The Q&A Archives: Best 4 To 5 Foot Summer-fall Blooming Perennials For Rocky, Poor Soil

Question: I have some rocky ground around the edge of my lawn. The soil is hard and already the grass has started taking it over, but I wanted to plant some tall, blooming perennials that would outline the outside of the lawn. I need to have something that can grow even though the grass will keep growing out towards these plants. I already have planted iris and I would really prefer something that would bloom through the summer into fall if possible. Our area gets down to -20 degrees in the winter. I have picked out Limonium Latifolium, Linaria Purpurea, Eupatorium, and Contranthus Ruber as possible canidates. Will these grown under these conditions? Do you have better suggestions?

Answer: You need to be careful that your lawn grass doesn't take over the bedding area, as most turf grasses are invasive and the root systems will compete with your flowers. Once started, they are difficult to eradicate. You might want to try some type of barrier, like a weed barrier. You didn't say what the sun exposure is (sun, partial sun, shade), but it's critical that the plants you choose do well in the exposure you have. They should also have similar watering requirements. I assume because the soil is rocky and water is an issue in the West, you want drought tolerant plants. There are several species of Eupatorium, but most take regular water. However, they are attractive natural looking plant with fairly long bloom periods and easy to grow. Centranthus is a good plant, usually blooming in late spring and early summer, perhaps through summer. It is not fussy about soil, takes little water and full sun to partial shade. Limonium takes full sun and moderate water; most bloom in summer. I'm going to refer you to High Country Gardens in Santa Fe. They have a wonderful catalog and website full of information on native and adapted plants that thrive with minimal fuss and water. They also list them by bloom period, which is useful for ensuring color throughout the season. They have a retail nursery and demo garden if you're in the area. Their website is Good luck!

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