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perennials for summer & autumn coursework

Unlike shrubs, perennials generally do not have woody structures.  Generally here means that there are always exceptions.  Some perennials may develop woody bases with age, and this helps protect them from predators or winter cold.  Instead of being defined by their woodiness, perennials are classified as herbaceous plants with tender stems vulnerable to frosts. Encyclopedia Britannica defines an herbaceous perennial as a plant species that dies back to the ground over winter.  While that is indeed the case for many perennials, when/where did this definition come from?  Most likely from a place of harsher winters than California's Mediterranean climate.

Many perennials in California, particularly from our Bay Area, Central Coast, and Southern California regions, experience mild winters with few frosts - a phenomenon becoming more apparent with climate change.  Therefore, some herbaceous perennials that might die back in other regions will instead retain their leaves and structures in California.  We can find a very good example in daylilies, or scientifically, Hemerocallis.  Daylilies are indeed herbaceous perennials, but they can be subcategorized as both evergreen and deciduous varieties.  Evergreen varieties will retain their leaves all year, whereas others will go semi- or fully deciduous over winter.  How disappointing would it be for a designer who relied upon the winter greenery found instead they specified a variety that dies back to the ground?  Watch out for Salvia, commonly known as sages, because this genus covers shrubs, perennials, and even biennials and annuals (only lasting two years or just a season, respectively).  Why is this important?

As landscape designers, we rely upon our plant selections to help tell the story of our designs.  We use trees as roofs and shrubs as walls, for example.  Perennials create a nuanced air of elegance, reinforce design styles, may provide a punch of color and texture, or support benefits in the home and kitchen, but they can completely disappear over the winter, too.  How does the designer's composition hold up during this downtime?  Will the perennials only add value for a very short time, such as during a two-week bloom period in spring?  These and other questions will need to be considered when choosing perennials.

Perennials for the summer or autumn garden may produce flowers, fruit, or even unique seed structures late into the seasons.  Their details need to be explored by designers, as often exploited in wonderous ways by Swedish designer Piet Oudolf, or historically by English garden designer Gertrude Jekyll.  When taking a plant identification class, pay close attention to the seasonal timing of leaf and flower color but also fruit and texture.  Even in their winter dormancy, their structures may provide interesting forms to enjoy through the seasons.

The following list is fluid, meaning it will change as new information is made available, including new species and status on campus.  We welcome any updates, corrections, or comments to continue to make this page useful to students at West Valley College.

If a scientific name is linked, please feel free to find additional information via this website.

scientific name

Acanthus mollis

Achillea millefolium

Achillea millefolium 'Paprika'

Achillea tomentosa

Agapanthus praecox orientalis

Agastache rupestris

Alchemilla mollis

Alstroemieria aurea

Anemone x hybrida


Argyranthemum frutescens

Artemisia 'Powis Castle'

Asarum caudatum

Asclepias speciosa

Asparagus densiflorus 'Myers'

Asparagus densiflorus 'Sprengeri'

Aster x frikartii

Astilbe chinensis

Canna 'Tropicanna'

Centranthus ruber

Cerastium tomentosum

Ceratostigma plumbaginoides

Chondropetalum tectorum

Coreopsis grandiflora

Crocosmia hybrids

Delphinium elatum

Dianella tasmanica

Dietes iridioides

Dietes bicolor

Digitalis purpurea

Dymondia margaretae

Echinacea purpurea

Epilobium canum (Zauschneria canum)

Erigeron glaucus

Erigeron karvinskianus 'Profusion'

Eriogonum umbellatum

Erysimum 'Bowles Mauve'

Felicia amelloides

Foeniculum vulgare 'Purpurescens'

Gaura lindheimeri

Gazania hybrids

Geranium 'Johnson's Blue'

Gunnera tinctoria

Heuchera hybrids

Hosta hybrids

Iris ensata

Iris (Pacific Coast hybrids)

Juncus patens

Kniphofia hybrids

Leucanthemum x superbum

Limonium perezii

Liriope muscari

Lithodora diffusa

Lomandra longifolia

Lupinus Russell Hybrids

Myosotis scorpioides

Nepeta x faassenii

Ophiopogon japonicus

Osteospermum fruticosum

Penstemon hybrids

Perovskia atriplicifolia

Persicaria amplexicaulis

Phormium tenax

Romneya coulteri

Rudbeckia hirta

Salvia leucantha

Salvia uliginosa

Scabiosa columbaria 'Butterfly Blue'

Silene coronaria (Lychnis coronaria)

Solidago velutina subsp. californica

Stachys byzantina

Strelitzia reginae

Tulbaghia violacea

Tulbaghia violacea 'Variegata'

Verbena bonariensis

Watsonia pillansii

Zantedeschia aethiopica

common name

bear's breech

common yarrow

Paprika common yarrow

wooly yarrow


licorice mint hyssop

lady's mantle

Peruvian lily

Japanese anemone

kangaroo paw


Powis Castle wormwood

wild ginger

showy milkweed

Myers asparagus

Sprenger asparagus


false spirea

Tropicanna canna

Jupiter's beard


dwarf plumbago

cape rush

large-flower tickseed


candle delphinium

flax lily

fortnight lily

butterfly flag

common foxglove

silver carpet

purple coneflower

California fuchsia

seaside fleabane

Santa Barbara daisy

sulphur flower


blue marguerite

common bronze fennel


African daisy


dinosaur food

coral bells

plantain lily

Japanese iris

Pacific Coast Hybrid iris


red-hot poker

Shasta daisy

sea lavender

big blue lily turf


spiny headed mat rush




mondo grass

trailing African daisy

border penstemon

Russian sage


New Zealand flax

Matilija poppy

gloriosa daisy

Mexican sage

bog sage

pincushion flower



lamb's ears

bird of paradise

society garlic

variegated society garlic

tall verbena

Beatrice watsonia


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