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Plants: Planting for multi-season interest
Arricca Elin SanSone | April 27, 2015

Sweet Summer Panicle Hydrangea (late Summer coloring) Hydrangea paniculata ‘Bokrathirteen’ PP#21,778. Ball Ornamentals.

How to design landscapes that shine throughout the year 

Summer is often the height of a landscape’s beauty, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Plants that don’t fade after the first blush of foliage or flowers offer more bang for your buck. “By considering how a plant changes through the seasons, you ensure variety in the landscape,” says landscape architect Brooke Ryan, marketing manager for . “A plant’s transformation makes your design interesting all year.”

When choosing plant materials that stand out for more than one brief season, look for several key attributes. Opt for plants which boast a long bloom period from planting to frost. Select plants with variegated or textured leaves, flowers or foliage that changes colors from spring to fall, or plants that retain dried seed heads. Bright stems and berries are other desirable features that offer a punch of color through the cool weather months when there’s not much else going on in the garden.

Consider these varieties and reliable favorites in your next planting plan to provide three- or four-season appeal:

Annuals and perennials


‘Vanilla Cream’ Baptisia USPPAF. Proven Winners.

Decadence ‘Vanilla Cream’ False Indigo (‘Vanilla Cream’ Baptisia USPPAF)

Introduced in 2015, pale yellow buds to creamy white flowers appear on bronze foliage that turns to grey-green as it matures. No need to deadhead. Drought tolerant. Grows 30 to 36 inches tall and 42 inches wide.

  • Hardy to USDA zones 4 to 9
  • Part to full sun 



Dianthus barbatus interspecific ‘PAS970056’. Ball Ornamentals.

Jolt Pink Dianthus (Dianthus barbatus interspecific ‘PAS970056’)

Durable mounding plant that performs from spring to frost. Bright pink color contrasts nicely against dark green foliage. Heat and drought tolerant. 2015 All-America Selections winner. Grows 16 to 20 inches high, 12 to 14 inches wide.

  • Hardy to USDA zones 7 to 11
  • Sun 



Salvia coccinea. Proven Winners.

Salvia ‘Summer Jewel White’ (Salvia coccinea)

Compact plant that blooms heavily throughout the entire season. Also available in red and pink. Works well in large landscaped areas, borders, or containers. Attracts pollinators. Grows 18 inches tall and 24 inches wide. 2015 All-America Selections winner.

  • Hardy to USDA zones 7 to 10
  • Full sun 



Impatiens x hybrida. Proven Winners.

SunPatiens (Impatiens x hybrida)

Mounding or spreading habits that offer a multitude of color choices including pink, red, salmon, lavender, orange, and white. Nonstop bloom to frost. Works equally well in landscape or baskets because it fills in fast. Not affected by downy mildew. Grows 24 to 36 inches tall and wide.

  • Hardy to USDA zone 10 to 11
  • Full sun or shade


Attractive foliage


Agonis flexuosa. Ball Ornamentals.

Agonis Burgundy (Agonis flexuosa)

Deep burgundy foliage and stems throughout the year. Small white flowers in spring and summer. Fragrance is similar to eucalyptus. Heat and drought tolerant. Grows 8 feet tall and 8 feet wide.

  • Hardy to USDA zones 9 to 11
  • Full sun



Coprosma repens. Ball Ornamentals.

Coprosma ‘Inferno’ (Coprosma repens)

Glossy evergreen shrub with an explosion of colors. Other varieties include ‘Midnight Martini’ (foliage turns from green to black) and ‘Tequila Sunrise’ (red, yellow and green variegated), and ‘Pina Colada’ (yellow and orange). Wind salt and tolerant. Grows 24 to 36 inches tall and wide.

  • Hardy to USDA zones 9 to 10
  • Part to full sun



Sambucus racemosa ‘SMNSRD4’ USPPAF. Proven Winners.

Lemony Lace Elderberry (Sambucus racemosa ‘SMNSRD4’ USPPAF)

Introduced in 2015, this mounded shrub has golden fine, shaggy foliage with red new growth. White spring flowers with red fall fruit. Tolerates full sun in the north but prefers light shade as you go south. Grows 36 to 60 inches tall and wide.

  • Hardy to USDA zones 3 to 7
  • Part sun to sun



Weigela florida ‘Sunset’ USPP 23,212. Proven Winners.

My Monet Weigela ‘Sunset’ (Weigela florida ‘Sunset’ USPP 23,212)

A dwarf variety with pretty variegated gold foliage and red fall color. Requires little pruning. Slow-grower so place in front of beds and borders. Grows 12 to 18 inches tall and wide.

  • Hardy to USDA zones 5 to 8
  • Sun



Westringia. Ball Ornamentals.

Westringia ‘Sorrento Coast’ (Westringia)

Mid-sized shrub with soft, attractive two-tone leaves of cream and green. Drought and heat tolerant. Grows 24 to 48 inches tall and wide.

  • Hardy to USDA zones 9 to 10
  • Full sun




Viburnum nudum ‘Bulk’. Proven Winners.

Brandywine Viburnum (Viburnum nudum ‘Bulk’)

White spring flowers and green berries that turn to beautiful vibrant pink and blue in autumn. Red fall foliage. Deer resistant. Grows 60 to 72 inches tall and wide.

  • Hardy to USDA zones 5 to 9
  • Part sun to sun



Spirea japonica ‘SMNSJMFR’ USPPAF. Proven Winners.

Double Play Red Spirea (Spirea japonica ‘SMNSJMFR’ USPPAF)

Showy burgundy spring foliage turns to green with bright crimson flowers later. Pretty in borders and mass plantings. Attracts hummingbirds. Deer resistant. Grows 24 to 36 inches tall and wide.

  • Hardy to USDA zones 3 to 9
  • Part sun to sun



Hydrangea quercifolia ‘JoAnn’ USPPAF. Proven Winners.

Gatsby Pink Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia ‘JoAnn’ USPPAF)

A large shrub with big showy white flowers that change to rich pink. Green foliage that turns to mahogany in fall. Peeling winter bark. Grows 72 to 96 inches tall and wide.

  • Hardy to USDA zones 5 to 9
  • Part sun to sun



Cornus stolonifera ‘Neil Z’ PPAF. Proven Winners.

Pucker Up! Red Twig Dogwood (Cornus stolonifera ‘Neil Z’ PPAF)

White flowers and puckered leaves are an appealing combination, with red stems for winter interest. Adapts to most soils but likes swampy conditions best. Deer resistant. Grows 36 to 48 inches tall and wide.

  • Hardy to USDA zones 3 to 7
  • Part sun to sun



hydrangea paniculata ‘Bokrathirteen’ USPP 21,778. Ball Ornamentals.

Sweet Summer Hydrangea (hydrangea paniculata ‘Bokrathirteen’ USPP 21,778)

Prolific pale green buds in spring turn to white in summer, then pink in fall. Flowers hold on to provide winter interest for year-round appeal. Grows 48 inches tall and wide.

  • Hardy to USDA zones 3 to 8
  • Part sun


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