“Returnees”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 


When I first started gardening, it was at a time when annuals with just a few flowering perennials was the way to go in a garden.  Several of my neighbors were retired and had the time to do the high maintenance annuals can often require, and their yards and gardens were gorgeous with flowers and hanging baskets.  So colorful, so lush, so beautiful.  Many of their flowering plants were not really annuals but tender perennials especially here just off the warm waters of the Gulf Coast.

At first, I started with annuals but quickly realized that perennials were what was really needed in a garden.  I have tried to plant so that there will be something blooming year round, and with our mild climate, I have just about been able to do that.  But, one of the mainstays of the garden has been the tender perennials.  They may be nipped back by the occasional freeze, but they return and with an established root system, recover very quickly.  Now, the ones I am referring to are the ones that make it through winter with only mulch as protection, I am not talking about the ones that I protect with coverings of plastic or bring in the house.




This year the wax begonias surprised me by overwintering.  I have planted them in containers or hanging baskets which would be brought in and protected during a freeze, but this it the first year I had planted them in the garden.  I fully expected them to bite the dust with the first freeze, but they didn’t.  We have cold, wet winters which is often a death knell for plants because if the cold doesn’t get them, the rot usually does.  But, this year, all of the white wax begonias and it seems that just about all the red wax begonias have survived and are already blooming.




All of the lantanas overwinter here, too.  I was surprised to find that is not true in many areas.  I have a fuchsia-colored one, and I do have to admit that it is always slow to come back.  Right now it has only a few small leaves whereas all the others have grown and are blooming or have buds.  I have the white in containers, and they made it through fine.




The salvias have been returning after winter for years.  Coral nymph and Lady in Red do return and, of course, seedlings are there if they would not. 




I have had impatiens coming back for years.  In fact, I no longer have to buy them because, no matter how cold our winters, a few always survive.  There must be little micro-climates in the yard that allow them to make it until spring.




The pentas are starting to come back also.  I have had pentas that return for years, but this is not a given because sometimes they do not come back.  I don’t know if it may be they are too old or the weather just got too cold on particular years.  So, I never count on them returning but welcome them if they do.


Other plants that return for us are gladiolus, canna, and bannanas.  I don’t know if I would grow these if I had to dig them up in the fall like so many gardeners north of us must do.  The gladiolus plants are already large, and the cannas are growing more each day.








Night blooming jasmine and fire spike also return each year.  These returning plants allow for the year round flowers and help make gardening easier.  One really nice thing is the money issue.  I don’t know if these returning plants save me money or just allow me to have more plants since I probably spend the same each year.  While using more perennials in my garden has been my goal these last few years, I am thankful for these returning plants which save me time, money and effort.





  1. Sheila said,

    April 16, 2009 at 8:03 am

    Those all sound like the real workhorses in a garden. They allow us to indulge in a few high maintenance plants when we feel like it, or not!

  2. April 16, 2009 at 8:07 am

    Lovely and cute blooms. Lantanas are tough, eh! Love em mainly because they’re easy to grow, cute, and attract butterflies! Love those impatiens. To what height do they grow? Can they be grown in hanging pots that are about 6 inches in height?

  3. Sylvia (England) said,

    April 16, 2009 at 8:15 am

    Jan, thank you for this it is really helpful. I find, most winters I can over winter some of these plants in a tiny greenhouse (not heat but against the house wall). This year was too cold for most. Sometimes they survive a mild winter in the garden but our springs do not warm up quickly enough to get tender plants into flower, they can just recover and start to flower in September or later. I find it is worth trying as the alternative is to put them on the compost heap anyway. I was surprised you kept impatiens, I though they were the first to die from the least bit of cold.

    Best wishes Sylvia (England)

  4. Racquel said,

    April 16, 2009 at 8:44 am

    Perennials are much easier than annuals. Plus who wouldn’t love something that comes back year after year getting bigger & better. My cannas, dahlias, elephant’s ear are pretty hardy here in my zone 7b garden. I’ve never dug them up. But some of the stuff in your garden like impatiens are definitely not hardy here but will reseed themselves.

  5. April said,

    April 16, 2009 at 10:55 am

    My neighbors lantanas are SO HUGE they that make a shrub, and the cut them. Crazy! I have also seen them formed into huge trees that spread out on a fence…..interesting

  6. ryublade said,

    April 16, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    Last year was our first attempt at creating a flower garden since we finally purchased a house. We went crazy and bought dozens of plants in cell packs and planted them all around the flower beds we created in the front yard without regard to whether they were annuals or perennials. Imagine our surprise this year to find that most of them managed to survive the winter and doing their best to bloom again! This year, we are a bit more organized and are working to have some kind of garden design with our flower beds. LOL

  7. April 16, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    Hi Jan, lovely and informative post. I’m trying to grow Canna from seed this year, I put several seeds down in the soil but just one germinated and it’s at this moment 2 inches…hm…impressed?
    Great photos/ xoxo Tyra

  8. andré said,

    April 17, 2009 at 1:58 am

    The joy of perennials! 🙂 It’s nice to see them survive and bloom year after year… I like the color of your banana tree. I try to grow them in pots, but they usually don’t like the winters indoors… (This year, however, they have survived.)

  9. Jean said,

    April 18, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    Out of three Coral Nymph salvias I planted last year, only one has come back. And it’s growing very slowly. If only I hadn’t ripped out all the seedlings it put out last year!

  10. Jan said,

    April 19, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    Shelia, these certainly are workhorses in the garden, and you are right, they allow us to save up our energies for other things.

    Chandramouli, here, because we have a long growing season, impatiens can get to be about 18 to 24 inches high. They can be cut back to a more manageable size if you want. Around July, I usually cut mine back to keep them bushy. They make excellent hanging baskets.

    Sylvia, I am surprised how often impatiens make it through cold weather. This year we had snow, several hard freezes and still they survived out in the garden. Ones that are planted against the house usually make it with no problem. What surprises me is how fast coleus will die from the cold. I’ll have impatiens make it, and the coleus right next to it is brown crisp.

    Racquel, I am learning to appreciate perennials more and more. The tender perennials is what often gives our Southern gardens their lush tropical look.

    April, I, too, have seen people do that to lantanas. My daughter has some that are going on six years old, and they have come back every year to be gorgeous. They are such easy care plants, it is a wonder they are not grown more often considering all the colors they now come in.

    Ryublade, how wonderful for you that so many of your initial planting has come back. You probably only need to tweak your garden a bit this year.

    Tyra, I have put canna seeds in the garden and have not had any come up yet, so I am impressed by your seedling. Cannas are something I have just recently started planting. This year I put in Madame Butterfly which is already up. I can’t wait to see the flower color.

    Andre, that is a red banana that I got from my sister. She is so generous with her extra plants. They will die down to the roots here, but quickly resprout as soon as the first warm temperatures show up.

    Jean, why is it that when we have extras of anything and get rid of it, we soon need it. Only one of my coral nymphs is back, so I am going to take cuttings to make more.

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