20 Plants That Survive With or Without You

The satisfaction a seasoned gardener enjoys is the result of patience, time, and experience: trial and error, taking some chances, watching things thrive—and sometimes watching them fail. But a beginning gardener needs a few sure things, plants that are easy to grow and maintain, and that will give them the confidence to move on to greater challenges. Check out these 20 garden gimmes, practically guaranteed to bring lush beauty to the garden with minimal effort.

  1. Coral Bells

    Coral Bells

    Once established, coral bells require very little maintenance and will return year after year with a mounding party of colorful foliage. The flowers come in reds, greens, yellows, oranges, purples, and even variegated varieties. The plant blooms with small spikes of flowers starting in June, but the leaves will make an impression from early spring through frost. Available from Burpee; $12.95 per plant.

    Related: 10 Things to Do Now for a Better Garden Next Year

    Flickr via beautifulcataya

  2. Nandina Domestica

    Nandina Domestica

    Nandina domestica, commonly called "nandina," is an easy-to-grow evergreen shrub that looks lush in a landscape. White flowers in spring give way in winter to brilliant red berries that make excellent cuttings for wreaths and holiday floral arrangements. Nandina will fill out and reseed itself, but this hardy beauty can be pruned without worry. Available from Etsy; $10.99 for two plants.

    Related: The Best 10 Plants to Grow for Backyard Privacy


  3. Spotted Laurel

    Spotted Laurel

    Like other laurels, spotted laurel is an easygoing evergreen shrub that works well as both a foundation plant and a hedge. Its showy foliage is mottled green and gold, and its growth habit is slow, so it rarely needs pruning. Available from Plant Delights; $21 per plant.

    Related: 12 Backyard Updates You Can Do in a Day

    Flickr via harumkoh

  4. Marigold


    As far as annual flowers go, marigolds offer one of the best bangs for the buck. After you put them in the ground, you can leave them alone and they'll bloom until fall. Hardy and forgiving, marigolds tolerate most any soil condition and will even rebound after being nicked by the lawnmower. The plants can reseed themselves, so depending on your location, you may find marigolds popping up next spring. If you're so lucky, dig them up and move them as you see fit to enjoy them for another season. Available from Burpee; $3.95 for 50 seeds.

    Related: 11 Low-Cost Buys to Boost a Boring Backyard


  5. Canna Lily

    Canna Lily

    For an impressive splash of summer color, canna lilies make a bold statement. Bright red, orange, or yellow blooms top lush foliage that reaches six feet, easily. These plants will multiply each year and are easy to divide and share with friends and family. Available from The Home Depot; $15.97 per eight-pack of bulbs.

    Related: 14 Totally Free Ways to Grow a Garden from Scratch


  6. Rosemary


    Rosemary is a perennial herb that remains evergreen in many climates. Its woody stems and fragrant leaves serve as a complement to many other plants common in landscape designs. Rosemary blooms in early spring and can be pruned all year to provide fresh herbs for your kitchen creations. Available from Burpee; $14.95 for three plants.

    Related: 7 Herbs That Clean House

    Flickr via courtneymcgough

  7. Meadow Sage

    Meadow Sage

    This deer-resistant perennial is easy to care for and rewards the beginning gardener with long-blooming deep purple flowers. It’s a favorite of hummingbirds and bees, and will become a favorite of yours, as it comes back year after year. Available from The Home Depot; $19.99 per plant.

    Related: 8 Ways to Combat Garden Pests


  8. Catmint


    This non-culinary mint variety is a showy perennial that will bring pleasure to you—and your cat—for years to come. Blooming in early spring, it is easy to grow and tolerates both heat and drought. You don’t need to do a thing for it, although if you prune the flowers after they’re spent, you may get another show later in the season. Available from Burpee; $9.95 per plant.

    Related: Pass on Grass: 7 Reasons to Landscape with Gravel


  9. Forsythia


    The brilliant yellow shock of blooms on the forsythia bush is one of the first oh-so-welcome signs of spring. Once the show is over, this shrub displays attractive green foliage. Forsythia can be pruned into a hedge or left natural, and will reliably bring joy to your yard every spring. Available from The Home Depot; $17.99 per plant.

    Related: 10 "Zero Dollar" Garden Hacks


  10. Creeping Phlox

    Creeping Phlox

    Grown easily over rocks and in tough soil conditions, creeping phlox, a perennial, presents a carpet of gorgeous blooms in early spring, just when you're really craving color in the yard. Flowers come in white, pastels, saturated hues, and even candy stripes. Phlox spreads but is not invasive, ideal for an easy and satisfying ground cover. Available from Etsy; $5.95 per plant.

    Related: 9 Insanely Easy 1-Hour Backyard Projects


  11. Indian Hawthorn

    Indian Hawthorn

    Low, and slow growing, Indian hawthorn is the perfect shrub for sunny spots in your landscape. It has a naturally rounded growing habit, and so needs little pruning. Its attention-grabbing clusters of pink or white blooms, which give way each spring to blue berries that attract birds and other small wildlife. It is evergreen, to boot—meaning it will provide year-round interest to your garden. Available at Home Depot; $39.98.

    Related: 8 No Care Plants for Killer Curb Appeal in Every Season


  12. Autumn Joy Sedum

    Autumn Joy Sedum

    A hardy perennial, the Autumn Joy variety of sedum is an easy-going showstopper. Drought tolerant, its sturdy shoots bring forth deep burgundy flowers in late summer and autumn. When the weather turns cold, you can leave the stalks standing to provide food for birds throughout the winter. Or, simply cut them to the ground once they’ve flagged, and wait for them to burst out again next spring. Available on Amazon; $3.50 for 15 seeds.

    Related: 8 Smart Ways to Put Your Garden on Autopilot


  13. Dusty Miller

    Dusty Miller

    Dusty Miller, with its lacy, silvery white leaves, makes a wonderful companion to many plants in the garden. Once established, it requires little care, and will happily tolerate heat and drought. It can just as easily create a beautiful border around taller plants like salvia, or provide a lush backdrop for shorter plants like ageratum. It is considered an annual, but has been known to come back year after year in warmer climates (typically zones 8 and higher). Available on burpee.com; $3.95 for 100 seeds.

    Related:  12 Clever Ideas for a Space-Smart Garden


  14. Gold Thread Cypress

    Gold Thread Cypress

    Gold Thread Cypress is a favorite among landscapers for a reason. It does a lot of work, and asks nothing in return. Evergreen, and a great foundation shrub, it is a slow grower, requiring little to no pruning. It tolerates heat and drought well, and rewards you all year long with eye-catching, weeping gold foliage. Available on Amazon; $29.99.

    Related: 10 Fast-Growing Plants for (Almost) Instant Curb Appeal


  15. Hostas


    For easy-care groundcover in shaded areas, you can’t beat hostas. Coming in hundreds of varieties from green, to gold, to variegated, there’s one to suit any taste. Relatively disease-free, once established, hostas will grow and continue to come back for years, making these lush beauties are a welcome addition to any garden. Available at Burpee.com; $15.95.

    Related: 20 Tiny Backyards We Love


  16. Lamb’s Ear

    Lamb’s Ear

    Called Lamb’s Ear for it’s soft, fuzzy foliage, this stalwart perennial will grace your garden as a border or ground cover. Though mostly grown for its low growing, mat-like foliage, it sends spikes of purple flowers up in spring. Once established, Lamb’s Ear requires little maintenance. As with all flowering plants, it’s best to deadhead blooms once they’re spent, but Lamb’s Ear will thrive whether you do or not. Available on Amazon; $5.49 for 1000 seeds.

    Related: Here’s What Your Favorite Houseplants Look Like in the Wild


  17. Creeping Jenny

    Creeping Jenny

    Creeping Jenny is a delightful and hardy ground cover that grows equally well in sun and shade. It will rapidly spread to fill empty areas with a lush carpet of bright green or yellow. Do nothing but enjoy it. It will return year after year in USDA zones 2–10. Available on Amazon; $4.99 for 3.5" starter pot.

    Related: 14 of the Best Plants for Your Drought-Tolerant Garden


  18. Knock Out Roses

    Knock Out Roses

    The Knock Out variety of roses lets gardeners of any skill level (and soil type) enjoy dazzling blooms. Knock Out roses can be planted individually, or as a colorful hedge. They bloom all summer long and well into fall with no special care. While they will perform best if pruned after the last frost, they’ll come back year after year, even if you don’t. If you do decide to cut them back for shaping purposes, do it any way you like—the plant won't mind! Available at Burpee.com; $18.95 for one plant.

    Related: 7 Ways to Buy Yourself a Green Thumb for Under $40


  19. Creeping Juniper

    Creeping Juniper

    If you’re in need of a low-growing ground cover that thrives on neglect, Creeping Juniper is your best friend. It will adapt to most any soil and is extraordinarily hardy. The ultimate in low maintenance, this evergreen makes an excellent foundation or border plant, and never needs pruning. Available on Amazon; $139.99 for 60 plants.

    Related: 8 Plants Never to Grow Indoors


  20. Coreopsis


    Coreopsis, also called Tickseed, is a part of the Asteraceae family and comes in a variety of heights and colors. Once established, perennial varieties will come back year after year, and blanket your landscaping beds with cheerful, delicate flowers and wispy foliage. Available at Burpee.com; $13.95 for one plant.


  21. Miracle Grow

    Miracle Grow

    Green thumb or not, these plants will still stun in your yard.


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