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Perennial Garden Plans: Stunning Garden Designs Explained

A perennial garden features plants that live for over two years, often blooming each season. These plants die back in winter and regrow from the same roots each spring. Planning a perennial garden involves considering plant characteristics, seasonal blooms, garden structure, and maintenance. Here’s a step-by-step guide to planning a good layout, inspiring ideas, and plant selection for tailoring garden plans to fit specific needs and preferences. Discover the best perennial garden plans to create a beautiful, low-maintenance garden that blooms year after year. Let’s start!

Steps to Plan and Design a Perennial Garden Layout

Let’s start with some planning and layout tips for designing a perennial garden.

Assess Your Site:

  • Soil Type: Test your soil’s pH and nutrient levels. Amend soil if necessary to match the needs of your chosen perennials. Learn more about measuring the soil pH by following the link to our post. Learn about how to amend clay soil before planting your perennial garden.
  • Sunlight: Observe how much sunlight different parts of your garden receive. Most perennials require full sun (6+ hours) or partial shade.
  • Climate Zone: Choose plants that thrive in your USDA Hardiness Zone. There is a new 2023 USDA hardiness zone map. Your zone may have changed recently. Just, type your ZIP code below and verify your growing zone.

Design the Layout:

  • Shape and Size: Decide on the garden’s shape and size based on available space and aesthetic preferences. Curved beds often look more natural than straight lines.
  • Paths and Borders: Include paths for easy access and maintenance. Use edging to define the garden’s boundaries.

Select Plants:

  • Bloom Times: Choose plants with staggered bloom times to ensure continuous color throughout the growing season.
  • Height and Spread: Arrange taller plants at the back or center (for island beds) and shorter ones at the front. This layering ensures all plants get sunlight and are visible. You will find some garden layouts, ideas, and diagrams for planting full-sun and shade perennial gardens. In the following paragraph, there is a list of recommended perennial plants for various climates and soil types.
  • Color Scheme: Decide on a color palette. Harmonious schemes (analogous colors) or contrasting schemes (complementary colors) can guide your plant selection.
  • Foliage and Texture: Include a mix of foliage types and textures to add interest even when plants aren’t in bloom.

Plan for Growth:

  • Spacing: Provide adequate space between plants for growth and air circulation. Check mature plant sizes when planning.
  • Group by Needs: Group plants with similar water, soil, and light requirements to simplify care. This is also known as “companion plants”.

Sketch the Plan:

  • Draw a Map: Create a scaled map of your garden bed. Mark plant locations based on their mature sizes and heights.
  • Layering: Indicate layers (tall back, medium middle, short front) on the map for clarity.

Prepare the Soil:

  • Weeding and Clearing: Remove existing weeds and debris.
  • Amending: Incorporate organic matter, such as compost, to improve soil structure and fertility.

Planting:

  • Planting Time: Plant perennials in early spring or fall when temperatures are moderate.
  • Planting Depth: Follow specific planting depth guidelines for each perennial. Generally, plant so the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface.

Maintenance Plan:

  • Be sure to follow tips on caring for perennial plants, including watering, fertilizing, and pruning.
  • Watering: Establish a regular watering schedule, particularly during dry spells. Learn more about the best time to water plants by following the link to our recent post.
  • Mulching: Apply mulch to retain moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature. Learn more about the types of mulch and how to calculate the mulch you need.
  • Pruning and Deadheading: Remove spent flowers and prune as necessary to encourage growth and maintain shape.
  • Fertilizing: Feed plants with a balanced fertilizer according to their needs and growth stage.

Let’s see some ideas for planning a full-sun and shade perennial garden layout.

Full-Sun Perennial Garden Layout

Let’s see some ideas for full-sun perennial garden plans, layouts, and arrangements.

Idea 1

This first idea for a full-sun perennial garden has an island shape.

full sun perennial garden layout diagram 1
In this full-sun perennial garden plan, the plants are arranged to allow viewing the island from the front and walking around it. Therefore, in this layout, the taller plants are in the back row, with Joe Pye Weed and coneflowers. The middle row features medium-height perennial plants like Black-eyed Susan and daylilies. Lastly, the front row has short plants like Coral bells and sedum (stonecrop). As you can see in the next table, the blooming time of this plant arrangement is very extended from spring to fall.
full sun perennial garden layout ideas 1
Full-Sun Perennial Garden Plans
Idea 1
LocationPlant NameScientific NameHeightBloom Time
Back Row (Tall Plants)Joe Pye WeedEutrochium purpureum5-7 ft (150-210 cm)Mid-summer to fall
ConeflowerEchinacea2-5 ft (60-150 cm)Mid-summer
Middle Row (Medium Height)Black-eyed SusanRudbeckia2-3 ft (60-90 cm)Mid to late summer
DayliliesHemerocallis1.5-4 ft (45-120 cm)Summer
Front Row (Short Plants)Heuchera (Coral Bells)Heuchera1-2 ft (30-60 cm)Spring to early summer
Sedum (Stonecrop)Sedum1-2 ft (30-60 cm)Late summer to fall

Shop the look:

Idea 2

Our second idea is also suitable for a full-sun garden and is designed as a perennial cut flower layout. Let’s look at the perennial garden plans and layout.

full sun perennial garden layout diagram 2
This full-sun perennial plan offers a gradient of colors and sizes, perfect for creating a small cut flower garden for home flower arrangements and centerpieces. The back row showcases stunning delphiniums and Joe Pye Weed. The middle row features medium-height perennial plants like Shasta daisies and yarrow. You can also add Black-eyed Susan and daylilies to this middle row. Lastly, the front row has short plants like coreopsis and creeping phlox, offering a beautiful ground cover. As shown in the next table, the blooming time of this plant arrangement extends from spring to early fall.
full sun perennial garden layout ideas 2
Full-Sun Perennial Garden Plans
Idea 2
LocationPlant NameScientific NameHeightBloom Time
Back Row (Tall Plants)DelphiniumDelphinium elatum4-6 ft (120-180 cm)Late spring to early summer
Joe Pye WeedEutrochium purpureum5-7 ft (150-210 cm)Mid-summer to fall
Middle Row (Medium Height)Shasta DaisyLeucanthemum × superbum2-3 ft (60-90 cm)Early to late summer
YarrowAchillea millefolium2-3 ft (60-90 cm)Summer to early fall
Front Row (Short Plants)CoreopsisCoreopsis verticillata1-2 ft (30-60 cm)Summer to early fall
Creeping PhloxPhlox subulata0.5-1 ft (15-30 cm)Spring

Winter Interest Plants

You may want to add some winter interest to your garden that provides visual appeal during the winter months, when most plants have died back or are dormant. In this way, the garden remains attractive and engaging even in the coldest season. Here are some perennial options:

  1. Hellebore (Helleborus): 1-2 ft, blooms late winter to early spring.
  2. Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis): 0.5 ft, blooms late winter to early spring.

Shop the look:

Recommended Readings:

Idea 3

This third idea for a full-sun perennial garden has an island shape and combines perennial flowers with low-maintenance flowering bushes.

full sun perennial garden layout diagram 3
This third idea for a full-sun perennial garden has an island shape and combines perennial flowers with low-maintenance flowering bushes. In this layout, the taller plants are in the back row, with Maximilian sunflowers and iris offering a striking contrast of color. If you prefer shorter sunflowers, there are plenty of dwarf sunflower varieties. Russian sage and gaura are in the middle row. Lavender bushes can be a perfect replacement for Russian sage. Lastly, the front row features short plants like Rock Cress and snow-in-summer. As shown in the next table, the blooming time of this third perennial garden plan is very extended, lasting from spring to fall.
full sun perennial garden layout ideas 3
Full-Sun Perennial Garden Plans
Idea 3
LocationPlant NameScientific NameHeightBloom Time
Back Row (Tall Plants)Maximilian SunflowerHelianthus maximiliani6-10 ft (180-300 cm)Late summer to fall
Tall Bearded IrisIris germanica2-3 ft (60-90 cm)Late spring to early summer
Middle Row (Medium Height)Russian SagePerovskia atriplicifolia3-4 ft (90-120 cm)Summer to fall
GauraGaura lindheimeri2-3 ft (60-90 cm)Spring to fall
Front Row (Short Plants)Rock CressArabis caucasica0.5-1 ft (15-30 cm)Spring
Snow-in-SummerCerastium tomentosum0.5-1 ft (15-30 cm)Late spring to early summer

Plants for Winter Interest

  1. Christmas Rose (Helleborus niger): 1-1.5 ft, blooms late winter to early spring.
  2. Helleborus orientalis (Lenten Rose): 1-1.5 ft, blooms late winter to early spring.

Recommended reading: The Best Perennial Flowers for Full Sun

Shop the look:

Shade Perennial Garden Layout

Let’s see some ideas for partial and full-shade garden layouts and perennial garden plans.

Idea 1

This first perennial garden plan is perfect for a shaded front yard of the house. The selected plants are short or medium height, although arranged by their sizes.

shade perennial garden layout diagram 1
In this layout, we place Hosta and Astilbe in the back row. Lungwort and ferns are in the middle row. Ornamental grasses can be a perfect replacement for ferns. Lastly, the front row features short plants like Heuchera and dead nettle. This garden plan offers lots of foliage and not only blooms.
shade perennial garden layout ideas 1
Shade Perennial Garden Plans
Idea 1
LocationPlant NameScientific NameHeightBloom Time
Back Row (Tall Plants)HostaHosta2-3 ft (60-90 cm)Early summer to early fall
AstilbeAstilbe chinensis2-3 ft (60-90 cm)Late spring to early summer
Middle Row (Medium Height)Ferns1.5-2.5 ft (45-75 cm)Not bloom
LungwortPulmonaria1-1.5 ft (30-45 cm)Early spring
Front Row (Short Plants)HeucheraHeuchera0.5-1 ft (15-30 cm)Late spring to early summer
Dead NettleLamium0.5-1 ft (15-30 cm)Spring to early summer

Shop the look:

Idea 2

In this perfect layout for partial-shade gardens, the plants are arranged to allow viewing the island from the front and walking around it.

shade perennial garden layout diagram 2
In this perfect layout for partial-shade gardens, the plants are arranged to allow viewing the island from the front and walking around it.
shade perennial garden layout ideas 2
Shade Perennial Garden Plans
Idea 2
LocationPlant NameScientific NameHeightBloom Time
Back Row (Tall Plants)RodgersiaRodgersia aesculifolia3-5 ft (91-152 cm)Early to mid-summer
Japanese Forest GrassHakonechloa macra2-3 ft (61-91 cm)Attractive foliage
Middle Row (Medium Height)Japanese AnemoneAnemone hupehensis2-4 ft (61-122 cm)Late summer to fall
Bleeding HeartDicentra spectabilis2-3 ft (61-91 cm)Spring to early summer
Front Row (Short Plants)LungwortPulmonaria0.5-1 ft (15-30 cm)Early spring
Toad LilyTricyrtis hirta1-2 ft (30-61 cm)Late summer to fall

Winter Interest:

  1. Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis): 0.5 ft, blooms late winter to early spring.
  2. Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis): 0.5 ft, blooms late winter to early spring.

Shop the look:

Idea 3

This stunning shade perennial garden plan is perfect for welcoming entries.

shade perennial garden layout diagram 3
This stunning shade perennial garden plan is perfect for welcoming entries. I love this plant arrangement for the movement and wave effect in the wind. In this layout, the taller plants are in the back row, with Goat’s Beard and Ligularia offering a soft movement and contrast of color. Astilbe and Foamflower are in the middle row. Lastly, the front row features short plants like Epimedium and Japanese painted fern. If you prefer you can plant hostas next to the ferns as they are perfect companion plants.
shade perennial garden layout ideas 3
Shade Perennial Garden Plans
Idea 3
LocationPlant NameScientific NameHeightBloom Time
Back Row (Tall Plants)Goat’s BeardAruncus dioicus4-6 ft (122-183 cm)Early summer
LigulariaLigularia dentata3-4 ft (91-122 cm)Mid-summer
Middle Row (Medium Height)FoamflowerTiarella cordifolia1-1.5 ft (30-46 cm)Spring to early summer
AstilbeAstilbe chinensis2-3 ft (61-91 cm)Mid-summer
Front Row (Short Plants)EpimediumEpimedium spp.1 ft (30 cm)Spring
Japanese Painted FernAthyrium niponicum1-1.5 ft (30-46 cm)Attractive foliage

Plants for Winter Interest:

  1. Cyclamen coum: 0.5 ft, blooms late winter to early spring.
  2. Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis): 0.5 ft, blooms late winter to early spring.

Shop the look:

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Perennial Garden Plans Inspiration Gallery

Welcome to our gallery of perennial garden plans! Explore a variety of inspiring layouts and designs to help you create a beautiful, year-round garden.

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perennial garden plans
perennial garden plans
perennial garden plans
perennial garden plans
perennial garden plans
perennial garden plans
perennial garden plans

Recommended Reading: 3-Season Perennial Garden Plans for Full-Sun and Shade

By following these steps and considering plant characteristics, you can create a beautiful, low-maintenance perennial garden that offers year-round interest and color.

A perennial garden plan ensures a sustainable, low-maintained, and long-lasting garden with year-round interest and blooms.

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perennial garden plans full sun and shade

About Julia Morgan

Julia Morgan is an agronomist and a master gardener. In her previous roles, Julia was an advisor promoting large-scale food growing in urbanized areas, introducing the concept of chemical-free produce. She is an expert in putting her hands in the soil, developing organic foods, and improving production processes for decades. Julia is a natural teacher and encourages every person in her way to grow their own food. She split her days between writing and reviewing for The Garden Style Website and offering assessments to cure edible land. Julia enjoys connecting with The Garden Style Community.

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