiselers munch on Campanula. If you have an ungulate or other critter population at your home, try to find perennials that are “deer or rodent resistant”. Or maybe you welcome the sight of  Moose or Deer in your yard, in which case, certain perennials can draw them in.

Click here for a list of Deer resistant plants.



Perennials vary in bloom time from early Summer to Fall. You can create an early springtime “show” or an Autumn color explosion depending on the plants you choose. Of course, choosing perennials that bloom at different times, will give you an entire season of exciting colors and textures. Here is a list of some perennial bloom times:

Early: Columbine, Poppies, Trollius and Peonies.

Mid season: Black-Eyed Susan, Geranium, Daisies and Daylillies.

Late bloomers: Astilbe, Aster, Sedum and Mums.

Continuous bloom: Coreopsis, Blanket Flower, Coneflower, Hollyhock and Yarrow.

It’s great to get a head start on the garden season by doing the leg work in the winter. And let’s face it, it’s better than shoveling snow! We at TLC are experts in garden design, installation and maintenance, so if you would like us to assist in creating a beautiful landscape with gardens, please contact us at (307)732-3986 or  email me.

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