January 2018

Long-blooming temperennials…not at all temperamental

Illumination Flame garnered top honors in the 2014 American Garden Award program. Photo courtesy Peace Tree Farm

A new term gardeners may hear periodically is temperennial. No, it’s not describing temperamental plants, but rather, perennials that are temporary.

Technically, the plants are perennials, just not in our climate, so we use them as long-blooming, colorful annuals for summer. Here are a few to consider – some you may already be familiar with, just not by their trendy description.

A lot of us are familiar with the Black and Blue or Black & Bloom salvias, with those gorgeous black and blue flowers that hummingbirds love. I know some of these salvias have wintered over for several years in the ground at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. I’ve not had that luck.

Black & Bloom Salvia. Photo courtesy

Use this beauty in the middle or back of a sunny bed of perennials or in a pot all by itself. At 3 to 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide, this salvia needs some room. In a pot, pair it with a chartreuse sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatus), or Orange Profusion zinnia.

I love beards tongue (Penstemon), but a lot of the really cool ones are not winter hardy here. These plants bloom through summer, attracting butterflies and hummingbirds, but deer, not so much. Most get about 18 to 24 inches tall with 12-inch stems of blooms that are great for cutting for indoor bouquets. This plant needs good drainage. It will not do well in soil that stays wet. There are some hardy penstemons, including ‘Huskers Red’ (P. digitalis). But the really pretty ones with the big flowers, such as Terra Nova Nurseries’ Taffy series, are not reliably hardy here.

Strawberry Taffy Penstemon. Photo courtesy

Agastache, commonly called hummingbird mint or hyssop, is another plant that can be a hardy perennial here or a temperennial. The latter, such as the 18-inch tall Mango Tango, seems to have a lot more flowers and it blooms mid to late summer in a sunny spot that’s not too wet.

Mango Tango Agastache. Photo courtesy

A few years ago, the temperennial to have was ‘Illumination Flame’ or ‘Berry Canary’ Digiplexis, a foxglove hybrid. Another long-bloomer that doubles as a cut flower, grow this in a sunny to partly sunny bed or as the center piece in a pot. This plant gets up to 3 feet tall.

Granted, these are not the least expensive plants you can buy for the summer season, but their bloom power makes temperennials worthy of consideration.

1 comment to Long-blooming temperennials…not at all temperamental

  • Great post! These perennial selections are all wonderful. In my zone 7 garden, Lupine tends to behave somewhat like a temperennial, but is very worthwhile to have. Even though they are cold hardy in zones 3-9, I find them to be a little on the delicate side, and if planted from seed, will tend to be a little more adaptable. I have even gotten a couple of seasons from them at times. I agree that the interest these plants provide is definitely worth consideration!