At the moment, the homestead is severely lacking in flower beds. There’s one still trying hang on, but it’s full of grass and has been for many years. I’d love to add more, but the main focus for the past couple years has been veggie production. Knowing that veggies will always be our main focus, I’m planning on cleaning out the existing flower bed and putting in more and filling them with hardy perennial flowers for Alaska.
Perennial Flowers for Alaska (and other zones too!)
Columbine (Aquilegia) do amazingly well in Alaska, to the point that the red and yellow columbine grows wild here in south central. They become anywhere from 8″ to 30″ tall, and if you don’t deadhead the flowers, they will self seed. Columbine grows in Zones 3-9. They can be drought resistant flowers and do well in partial shade. They come in many colors, including yellow, red, purple, brown, pink, and white.
There are a couple choices for growing iris in Alaska. The Alaska wild iris (iris setosa) covers the sides of the Glenn Highway near Eklutna every summer in a beautiful shade of purple. Siberian iris (iris siberica) also does well and can be found in many flower gardens from Interior AK to the South East. These make excellent border plants with their tall, grass-like leaves throughout the summer. Iris should be planted about 2′ apart, with plenty of sun, with good drainage, although they thrive in moist conditions. (My parents have them lining the edge of their pond.) They do well in Zones 3-9.
Globeflower (troilus europeaus) do wonderfully here in south central. There is one in my flowerbed that was planted around 15 years ago. It is in the only flower bed I haven’t been able to get around to cleaning up yet and the grass has taken over, but the trolius stands strong. Its a tall flower, around 2′ tall when it blooms it’s bright orange and yellow flowers. It usually grows in wet, heavy soil and does well in partial shade, although mine is just about in full sun. Grows in zones 3-7. Be sure to deadhead the flowers for the possibility of more blooms.
When I was little, my mom had delphiniums (delphinium) growing against our old garage. Every summer, the light purple and blue flowers would reach at least 6′ tall and sometimes up to 8′ tall. They were breathtaking. Delphiniums, also known as larkspur, grow well in Zones 3-7, preferring cool, moist climates. If you are in an area that receives a lot of rain, such as south east Alaska, be sure to plant these in full sun to avoid rot or fungal disease.
When you plant a peony (paeonia), you need to think carefully about where you plant it. These beautiful flowers will live up to 50 years and grow amazingly here in Alaska, to the point that there are Alaskan peony farms. They love full to partial sun and need to be in well drained soil. Transplanting is the hardest part of growing peonies, as they don’t like to be moved. I was thrilled to see mine coming back this spring, since we planted it just last year. They come in a variety of colors and grow in Zones 3-8.
I finally bought a bleeding heart (dicentra spectabilis) this year. I’ve wanted one for the longest time. My grandmother had one tucked away against the corner of her house and I just loved all the dripping blossoms. These large bush-like plants can do amazingly well for many years if in the right conditions. They are susceptible to rot, so against your house under the eves, is a great place for them. They do well in shade or partial-shade. My grandmother’s was planted on the East side of their home. Composting in the spring helps encourage more blossoms. These will grow in Zones 3-9.
If you have a tall area you need to fill, try Lavender Mist meadow rue (thalictrum rochebrunianum). This particular species grows over 6′ with fern-like leaves and lavender violet flowers. It does well in partial shade and needs to be moist, but not too wet. This is a Zone 3-8 perennial.
Any list of Alaskan flowers must include our State flower, Forget-Me-Not (myosotis). These delicate little blue flowers are technically biennials, but they do reseed themselves. My mother planted some in her yard for our wedding almost 6 years ago (!) and there are still some popping up. They do well near creeks and ponds, as they like a higher humidity and moisture. They do well in shady areas, but sometimes do well in full sun, but will require lots of watering.
One of my favorite wild flowers in Alaska is monkshood (aconitum napellus), also known as wolfsbane. These tall hooded, purple flowers grow all over south central Alaska. It is quite easy to see where they got their name, looking just like a monk with his hood pulled low. They typically grow anywhere from 30″ to 60″ tall. I desperately want to put some in my flowerbeds, once I get them cleaned up and ready. (My focus has been more on growing veggies than flowers the past several years.) Like peonies, it does not like to be moved once established, so be sure to think out the location well. It prefers sun, but does well in partial shade too. Monkshood prefers moist soil, but well drained or the roots will drown. Grows in Zones 3-7. Warning, this is a poisonous plant. Many parts are toxic, including the sap, so be sure to wear gloves to avoid absorption through the skin. This isn’t a great plant around children or pets.
My (other) grandmother grew Himalayan blue poppies (meconopsis) in her yard. These stunning blue blossoms were gorgeous. They can be difficult to grow from seed, but supposedly using fresh seeds helps. Read more on starting them from seed HERE. They prefer partial shade and should be protected from high winds. Water well and be sure they’re in well draining soil. Poppies also like lots of rich, organic fertilizer. Zones 4-5.
Perennials are a great choice for every flower garden. They may cost more than annuals at first, but are well worth it in the long run. This isn’t the end of my list! Be sure to subscribe via your email so you don’t miss Part Two of Hardy Perennial Flowers for Alaska.