Our sister publication, Greenhouse Management, asked trial garden managers from across the United States to submit some of their best performers. Below are the best overall perennials and the best drought-tolerant perennials. To see more results, visit greenhousemag.com/article/cover-story-2020s-top-performers.
Best overall perennials
Echinacea ‘Kismet Raspberry’ (Terra Nova Nurseries)
North Carolina State University; Bernadette Clark, trial manager. Clear raspberry-red colored flowers continuously blooming on sturdy upright stems are good for cuts or you can leave the seed heads for the birds. Low maintenance, and pollinators love these guys.
For more: jcra.ncsu.edu/publications/trial-reports/index.php
Heuchera ‘Grande Amethyst’ (Terra Nova Nurseries)
Michigan State University; Kristen Getter & Daedre McGrath, trial managers This Heuchera received perfect marks all summer. With vigorous mounding growth of purple wavy leaves, this variety practically formed a groundcover by mid-summer of its first year in the ground.
For more: hrt.msu.edu/plant-trials
Phlox LUMINARY ‘Opalescence’ (Proven Winners)
Walter’s Gardens; Laura Robles, trial manager. ‘Opalescence’ is one of two new introductions of Phlox paniculata in the Proven Winners perennial program. This variety is the gold standard for powdery mildew resistance and has the darkest green foliage of any Phlox paniculata we’ve seen. The fragrant, light pink flowers have dark pink eyes and are produced in large panicles. For more: waltersgardens.com
Best drought-tolerant perennials
Veronica ‘Venture Blue’ (Terra Nova Nurseries)
North Carolina State University; Bernadette Clark, trial manager. Compact, low growing plants that are covered in dark blue flowers. Continuous flowering spikes on sturdy upright stems. Low maintenance, easy to grow and no deadheading needed. Handles the heat well. For more: jcra.ncsu.edu/publications/trial-reports/index.php
Digitalis Camelot Lavender (Syngenta Flowers)
Raker-Roberta’s Trial Gardens; Greg Michalak, trial manager. First year planting. Still flowering into October. Series typically performs well. For more: trialgardens.raker.com
Perovskia ‘Sage Advice’ (Proven Winners)
Walter’s Gardens; Laura Robles, trial manager This perennial is perfect for hot, dry climates, but performs well in a wide variety of environments. ‘Sage Advice’ has rich, lavender purple flowers that are a darker shade than other Perovskia to date. Compared to ‘Denim ‘n Lace’, this variety has darker flowers and calyces, broad (vs. dissected) foliage, and is slightly taller. For more: waltersgardens.com