Podcast: Let's Argue About Plants

Episode 89: Just Four Perennials

Do you ever find yourself recommending the same handful of plants to friends and neighbors? We do. These might not be the splashiest of plants or even the ones that you’d base an entire design around. But they are fantastic herbaceous perennials—the meat and potatoes of the garden. To make things even more interesting, we limited ourselves to choosing just four of these go-to plants. Our choices have multiple seasons of interest, thrive under less-than-ideal conditions, and in our minds, are essential in any great garden.

Expert testimony: Susan Morrison is a garden designer in Concord, California.



Danielle’s List

‘Festiva Maxima’ peony (Paeonia lactiflora ‘Festiva Maxima’, Zones 3–8)

Painted fern (Athyrium niponicum and cvs., Zones 3–8)

    • ‘Crested Surf’, ‘Pearly White’, Japanese painted

Epimedium (Epimedium spp. and cvs., Zones 5–8)

    • ‘Spine Tingler’

Eastern blue star (Amsonia tabernaemontana, Zones 4–9)

'Festiva Maxima' peony
‘Festiva Maxima’ peony

'Crested Surf' painted fern
‘Crested Surf’ painted fern

'Spine Tingler' epimedium
‘Spine Tingler’ epimedium

Eastern blue star
Eastern blue star

Steve’s List
‘All Gold’ Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’, Zones 5–9)

‘Sum and Substance’ hosta (Hosta ‘Sum and Substance’, Zones 3–8)

‘Millenium’ allium (Allium ‘Millenium’, Zones 4–8)

‘Six Hills Giant’ catmint (Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’, Zones 3–8)

‘All Gold’ Japanese forest grass
‘All Gold’ Japanese forest grass
‘Sum and Substance’ hosta
‘Sum and Substance’ hosta

‘Millenium’ allium
‘Millenium’ allium

‘Six Hills Giant’ catmint
‘Six Hills Giant’ catmint

Expert’s List

Mirage™ Deep Purple autumn sage (Salvia greggii ‘Balmirdepur’, Zones 7–9)

‘Moonshine’ or ‘Coronation Gold’ yarrow (Achillea ‘Moonshine’ or ‘Coronation Gold’, Zones 3–8)

‘Walker’s Low’ catmint (Nepeta racemosa ‘Walker’s Low’, Zones 3–8)

California fuchsia (Epilobium spp. and cvs., Zones 8–12)

‘Walker’s Low’ catmint
‘Walker’s Low’ catmint
‘Coronation Gold’ yarrow
‘Coronation Gold’ yarrow
View Comments


  1. mikefraser 10/11/2021

    I'm sure it will be really helpful for a lot of people. I especially enjoyed your list of four perennials that any gardener/ hedge trimmer should plant if they want a well-rounded garden!

  2. Mle214 10/13/2021

    Thank you for sharing good ideas. Keep on sharing and more power.

  3. susankritzik 01/07/2022

    Since I live in Zone 9, the majority of these plants do not grow here. Offer more variety of answers please.

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