We love how the layered look turns out in the garden when it’s filled with various textures and color, and this means that you have to incorporate different heights into your design with tall perennials in the back of the beds and groundcover or smaller, mounding plants in the front. The point of setting up your garden this way is so you can enjoy all of your favorite plants without having one overshadow the other, so it will take some planning on your part to get it right. However, it’s very easy to do, and we’re going to go over 25 tall perennials that will add fullness, height, and some will bring a bold pop of color to the space when they bloom.
Why Use Tall Perennials in Your Garden Design
Tall perennials work well to add shape and depth to the garden when you include them with other plants of similar heights, and they can also camouflage things you may not want people to see, like an air conditioner or an old chain link fence. They can even boost your privacy levels if you do it right.
When you pick tall perennials for your garden, no matter which height you go for, it’s a good idea to pick out a variety based on bloom time. This way, you’ll have thriving and colorful plants in your garden throughout the growing season. Before you start, besides picking up a shovel, you may also want to have a tape measure handy. A lot of these plants are very wide too, so correct spacing is a must to keep them happy.
1. American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)
This is one tall perennial that you grow for the purple berries instead of flowers, and it’s worth adding to your garden as it will delight any birds that come in. The berries on this plant will appear during the fall and last well into the winter months to give wildlife a nice food source. The flowers on this plant are little white or pink blooms, and even though they’re lovely, they’re not the biggest attraction for this plant.
When the berries show up, they wrap around the plant stem in bright purple, dense clusters. The contrast of the deep purple berries and the landscape when most other plants start to die back and turn brown make this plant much more appealing. It is hardy in zones 6 to 10, and it gets between four and six feet tall at full maturity.
2. Ashy Sunflower (Helianthus mollis)
This is a long-lasting and tall sunflower that makes a great addition to your landscape. It’s a well-known tall plant that is a perennial that will come back year after year, unlike the common sunflower that is an annual. The blooms on this tall perennial are bright yellow with a yellow disk in the center, and they flower all of the way through fall. Bees, butterflies, and birds will make routine visits to this low-maintenance native plant, and birds love eating straight from the seedheads. It’s hardy in zones four to nine.
A few common perennial sunflowers to consider include Maximilian Sunflower (H.maximiliani), Nuttall’s Sunflower (H.nuttallii), Sawtooth Sunflower (H.grosseserratus), Swamp Sunflower (H.angustifolius), Tall Swamp Sunflower (H.simulans), Ten-Petaled Sunflower (H.decapetalus), and Western Sunflower (H.occidentalis).
3. Bear’s Breeches (Acanthus Mollis)
Very elegant, this tall perennial will lend a vintage charm to your garden. They have a growth span that tops out at four feet, and it does well when you plant it in partial shade or full sun. It’s a very unique plant that produces white, tall flowers with elegant purple bracts that adds a whimsical touch to the space.
You may hear this plant referred to as the Gator Plant, Sea Holly, or Oyster Plant. It’s a perennial that can get between three and six feet tall at full maturity, and it’s as wide as it is tall. Gardeners who live in zones 6 to 10 can enjoy this tall perennial in their landscapes. However, you want to monitor the spread as they can grow very aggressively if you leave them unchecked.
4. Blazing Star (Liatris pycnostachya)
When you want to make a nice statement in your landscape or garden, or down a pathway, this tall perennial is a must-have as it’s a bold purple color. Blazing Star will flower with vividly purple blooms that grow on four to five-foot high stems above foliage that is green and lacy.
The blooms on this plant are densely packed, fuzzy looking, and they bloom in succession going down the stem. When the flower is in full bloom, they look like huge fluffy stalks of purple rising up over the flower beds. Butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees all enjoy this huge display. They’re easy to grow, low maintenance, and thrive in zones three to nine.
5. Boltonia (Boltonia Decurrens)
This tall perennial is native to North America, and it can get upwards of six feet high. The starry yellow, white, or pink flowers make this a very eye-catching plant. It prefers to grow in a space that offers full sun, but it can do well in areas of partial shade. However, if you do put it in a space with limited light, you’ll want to stake it to keep it from drooping.
The planting zone for Boltonia falls between four and eight, so it’s a great choice for anyone who wants a backyard wildflower garden. You can expect smaller pollinators like bees and butterflies to be drawn to these flowers when you put them in your yard. Pick a spot that has well-drained soil but remember to keep the soil moist to encourage healthy growth.
Boltonia by Ken Gibson / CC BY 2.0
6. Bush Clover (Lespedeza sp.)
This is a very underutilized perennial shrub, and it’s a nice tall perennial that will provide a lot of food for butterflies, bees, and birds. There are many Bush Clover types available, and the most cultivated and well known options are the Asian cultivars or Lespedeza thunbergii.
However, there are also several popular North American species available that you should add before you go with the Asian varieties. Roundhead Bush Clover or Lespedeza capitata is one such plant, and it produces clusters of pea-like, white flowers with a striking purple center. Bush clover will grow stout, tall stems that are between two and five feet tall, and it easily grows in less than perfect soil conditions. All types of bees enjoy these flowers, including short and long-tongue bees. It’s hardy in zones three to nine.
7. Canna (Canna Indica)
The Canna tall perennial is a garden centerpiece that grows large leaves and brightly colored flowers. It has vibrant bursts of yellow, red, white, and orange coloring, and it’ll shine nicely in any garden setup. Canna get up to to eight feet tall under the optimal growing conditions, and they have variegated leaves to enhance the blooms. The leaves grow from the stem and slowly unfurl to show off larger ornamental foliage with brown and maroon hues. It’s one perennial that is very disease-hardy, and this makes it a very low-maintenance choice for your garden.
8. Compass Plant (Silphium laciniatum)
This is a tall perennial that will produce several sunflower-looking blooms, and it’s an eye-catching and bright specimen to add to your landscape. Compass Plants look lovely situated along a fence or wall to help block out an unwanted view, and it gets up to nine feet tall. The flowers will grow in a staggered formation up the hardy green stem, and the bright yellow blooms are adored by butterflies and birds. This is a native perennial flower that is great for butterfly or wildflower gardens, and it makes a stunning backdrop for vegetable gardens or planted along pathways. It’s hardy in zones five to nine.
9. Coneflowers (Rudbeckia sp.)
There are several coneflower varieties to choose from, and each one of them will enhance your garden by being showy and stately. Tall Coneflower is very breathtaking as it produces bright yellow blooms on top of three to five foot stems. The flowers look like traditional sunflowers, and they have a prominent brown cone that protrudes from the center. Each flower’s bright coloring will attract butterflies, bees, and other pollinators to your garden, and Sweet Coneflower will get up to six feet tall at full maturity with a buttery yellow, lighter bloom color.
Cutleaf Coneflower is one of the tallest varieties you can get, and it can reach up to nine feet tall. The flowers are a golden yellow with a bright green center when the plant is younger. The petals will droop around the central cone with this tall perennial to give it an eye-catching look. The Western Coneflower is very unique when it comes to coneflower varieties because it doesn’t produce the big sunflower-like blooms in bright colors that we typically get with this plant. Instead, it grows a huge brownish-purple cone. When it blooms, it’ll have a tiny yellow flower ring around the bottom of the cone, and they’re small enough to look like bright pinheads against the cone.
While this particular cultivar may not be the hugely showy flower that most cornflower species are, the uniqueness it offers makes it very attractive while adding interest and variety to the garden. Pick one or several of these native tall perennials to add to your wildflower or natural garden and watch the pollinator population explode. Depending on the species, they’re hardy in zones 3 to 10.
10. Delphinium (Delphinium Elatum)
Beautiful and bold, Delphinium is a must-have for a show-stopping look. These are spiky plants that work as a colorful and eclectic accent flower. They produce blooms in a huge range of purples, blues, pinks, and white, and this perennial plant draws the eye. However, this can be a challenge for some home gardeners to grow as they do require more maintenance to keep them happy. The most prominent cultivars can get up to six feet tall, and they need staking as they grow to keep them upright. They prefer light shade or bright sun, and the soil should be fertile but drain well. They are vulnerable to damage in extreme winds and rain, and they don’t tolerate dry, hot summers well.
11. Desert Candles (Eremurus)
If you want to grow your garden organically, this tall perennial is one to consider. They produce golden cylindrical stalks with tail-like flower clusters that produce scented, smaller flowers. They get between five and eight feet tall at full maturity, and they stand out very well when you put them against a darker greek backdrop or a privacy fence. This plant will do best in zones five to eight, and they are both drought and heat-tolerant. However, this plant doesn’t like the wind, so you want to give it a sheltered spot when you plant it for the best results.
12. False Aster (Boltonia asteroides)
As a late-season blooming tall perennial, you’ll see larger clusters of daisy-like, sweet flowers. The plants top out at roughly six feet tall, and when they bloom, they get covered in flowers. It’s a Florida native plant that bees, butterflies, and other pollinators love as it’s a vital food source later in the season. It gives you an array of pretty little flowers that come in purple, pink, white, or blue coloring. It’s hardy in zones 3 to 10.
13. Foxglove (Digitalis)
Common Foxgloves are tall perennials that top out at eight feet, and they produce pretty trumpet-shaped, purple flowers, while others can have rose-colored blooms. This is a very versatile plant that can grow in different soil conditions and provide a focal point to your garden. They do well in zones 4 to 10, depending on how hot it gets. This perennial prefers to be in partial shade to full sun, and it can grow better in partial shade if you live in a hot planting zone. This plant is also a biennial, so it has a shorter life span than other tall perennials on the list.
14. Goat’s Beard (Aruncus dioicus)
This is a bushy tall perennial that can easily clear six feet when it matures, and it’s an attractive centerpiece or background plant. The foliage is fernlike and tall, and the flower stalks form feathery plumes of small white flowers. Each tiny flower has a star shape to it, and the tops of the stalks look like they’re covered in fuzzy flowers when it’s in bloom. Goat’s Beard is one tall perennial that has a substantial width, so you want to leave space in the garden before you plant it. It’s the host plant for the Dusky Azure butterfly, and it also attracts a host of bees when it blooms. You can plant it in zones three to nine for the best results.
15. Gunnera (Gunnera Tinctoria)
If you want to take a walk on the wild side, planting this tall perennial will add a nice exotic twist to help spice up your space. It produces six-foot wide leaves and it grows up to 10 feet tall at full maturity, so it can be a show-stopping element to your garden. Also called Dinosaur Food, this is a very impressive ornamental perennial that produces deeply lobed leaves. It likes boggy, wet soil by ponds and will thrive in areas where other plants can fall to root rot. The Gunnera is a very hardy plant, but it does have some maintenance steps you have to follow. For example, the soil has to be continuously moist, and it won’t survive a hard frost.
16. Hardy Hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos)
A pretty hibiscus variety, this tall perennial will grow in areas where no other type of hibiscus can tolerate. The huge spreading petals and pretty colored flowers that have starkly contrasting colors in the center, bring a touch of the tropics to your garden. It averages between four and seven feet tall at full maturity, and when it blooms, the flowers are the size of dinner plates. Each flower will only last a few days, but new ones will come along for continuous blooming that lasts months.
Bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies all find this tall perennial irresistible, and 28 moth and butterfly species have this plant as their preferred host plant. One of the other nice points with this plant is the color options, and they include Mocha Moon, Brady Punch, Summer Storm, and Jazzberry Jam. They are hardy to zones five and nine.
17. Hardy Willow-Leaved Jessamine (Cestrum parqui)
The flowers on this tall perennial smell like sweet almonds, and this makes it an intoxicating addition to your landscape or garden. Willow-Leaved Jasmine will get between five and six feet tall when grown in temperate climates, and it’ll double the height in tropical planting zones. The blooms grow so prolifically and densely that they look like they smother this bush. The flowers are also highly fragrant and a deep yellow color that attracts hummingbirds.
During the early evening hours, the blooms on this tall perennial will release their strong scent and it’ll fade by the morning hours. You should plant this perennial in a sunny location by the deck or porch so you don’t miss out on the hummingbirds, and it does best in zones 7 to 10. If you live in zones 9 to 11, Night-Blooming Jessamine is another highly fragrant option.
18. Hollyhock (Alcea rosea)
If you’re after a tall perennial to grow alongside your garden fence, Hollyhock can be a solid choice to consider. They are unique because they’re very short-lived perennials. A lot of people consider them to be biennials because they live for only two years. They’re also very prone to developing issues with fungal diseases like rust and pests, so gardeners have to keep a closer eye on this plant to keep it healthy.
It grows up to eight feet tall, and these charming, bouncy plants are a very fun accent plant to add to your garden. You can find them in a huge range of striking colors, and they come in double or single-cup blooms. This tall perennial thrives in zones three to eight, and it’s the Painted Lady Butterfly host plant.
19. Ironweed (Vernonia sp.)
The vivid purple blooms this tall perennial produces will attract dozens of butterflies and bees. It blooms later in the summer months into the early fall, and it is an essential food source for late-season butterflies. The height averages between three and five feet tall, and it’s impossible to miss when it blooms. The flower heads are very big, and they have flat clusters of tiny brilliant purple flowers that grow on top of single stalks with minimal foliage. It looks fantastic as a natural meadow plant or in a wildflower garden.
There are several species of Ironwood plant available to choose from, and each has adapted to a specific native range. You want to find the one that is local to your area. There is Prairie Ironweed, Western Ironweed, Missouri Ironweed, Giant Ironweed, Tall Ironweed, and New York Ironweed. All of them have big clusters of purple flowers, are tall, and attract pollinators. They are best planted in zones five to nine.
20. Oriental Lily (Lilium Auratum)
The Oriental Lily is a stunning tall perennial that produces large blooms late in August. This plant is very easy to grow, and it will get up to six feet high under the best growing conditions. The distinctive floral design and pattern make it a nice accent plant for your garden. They are typically more cold-hardy than other lilies, and they do well in zones three to nine. It’s a low-maintenance plant that thrives without much input from you. It will give you fragrant, large flowers that vary in color. The bulbs also reproduce as time goes on, so it’s a good idea to dig them all up and separate them every few years to keep them coming back and viable each spring.
21. Perennial Hibiscus (Hibiscus Rosa-Sinensis)
Commonly called Rose Mallow, this dainty, tender tropical plant sports vibrant colors and looks very fragile. However, this hibiscus plant is strong enough to survive cold winters, and it produces 12-inch flowers in bold colors like pink, red, and white. It can top out at seven feet tall. It requires plenty of sunlight to grow and produce the flowers, and it also likes well-draining but moist soil.
If you get the growing conditions correct, this plant will give you brilliant color splashes during the spring months while towering over your plants. It’s a hardy perennial that does well in zones four to nine with proper maintenance and care. It’s also a great way to draw pollinators to your garden. However, deer and other wildlife usually avoid them. This is excellent for anyone looking for an ornamental plant that is deer-resistant.
22. Plume Poppy (Macleaya Cordata)
With the potential to get between seven and eight feet tall, this is a floral, tropical perennial that can easily fill in whatever space you plant it in. It has quick growth and spread too. Each plant will get roughly two feet wide. If you give it lots of room, this tall perennial will decorate your yard as a pretty accent plant. It thrives when planted in zones three to eight, but the quick growth habit means it can be invasive under the right conditions. It will need constant monitoring to ensure that it’s not taking over your yard in warmer climates.
23. Poker Plants or Torch Lilies (Kniphofia)
This pretty perennial is an attention-grabber due to the height and unusual flower shape. Poker Plants or Torch Lilies put on pretty displays of flowers in bright colors on top of six-foot spikes. They usually do look like growing hot pokers or torches. The flowers will last a long time, and they tend to change colors as they grow to create a very captivating look.
One feature that makes this plant stand out is the flower spikes that tower above the grass-like foliage mounds, so there is nothing to block the blooms. There are many cultivars to choose from, and it’s very hard to pick out favorites. However, Norbilis, Bee’s Sunset, and Percy’s Pride are very popular. They are all hardy in zones five to nine.
24. Queen of the Prairie (Filipendula Rubra)
Soft and sweet, this fluffy tall perennial will give you a big burst of color that creates a festive atmosphere in your garden when it blooms. It’s a native wildflower that can get up to eight feet tall and has dark green, large leaves to accent the pretty blooms. Although it does provide some pollen for any visiting insects, it won’t produce nectar. Instead, the leaves and blooms give out a very soft fragrance. This is an incredibly low-maintenance perennial that works well in various garden designs.
25. Sweet-Scented Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium purpureum)
The final tall perennial on the list is a very hardy native variety. Joe Pye Weed averages between five and seven feet tall when it blooms, and it gets covered with clusters of sweet tiny purplish-pink flowers. The deep green leaves are serrated and lance-shaped, and they’re very attractive on their own. However, it really shines when it starts to bloom. The stems will grow up above the foliage and give you huge dome-shaped flowers with a vanilla scent. This will draw in huge amounts of bees and butterflies. It’s a fabulous border plant that works well in pollinator or native gardens.
There is more than one Joe Pye Weed available too, and the Spotted Joe Pye Weed is just as impressive as the original tall perennial. It gets between five and eight feet tall, and it produces purple flowers. This is what sets it apart from Sweet-Scented Joe Pye Weed. The blooms also don’t come with the vanilla scent. Both look very nice in flower gardens as a perennial background for smaller mounding flowers or plants, or you can group them to form a border. It is hardy in zones three to nine.
Planning and designing your outdoor garden can be a challenge, especially when you’re not sure which tall perennial go well with your chosen plants. However, these 25 tall perennials should give you a starting point to help you choose the ones that will add flair, beauty, and color to your garden all season long.