If you want to get a gardener’s attention, just mention the words “new variety.” It seldom matters whether it’s a new tomato, a shade tree or a flower; it’s hard to resist the allure of a shiny new plant type.
More new varieties of vegetables and annual flowers are developed each year than perennial flowers and woody plants, probably because it takes multiple years to evaluate their key traits such as winter hardiness, which isn’t a factor in testing new vegetables and annual flowers. Each year, though, there is a nice sampling of new perennials.
Perennial flowers are all about patience. On average, it takes a perennial until its third year to establish itself enough for peak performance and bloom.
Patience is also helpful when searching for new varieties of perennials, which are more likely to be carried by locally owned garden centers than by national chains. Even locally owned garden centers can’t carry all the thousands of plant varieties available, and carrying new types often requires them to discontinue other varieties, simply for lack of space to grow everything.
If you’re especially interested in a new perennial type, ask your local garden center whether they plan to grow or sell it. Even if they can’t stock it this season, maybe they will next year, if requested. Perennials are a long-term investment, and new types might be worth the wait.
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The following are recently developed perennial varieties. All are winter-hardy in our zones 3 and 4, as listed. Flower photos can be found by searching the variety name online.
Tall Garden Phlox, Luminary Opalescence: Multi-colored pink flowers on a plant that resists the mildew that can plague older phlox varieties. Fragrant flowers on a plant growing to 30-32 inches; zone 3.
Tall Garden Phlox, Luminary Ultraviolet: Deep, rich rose-pink flowers on disease-resistant plants growing 32 inches high; zone 3.
Lungwort, Spot On: Rich blue flowers above green leaves that are speckled with silver. Grows to 15 inches, and does well in shade; zone 3.
Polemonium Jacob’s Ladder, Heaven Scent: Fragrant blue flowers in spring on fernlike leaves with a height of 20 inches. Grows well in shade; zone 3.
Bergenia, Miss Piggy Pigsqueak: Bright pink flowers in spring and large dark leaves that are attractive even when not in bloom, and it loves shade; zone 4.
Perennial Salvia, Back to the Fuchsia: Bright pink flowers on an easy-to-grow plant. With a height of 20 inches, it grows well in full sun; zone 3.
Perennial Salvia, Snow Kiss: Large white flowers with a soft pink edge, atop neatly mounded aromatic foliage. Grows to 20 inches; zone 3.
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Baptisia, Decadence Deluxe Blue Bubbly: Tall, background perennial growing to 48 inches with lavender blue flower spikes. Sun-loving and drought tolerant; zones 3-4.
Echinacea Coneflower, Frankly Scarlet: Bright, showy, red-orange flowers growing to 28 inches. Full-to-part sun; zone 4.
Echinacea Coneflower, The Price is White: White flowers on 20-inch plants; zone 4.
Echinacea Coneflower, Sombrero Baja Burgundy: A 2020 All-America Selections winner, the deep red flowers are borne on sturdy branches. Grows to 18 inches; zone 4.
Russian Sage, Sage Advice: Loves hot, dry locations. Grows to 32 inches with spikes of lavender-purple flowers; zone 4.
Siberian Iris, Mission Bay: Sky blue flowers with yellow markings. Grows in a sturdy, upright clump 36 inches high with foliage that’s attractive all season; zone 3.
Helleborus, North Star Series: The series includes plum, pink, ruby, white and garnet colors. Helleborus grows best in full to part shade in cool, moist sites; zone 4.
Shasta Daisy, Sweet Daisy Birdy: Large, 5-inch pure white flowers on plants that grow to 24 inches, this was an All-America Selections award winner for 2021; zone 3.
Rudbeckia, American Gold Rush: Golden-yellow flowers with black centers and arched petals. Grows to 22 inches and blooms from July through September, this is a recent All-America Selections award winner; zone 4.
Don Kinzler, a lifelong gardener, is the horticulturist with North Dakota State University Extension for Cass County. Readers can reach him at email@example.com.