Which Perennials Are Best for Calgary Gardens?

Which Perennials Are Best for Calgary Gardens?

There are a surprising number of pretty perennials that adapt well to city gardens, which add colour, interest, and beauty to your property. But there are some that are better than others. Out three generations of experience gardening in Calgary has given us a solid background in knowing what works best for our climate and with the specific configurations of yards, homes, and commercial properties.

The best perennials for Calgary generally fall in Zone 3 or 4. Garden centres in Calgary tend to sell within a wide range of planting zones ranging from zone 2 to 5, with lower numbers being suited for the harshest climates, and higher numbers (the scale goes up to 8) working well in Canada’s milder environments.

Before we get started planting, we will evaluate your property to assess where we will be planting. We can design a perennial bed for a sloped area to fill out space with perennials of different heights so they can provide shade and protection for each other.

We will also get a good idea as to what your sunny and shady areas are as we build your plan. Choosing plants for whether your perennials will be fully exposed to the sun or more in the shade is just as important as choosing plants for the correct zone. Generally, “full sun” refers to any area that is in the sun for six or more continuous hours of sunlight a day. “Partial sun” and “partial shade” perennials benefit from either a sunny morning or evening, and midday shade, or a lot of morning shade followed by some strong midday sunlight and then dappled sunlight. “Full shade” means that the plant doesn’t thrive in strong sunlight at any point during the day, but they do need some sun to grow – just like everything! They do best with a dappling of sun and placed in a protected area.

The Best Perennials for Calgary Are …

Here is just a small sampling of the best perennials for Calgary that we know and trust to thrive and add visual interest to your garden areas:

  • Alpine aster: Since this low-growing plant is native to Alberta, it is obviously well-suited to our climate. It has blue or white flowers resembling a daisy and does well in full sun. 
  • Asiatic lily: It’s hard to believe that something this pretty grows in Calgary. Healthy Asiatic lilies can produce dozens of blooms – usually in late June – which come in a number of different colours. Growing up to 40 inches tall, they are spectacular additions to any property. They are prey to the dreaded red lily beetle, though, so always keep an eye out for signs of this feared garden predator.  
  • Bearded iris: This perennial grows up to 30 inches tall, making it a nice centrepiece. It also blooms relatively early (mid-May to mid-June), providing for colour early in the season.
  • Black-Eyed Susans: These hearty plants bloom throughout the summer and into the fall. They will even grow in poor soil.
  • Coral bells: We like this perennial for its unusual reddish-pink foliage and delicate flowers. It grows well in most situations and is wind resistant, which is helpful in Calgary.
  • Creeping Jenny: This groundcover spreads nicely and has pretty yellow flowers. It grows thick and lush and trails beautifully over rocks and retaining walls. 
  • Daylily: Growing within grassy, bush-like foliage, although the rumour is that yellow daylily blooms last only a day, the truth is they usually last for several.
  • Globe thistle: The bright blue, prickly, globed-shaped bloom of this perennial is great for attracting bees. They do best in full sun.
  • Hens and chicks: This succulent is visually interesting, with spikey rosettes, and spreads out well. It does best in full sun and drier soil.
  • Iceland poppy: Iceland poppies bloom throughout the summer, and have exotic-looking, colourful flowers. They are drought-resistant and thrive in full sun.
  • Peony: With enormous blooms ranging from white to pink to maroon, peonies are simply stunning. They grow up to three (sometimes even four) feet in height, and are slightly less wide than tall. Peonies prefer part- to full-sun conditions. 
  • Purple cone flower: Resembling a daisy, the purple cone flower is adapted to all soil and light conditions and is great for luring bees and butterflies. 
  • Stonecrop or sedum: These are succulents that grow low to mid-range. There are lots of different types available that look amazing as accents in rock gardens.

The best perennials for Calgary are those that are native to the prairies. For larger gardens, we suggest mixing in a few pretty flowering shrubs to add height differences. Shrubs are also great for sheltering more delicate plants from harsh weather. 

Don’t Forget About Roses!

Although they can be fussy, roses do grow wellin Calgary. And they’re beautiful, so we love them! Many types of roses fall into the Zone 3 range ideal for the city. They do require a lot of sun, however. Due to the short growing season in Calgary, roses need at least six hours of strong daylight to become as established as possible before the next winter. Roses prefer about six feet of ground space, away from trees, and soil of a slightly acidic pH level. The hardier “prairie rose” or “shrub rose” subtypes can work well in Calgary, but there are well over 100 types of winter-hardy varietals that can get your rose garden started right and lasting through solidly into the spring thaw.

Let Us Design a Beautiful Garden for You

Let us incorporate some of the best perennials for Calgary into your overall garden design. Mirage Landscaping of Calgary is a full-service commercial and residential landscape maintenance and construction companyContact us for a free quote today.


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