With perennials, gardens look powerfully pretty

Perennials may be the most aesthetically rewarding plants in your landscape. If used right, they could become “the backbone of your garden.” Because they are permanent, you don’t plant as often. These plants have learned to survive neglect and abuse, only to come back for more. You’ll be glad you planted them for years to come!

Because perennials last longer, it’s wise to plan carefully before installing them. Yes, they cost more than annuals. The long-term investment, though, makes them very reasonable.

Here are but a few that will produce bushels of color in your garden.

■ Chocolate flower: This perennial forms a rosette of leaves, but rising above them on long slim stems are yellow daisy flowers emitting an early morning chocolate aroma. Plant it near your patio to enjoy the fragrance. If plants become scraggly, shear them to initiate fresh growth and prolong blooming. Let the large chocolate-colored seeds ripen to make attractive dried-flower arrangements. If you let the seeds drop, it’ll reseed itself.

■ Blackfoot daisy: White, honey-scented daisies cover this plant from early spring into summer then intermittently throughout the season. It’s called “Blackfoot” because there’s a little dark blackfoot imprint on the underside of the petals. It loves full sun and well-drained soil, but dies if overwatered. It’s highly tolerant of reflected heat and does excellently as a foreground plant. It freely reseeds itself and will show up anywhere around the yard.

■ Desert marigold: This tough perennial is one of the first to produce large, bright yellow daisylike flowers in the spring and continues through the season. To make the show even more spectacular, plant it in masses. Remove the spent seed heads to prolong its blooming cycle. The foliage forms a dense growth helping prolong the moisture needed to keep them blooming. It’s easy to sow; simply spread seeds on the ground, rake them in and keep moist until established.

■ Tufted evening primrose: This primrose is perfect for moonlit gardens. It blooms from spring through late summer producing huge white citrus-scented flowers that open in the late afternoon to fragrance the yard at night. They close in the mornings as temperatures ascend. The flowers stand out even more with the large dark green foliage underneath. Spruce up this plant to keep the scented flowers coming. Heat doesn’t bother it a bit.

■ Desert ruellia or desert petunia: It’s a compact dark green plant which sets the stage for this prolific petunia-like bloomer to produce from spring until frost. In the early spring, remove the frost-damaged foliage to prepare for the approaching blooming season and remove spent flowers to keep the plant looking fresh. Plant this perennial in full sun or partial shade. It’s also an excellent choice for containers.

■ Purple cone flower: This plant develops large (4 inches across) daisylike purple flowers that become striking with a large domed cone in the center. After flowering, the showy seed heads provide food for birds. It gets waist-high with long dark green leaves to show off the flowers. It does best with some afternoon shade. It also reseeds itself if conditions are right.

■ Gooding verbena: This plant, which produces lavender-colored flowers, complements the many yellow-flowered plants in our yards. In the spring, it puts on a show, but blooming tapers off as temperatures rise. This plant reseeds itself to keep it lasting for years. It also becomes an inviting plant for butterflies. Prune only to clean up the plant.

■ Globe mallow: This mallow is prevalent along the roadsides of Lake Mead where it grows naturally. Although light orange flowers are the most common, you’ll find other selections ranging from pink to red to white and to lavender. It may look a little ragged after flowering, so cut it back in the fall. Next season it will bounce back to about waist-high.

■ Dusty miller: If you want to cool off and lighten up your landscape, plant dusty miller with its heavily lobed leaves painted chalky white. It needs full sun to thrive. The rich foliage and compact growth habit makes this an excellent choice in rock gardens and containers when you want a distinct contrast of plant materials. Although not known for its blooms, dusty miller has yellow and sometimes purplish flowers. It does great on a water-miser’s diet.

Linn Mills’ garden column appears on Sundays. You can reached him at liinmillslv@gmail.com or call him at 702-526-1495.