Every gardener dreams of plants they can pop in the ground and enjoy for years to come without a lot of work or maintenance—plants anyone can grow.
It’s not too late in the season to add these kinds of plants to your backyard landscape. In fact, it’s a wonderful time to score deals on perennials and fill in those bare spots in your garden.
These plants, as long as they are hardy in your region, will adapt to all sorts of soil, from lush loam to clay, and to all kinds of conditions. They look good even when they’re out of bloom, lending texture with their handsome foliage. All you need is six hours of sunlight a day. Then, just plant and walk away.
Splash of Sunshine
Happy yellow flowers will light up any backyard. Start scouting for great daffodils, a bulb celebrated for their resistance to deer, squirrels and other critters. Varieties to look for include King Alfred and Tete A Tete.
For a low-maintenance, midseason bloomer, choose Happy Returns daylily. It’s a rebloomer that sends up occasional blooms all season and its lemony flowers complement any companion. Plant this downsized daylily in front of beds or among other garden flowers for contrasting foliage.
One of the tallest garden perennials is a cutleaf coneflower. This rugged heirloom is perfect for brightening a privacy fence. Tie garden twine or plant tape around the stems through the fence to help them hold up the fluffy double yellow daisies.
- GRAHAM RICE/GARDENPHOTOS.COM
Get the Blues
Veronicas have been garden favorites for years, thanks to their bluest-of-blue color and agreeable disposition. Go for upright growers like Sunny Border Blue or Royal Candles for months of bloom, or plant groundcover types such as Georgia Blue.
Catmint (Nepeta) creates a billow of blue that begins at bearded-iris season and keeps going until fall. Look for Six Hills Giant, Walker’s Low and Blue Wonder that are better behaved in the garden.
For a dramatic blue-purple color, try May Night or East Friesland salvias. They’re perfect partners for white Shasta daisies or pale pink dianthus.
Lavender-blue Monch aster (Aster x frikartii) kicks in at the June peak of perennial bloom, much earlier than many asters, and keeps going through the first fall frosts. Hardy geranium Rozanne, whose intense blue will make your jaw drop, blooms the same way. Both are hardy to Zone 5.
Sedums draw butterflies and bees to their summer flowers. Made for hot, dry places, sedums store water in their leaves. Waterlogged soil is a death knell, but they’ll do fine in average conditions, as long as they get plenty of sun. They’re perfect for hillside niches among rocks, in gravel or sandy soils, atop walls or along a sidewalk. Hardiness varies, so check the tag.
Autumn Joy and other upright sedums stay in a clump. But ghostly gray Cape Blanco, red Dragon’s Blood, chartreuse Angelina and other groundcover types spread rapidly. Choose a spot where their natural habit is an asset, not a drawback—edging your driveway, spilling over a wall or covering a slope—and you won’t have to rein in these fast growers.
The variety of colors and leaf shapes, plus the butterfly-attracting flower clusters, make sedums addicting. With dozens of varieties, your only challenge will be not buying them all.
Soft as velvet, lamb’s ears spread into a solid patch of silvery leaves. Fuzzy stalks of purplish pink flowers arrive in early summer, but it’s the silver stems and foliage that steal the spotlight. Plant a swath of lamb’s ears among other perennials for an eye-catching accent, or use them to edge your beds. Straying stems, which root as they go, are easy to peel up if they spread too far.
- GRAHAM RICE/GARDENPHOTOS.COM
The silver foliage of artemisia is a treasure, but the running roots of Silver King or Silver Queen cultivars can take over the garden as soon as you turn your back. For good behavior, you can’t beat Lambrook Silver, a filigreed mound that stays in place, and similar but less hardy (to Zone 6) is Powis Castle.
Russian sage (Perovskia) was an instant hit when it burst on the garden scene, and its popularity keeps rising. The silvery plant finishes the summer season with an arching fountain of blue flowers that beckon to migrating monarchs and other butterflies.
Green Thumb Club
Year after year, these undemanding perennials keep going. They leave us free to fiddle with fussier plants or experiment with new combinations.
With easy plants as the foundation, your gardening thumb will get greener every day. The best fertilizer for that process? The admiring comments you’ll hear from friends and neighbors.
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