Identifying Perennials in Spring

Pictures of perennials as an identification guide to what’s growing in my yard this spring.

Once the perennials start pushing through the ground in spring, I sometimes can’t recall what is growing where.  I spent nearly 30 years living in Florida where plants don’t have to hibernate over winter.  Now that I live in New Hampshire, I’ve had to adjust to not seeing my yard and gardens for months at a time.

Even though I leave the tags near the plant when they are planted, the tags don’t always last.  Some of the larger perennials, like the hydrangeas and peonies are easy to identify.

Spring Plant Identification, New England

I’ve taken some recent photos of the perennials growing this Spring as a reminder..  It’s a plant identification guide for myself.  Maybe they will help you name some in your yard as well.

I took these photos May 3, 2015.  I lived in southern New Hampshire. The top photo, in each ID section, is mine and is as the plant will look early in Spring. The bottom photo (if I have one) is from the Pixabay site and shows a mature, flowering plant.

Bleeding Heart

The bleeding heart has little pink or white flowers that hang in rows along the stems. The Bleeding Heart likes a bit of shade.


Columbine

ID Columbine plant in spring

The Columbine is one of my favorite flowering perennials. It comes in such a wide variety of colors, like pink, red, purple, and yellow, usually in a combination of colors with a light center. The flowers can be ruffled in some varieties.

Pink and blue-purple columbine flowers

Coneflower

The Coneflower is an awesome perennial and the tough thistle type seeds draw in the finches in Fall.

ID Coneflower

Coral Bells

Coral bells are perennials that have stalks of tiny, coral pink colored flowers.

ID Coral Bells
Coral bells growing in front of peonies
Coral Bells with pink peonies behind

I have two types of Coral Bells and one has darker leaves. I can’t remember what the flowers look like.

ID coral bells2

Coreopsis

The Coreopsis is a mounded type plant (or at least mine is) that grows little yellow flowers.

ID Corepsis
Yellow flowering coreopsis
Blooming Coreopsis

Monk’s Hood

Monk’s Hood will have tall stems with blue-purple flowers. I couldn’t find a flowering photo to share.

ID Monk's Hood

Phlox

Phlox comes as a creeping variety or this tall variety. Flowers are usually shades of pink, purple, or white.

ID tall phlox
Pink purple tall phlox flower

Wild Bleeding Heart

ID wild bleeding heart

My Three Favorite Perennials For Shade

white astilbe
White Astilbe – Shade Lover

It’s not easy to grow a shade garden.  Some hydrangeas will do well in shade, but I am not talking about those here.  This post is about the smaller perennials that can fill a shade garden.  The flower variety of shade loving plants is limited even more than the plants that are available.  Most things that will grow under trees or in gardens that are on the shady side of a house are pretty dull looking in my opinion.  I love a garden with variety, so I am always on the lookout for something new to plant in the yard and I’m always thrilled to find a nice looking, shade loving shrub.

Still, I revert back to my favorite three basic choices when buying for the shade.

#1. Bleeding Heart –  This is an amazing plant.  It is so delicate that it breaks easily, yet sends out long leafy stalks with loads of little, heart-shaped flowers that dangle from the greenery.  It seems so fragile, yet each year it survives the icy cold winters underground and grows back in Spring.

#2. Astilbe  – I think this is a favorite of many when it comes to planting for shade.  I am new to growing this plant, but I plan to have many of them in my garden under the trees.  They have tall feathery flowers in white, red and pink and their leaves can vary from color to color.

#3.  Hostas – Of course.  Who has a shade garden without including hostas?  Last year I planted a variety of hostas in my large, front yard garden.  It’s too early in the season to see them sprouting yet, but I look forward to watching them get larger and larger.  Hostas are mainly grown for the leaf coloring and size, even though they do send up tall shoots with tiny flowers on them.

This little one I found last year at the local nursery is called “Mouse Ear”.

mouse ear hosta
Mouse Ear Hosta

Perennial Flowers That Like Shade

Astilbe koblenz
Image via Wikipedia – Astilbe koblenz

I’d like to write about tall perennials that like shade, but I haven’t come across any. 

The best flower for shade is the astilbe (shown).  It has pretty leaves and shoots up tall, colorful and feathery-looking flowers.  It is available in many colors and I especially love the white.  But the flowers are tall and not necessarily the actual plant.

Other Shade-loving Perennials

Hostas are also well known as shade loving plants, but they grow close to the ground with tall shoots that hold their tiny flowers. This is a little “mouse ear” Hosta I planted.

mouse ear hosta plant
Mouse Ear Hosta

Another favorite for the shade is the bleeding heart.

Bleeding heart plant
Bleeding heart plant

Of course many hydrangeas can do well in partly shaded locations and I plan to try some in my front yard (New Hampshire).  The truth is that most flowering plants need a lot of sun to look good, but arranging the plants I have mentioned here in a grouping beneath trees, or in any shaded area, can be beautiful as well.