Perennial of the Year


Phlox paniculata 'Jeana'

Garden Phlox

‘Jeana’ is an exceptional garden phlox renowned for its impressive flower show, tall sturdy habit, and pollinator-friendliness. Dense, domed trusses crown stiff stems from midsummer to early fall. Individually, the fragrant lavender-pink flowers are significantly smaller than typical garden phlox — only about half an inch wide — but the show at peak is eye-popping, nonetheless. This is a case where bigger is not better, from a pollinator’s perspective anyhow. In trials at Mt. Cuba Center in Delaware, the nectar-rich flowers of ‘Jeana’ attracted more butterflies — Eastern Tiger Swallowtails were especially plentiful — than any other garden phlox in their study. Hummingbirds and other pollinators are fans too.

Topped with flowers, ‘Jeana’ can reach five feet tall and four feet wide, although size will vary geographically. Its bright green leaves are highly resistant to powdery mildew, so ‘Jeana’ has a striking summer look with or without flowers.

Tall garden phlox provide structure and color in summer gardens and are good bridging plants between early and later flowering perennials. ‘Jeana’ is at home in traditional borders and meadows and is a natural in pollinator gardens. Mix ‘Jeana’ with other tall perennials such as bluestars (Amsonia), Shasta daisies (Leucanthemum ×superbum), and switch grasses (Panicum virgatum). Or let its handsome foliage be the backdrop for shorter companions such as coneflowers (Echinacea), alliums (Allium), and woodland sages (Salvia nemorosa).

Photography Credit: Chanticleer Garden, Chris Fehlhaber


USDA Zones 3 to 8
Canadian Hardiness Zones 3 to 8
AHS Heat Zones 4 to 9

Full sun; afternoon shade in hot climates

36-60 inches tall
36-48 inches wide

‘Jeana’ was discovered growing along the Harpeth River near Nashville, Tennessee and was named for its discoverer, Jeana Prewitt.

Moist, fertile, well-drained soils. Avoid dry conditions.

Divide clumps every 3-5 years in spring. Deadheading promotes continued bloom and prevents self-seeding, which can produce inferior seedlings. Powdery mildew and spider mites may be foliar problems in hot or dry conditions. Thinning out stems to improve air circulation may guard against mildew. Deer and rabbits can be pests.

Perennial of the Year 2023

Rudbeckia 'American Gold Rush'

The Perennial Plant Association (PPA) announced Rudbeckia ‘American Gold Rush’ as Perennial Plant of the Year for 2023. The black-eyed Susan originated from open-pollinated seed sown from the seed parent Rudbeckia fulgida var. Deamii, and was introduced by Brent Horvath from Intrinsic Perennial Gardens.

Horvath said, “I’ve always liked my plant introductions to speak for themselves and this one speaks volumes. From start to finish this plant is generally trouble free and easy to propagate, grow and finish in a container and a breeze to garden with. It started as an open-pollinated seedling among several other related seedlings, but quickly distinguished itself with clean disease-free foliage, a naturally compact and rounded habit and beautiful presentation in a container over an extended bloom period.”

In a media release, PPA said, “At the height of summer, ‘American Gold Rush’ black-eyed Susan turns up the volume for a long season of dazzling colour right up to autumnal frosts. The bright golden-yellow flowers feature arching rays and a reddish halo surrounding dark chocolate cones. Three-inch flowers blanket the compact plant, only 22-27 inches tall with a broader width to 40 inches if given room to grow.

“The green leaves and stems are covered in hairs, which gives them a silvery cast — on sunny days, peeking through the blooms to the leaves is a luminous silver-and-gold treat. More than just boosting the ornamental show, the hairy foliage is resistant to Septoria leaf spot — a debilitating fungal disease that causes unsightly black spotting and premature seasonal decline on some black-eyed Susans. ‘American Gold Rush’ is a reliable hardy perennial and a great substitute for popular, brassier ‘Goldsturm,’ which is highly susceptible to leaf spotting. ‘American Gold Rush’ is a stunning focal point in perennial borders and meadows and is brilliant when massed in public or corporate landscapes. Butterflies caper over the blooms and songbirds feast on the plentiful seed long after the flowers have passed — the seedheads provide winter interest too.”

-Article Courtesy of Landscape Ontario, Photo Credit Walters Gardens



Perennial of the Year 2022

Summer through fall, the slender leaves and stems of little bluestem are an ever-changing kaleidoscope of gray-green, blue, pink, purple, copper, mahogany, red, and orange tones. Wispy silver-white seed heads sparkle in autumn sunlight and coppery brown leaves persist through winter.

Little bluestem is a tough and dependable clumping grass that blends well with perennials such as asters, sedums, coneflowers, and other grasses. Native grasses play their part in the pollinator story too. Little bluestem is a larval host for a variety of butterflies and moths such as crossline skipper, Dakota skipper, and Ottoe skipper.

Native to a broad swath of North America, it was one of the dominant grasses of the vast tallgrass prairies. In average to lean, well-drained soils, stems will remain upright but can flop easily if conditions are too rich or moist. Cultivars have been selected for shorter plants, enhanced leaf colors, and stronger stems.

Little bluestem’s spikiness complements native and non-native perennials alike. An easy fit for mass plantings or meadows, it is just as brilliant in traditional borders, gravel gardens, and green roofs. Perfect partners are recent PPOYs such as Calamintha nepeta ssp. nepeta, Asclepias tuberosa, Stachys ‘Hummelo’, and Allium ‘Millenium’.





Schizachyrium scoparium BLUE HEAVEN  Photo courtesy of Walters Gardens

Hardiness: USDA Zones 3 to 9; AHS Heat Zones 7-1.

Light: Full sun

Size: 24-48 inches tall and 18-24 inches wide; cultivar sizes vary

Native Range: Eastern North America Alberta to Quebec south to Arizona and Florida

Soil: Dry to medium, well-drained soils. Adaptable to a range of conditions such as clay and poor soils. Does not like overly wet conditions.

Maintenance: Low-maintenance perennial grass. Cut back in late winter to early spring. Good drought resistance once established, and tolerant of heat and humidity.




Perennial of the Year 2021

Calamintha nepeta subs. nepeta

Like a cloud of confetti, tiny white flowers (sometimes touched with pale blue) appear from early summer to fall. Undemanding and dependable, calamint provides the perfect foil for other summer bloomers and foliage. This full-sun perennial has a low mounding or bushy habit, ideal for the front of the border, rock gardens, and more.

photo credit:  Storehouse Nursery

While durable and pest-free, calamint also checks two important boxes for gardeners: bees and other pollinators work the flowers throughout the summer and the aromatic foliage is deer-resistant.

Calamintha nepeta subsp. nepeta is a favorite low-growing component in stylized meadows, matrix plantings, and other modern perennial designs. Gardeners can also create a lovely monochromatic garden with more sure-thing perennials including past PPOYs such as Anemone xhybrida ‘Honorine Jobert’ and Phlox paniculata ‘David’, or complemented with ornamental grasses such as Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’ (switchgrass) or Schyzacharium scoparium (little bluestem).


Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 to 7

Light: Full sun 

Size: Up to 18 inches tall and wide 

Native Range: Great Britain to Southern Europe (Griffiths, M. 1994. Index of Garden Plants, Timber Press: Portland, OR) 

Soil: Best with good drainage - tolerates some drought once established. 

Maintenance: Low-maintenance deciduous perennial.  Can shear back lightly if desired to create neater habit or refresh spent blooming stems.  Tolerates drought once established. 

Nomenclature: What's with the "subspecies"?  Abbreviated subsp. or spp., this is a naturally-occuring, phenotypic variation to a species that is usually related to a geographic situation.  This subspecies was selected for size and vigor.  May also be found under the following synonyms: Calamintha nepatoides and Clinopodium nepeta

The POTY Program is an initiative of the Perennial Plant Association. 

Perennial of the Year 2020

Aralia 'Sun King'

The Perennial Plant Association revealed their pick Aug. 1 during the PPA National Symposium in Chicago.

'Sun King' has a tropical look, but it's a fast-growing perennial that's hardy to USDA Zone 3 and grows to about 3 feet high and wide or larger in some cases. The large compound leaves measure up to 3 feet long, as well.

According to Walters Gardens, 'Sun King' emerges in mid-spring with bright gold leaves held on contrasting reddish-brown stems. If given at least a few hours of sun a day, the foliage will remain yellow all summer. In heavier shade, the foliage ranges from chartreuse to lime green.

It forms a large clump of foliage and produces racemes of small white flowers in mid to late summer followed by deep purple berries. It's a pollinator plant and is reportedly deer resistant. 

For cultural information, go here.

'Sun King' is not patented and was brought to market by Barry Yinger. 



Perennial of the Year 2019

Stachys 'Hummelo'

Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 to 8, foliage may remain evergreen in warmer climates.

Light: Full sun to part shade.

Soil: Well drained soil; water as necessary.
Uses: This colorful and compact winner makes an excellent addition to the full sun perennial border.  Terrific in combination with ornamental grasses, Echinacea purpurea, and Asclepias tuberosa (2018 Perennial Plant of the Year®).  Wiry stems make for a great cut flower as well.
Unique Qualities: Pollinators can't resist the striking midsummer spikes of magenta flowers rising above bright green, trouble-free foliage.  'Hummelo' was the highest rated Stachys in the Chicago Botanic Garden Evaluation Trials for its strong flower production, vigor, habit, quality and winter hardiness.
Maintenance: Spreads slowly by creeping rhizomes.  May benefit from division every few years.  Strong stems and seed heads add to winter interest.  Considered deer-resistant!


Perennial of the Year 2018

Allium 'Millenium'