Across borders and pots, these are the 10 best hardy perennials for UK gardens.  

What are hardy perennial plants?

Hardy perennials are plants that are expected to live longer than three years. Unlike annuals which complete their life cycle in one year and biennials that need two years to mature and set seed, perennials are typically hardy plants that will return each year.

They typically flower in the first year (many are repeat-flowering), and most will die back in winter, only to reappear the following year. Even in winter perennial plants are very much alive and the plants will continue growing when conditions are right.

Trees and shrubs are woody perennials. They may lose their leaves in winter but remain very much alive in their roots right up through their stems, branches, and buds.

Five of the best hardy perennials for borders

Echinacea (Coneflower)

Echinaceas have grown in popularity in recent years, thanks to the new trend for prairie-style planting. These perennials have pretty, daisy-like flowers with a central cone, hence their common name, coneflower.

They're easy to grow as they tolerate most soils (except very dry ones), and their sturdy stems mean that staking is unnecessary.

Digitalis (Foxglove)

Digitalis is a common woodland plant with spikes of tubular flowers. However, its cultivars appear in many guises, some dwarf, and others very tall, with flowers in shades of pink, purple, white and red, while other species contribute yellow or rusty brown shades to the range.

It's ideal for a shady spot and looks fantastic when grown en masse at the back of a border. Its blooms are extremely attractive to bumblebees.

Verbena

Increasingly popular with tall, narrow, sparsely leafed stems on top of which flattened heads of bright lavender-purple flowers appear in summer.

Verbena is perfect for bringing height to an ornamental border and works well in prairie-style planting schemes with ornamental grasses. It is a superb butterfly plant, rivalling even buddleja.

Geum

This compact hardy perennial, is semi-evergreen, and has proved to be slug-resistant and can help to keep weeds down. The leaves are complemented beautifully by single, open flowers that attract bees and other pollinators.

Most Geum varieties thrive best in moist soil. A spot in partial shade is ideal.

Eryngium (Sea holly)

The thistle-like flowers are made up of tiny flowers packed together in a tight cluster. With colours ranging from grey to intense cobalt blue, Eryngiums are striking plants. They look wonderful in gravel gardens or mixed herbaceous borders, and they are good for attracting pollinating insects.

Don't be in a rush at the end of the summer to tidy up the garden as Eryngiums make good winter silhouettes and the flower heads are great for cutting and using in fresh and dried arrangements.

Five of the best hardy perennials for Pots UK

Dianthus (Garden Pinks)

Despite the common name they are not all pink, Dianthus are called garden pinks because the flowers have a serrated edge as if they have been trimmed with pinking shears.

Garden pinks are a reliable and easy-to-care-for addition to the garden that have been grown for centuries. They are hardy perennials with grey-green evergreen or semi-evergreen foliage and flowers in shades of pink, magenta, salmon pink and white.

They have scented flowers nearly all summer and most repeat flower if you remove the dead heads. Garden pinks look good in not just pots you can plant them in the garden as well. They make good cut flowers and have a lovely scent.

Aubreta

Aubretas are reliable plants that form wide cascading trails of colour in late spring and early summer. The flowers are in a wide range of colours from Pink to purple and white. The Royal Horticultural Society has given it its prestigious Award of Garden Merit (AGM). Why not plant several colours for a rainbow effect?

Salvia

This plant really earns its place in a container or even planted out in the garden. Available in a wide range of colours and forms, Salvias make indispensable garden plants.

The upright flowers give both form and structure to the garden, these flowers are extraordinarily rich in nectar making them a magnet for bumblebees and butterflies.

Campanula (Bell Flowers)

In gardens, you are likely to have already come across tall flowering plants but in pots look out for the small, spreading campanulas, when planted close to the edges of pots they will tumble over softening the edges.

They can take a good degree of shade, making them ideal for dark corners or small gardens overlooked by walls and fences.

Phlox

There is a wide range of sizes available from tall that will give height to a large pot to creeping phlox for planting close to the edge where they will trail down.

Years of breeding have resulted in shorter, varieties that flower in a wide range of assorted colours, including shades of blue, purple, pink, magenta, red and white. As well as being fragrant and long-flowering, most cultivars attract a variety of bees and other pollinating insects. 

The gardening saying which describes the delayed gratification that can come with growing perennials, "The first year they sleep, the second year they creep, and the third year they leap."

So don't be put off if you don't get a full garden in the first few weeks.

Pick up your favourite perennials with Primrose