Perennial Gardening in the Midwest

Gardening in the Midwest presents unique challenges and opportunities. The region's climate, with its hot summers, cold winters, and varying precipitation, requires careful selection and management of plants to ensure a beautiful and thriving perennial garden. Here are some tips to help you create and maintain a perennial garden that will flourish in the Midwest.

1. Choose the Right Perennials

Native Plants

Opting for native plants can be highly beneficial. They are adapted to the local climate and soil, require less maintenance, and support local wildlife. Some excellent native perennials for the Midwest include:

  • Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea): Known for its striking purple petals and resilience.
  • Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta): Bright yellow flowers that bloom from late summer to fall.
  • Blazing Star (Liatris spicata): Tall spikes of lavender flowers that attract pollinators.

Drought-Tolerant Varieties

Midwest summers can be hot and dry, so incorporating drought-tolerant plants is a smart strategy. Consider:

  • Sedum (Sedum spp.): Succulent plants that thrive in dry conditions.
  • Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia): With its silvery foliage and blue flowers, it's both drought-resistant and visually appealing.
  • Daylilies (Hemerocallis): Hardy perennials with a variety of colors and long blooming periods.

2. Soil Preparation

Soil Testing

Before planting, test your soil to determine its pH and nutrient levels. This will help you make informed decisions about soil amendments.


Midwest soil can vary from heavy clay to sandy loam. Improving your soil structure with organic matter such as compost can enhance drainage, aeration, and nutrient availability. For clay soils, adding gypsum can also help break up compacted soil.

3. Planting Techniques

Proper Spacing

Give your perennials enough space to grow and spread. Overcrowding can lead to poor air circulation, increasing the risk of disease.


Apply a layer of mulch around your plants to conserve moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature. Organic mulches like shredded bark, straw, or compost are excellent choices.


Water deeply and infrequently to encourage deep root growth. Early morning watering reduces evaporation and helps prevent fungal diseases. Drip irrigation systems can be particularly effective in perennial gardens.

4. Summer Care

  • Deadheading: Regularly remove spent flowers to encourage continuous blooming.
  • Pest Management: Monitor for pests and diseases. Use organic or chemical controls as needed, but always follow integrated pest management principles.

5. Companion Planting

Pairing perennials with complementary plants can enhance the beauty and health of your garden. For example, planting tall perennials like hollyhocks behind shorter ones like phlox can create a layered effect and provide support. Additionally, companion plants can help deter pests and attract beneficial insects.

6. Sustainable Practices


Start a compost pile to recycle garden waste and enrich your soil naturally. Composting reduces the need for chemical fertilizers and enhances soil health.

Water Conservation

Incorporate rain barrels or other water-saving techniques to make the most of natural precipitation. Xeriscaping, or designing your garden to minimize water use, is another sustainable practice.

Pollinator-Friendly Gardening

Create a pollinator-friendly garden by planting a variety of flowering plants that bloom at different times. Avoid using pesticides, or choose eco-friendly options to protect bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.

Creating a perennial garden in the Midwest requires thoughtful plant selection, proper soil preparation, and diligent seasonal care. By following these tips, you can establish a resilient and beautiful garden that thrives year after year. Happy gardening!