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 25 garden gimmes, practically guaranteed to bring lush beauty to the garden with minimal effort.
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 at The Home Depot; $16.52.
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 at The Home Depot; $13.95.
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 on Etsy; $20.95.
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 on Etsy; $6.95.
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 on Amazon; $19.95.
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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 on Etsy; $12.99.
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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 on Etsy; $12.95 for one plant.
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 on Etsy; $21.
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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 on Amazon; $14.95.
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 from The Home Depot; $32.98.
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 Etsy; $6.50.
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 Etsy; $15.
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; $34.99.
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 on Amazon; $27.
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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 Etsy; $9.49.
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 Etsy; $9.95.
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 from Burpee; $19.99 for one plant.
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; $5.99.
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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 on Etsy; $9.95.
How many new homeowners have moved into a house, neglected the yard while settling in, and been treated to surprise bulb plants in spring. Daffodils are a cheerful herald of spring and can do well even if you neglect them. Deer- and rodent-resistant, bulb plants need occasional watering during the growing season and can be neglected during periods of dormancy. Resist the urge to cut back foliage when blooms fade, as this can weaken the bulb. Instead, pull or prune leaves at the end of the season after they have turned dried and brown. To increase the vibrancy of the flowers, you can treat seasonally with bonemeal, but even if you don't, these flowers will continue to return each year. Available on Etsy; $10.
Lily of the Valley
Plant one lily of the valley and it can grow and spread around the base of a shaded tree, sloped yard, or neglected garden bed. All it needs in return for its attractive bell-shaped blooms is moist, well-drained soil. Keep lily of the valley out of reach of cats and dogs, as all parts of the plant are toxic. Available on Etsy; $10.
Also known as monkey grass, liriope provides evergreen color, seasonal flower spikes, and fall and winter berries. This ground cover will crowd out weeds and can spread to fill in bare spots with no effort from you. Just be sure to plant it in an area where you don't mind it spreading out, or be prepared to prune it back. Available on Etsy; 1$24.99.
Ornamental bamboo does well in shaded parts of the yard, like against the house or fence. Many varieties of bamboo can grow quite tall, making them ideal plants for a living privacy fence. Be aware that some varieties of bamboo are invasive and should be grown in containers to prevent them from spreading into the wider natural environment. Available on Amazon; $55.98.
Nothing endures like mint, even when you'd like to banish it from the backyard. This culinary herb can come back from almost anything, including an accidental shot of herbicide. If you aren't planning on turning your yard into a mint farm, you may want to grow it in a container. If you do, know that any plant grown in a container will need more frequent watering than if you plant it directly in the ground. Available at The Home Depot; $21.59.
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 on Etsy; $21.
Green thumb or not, these plants will still stun in your yard.
Give the special gardener in your life a little love this holiday season! Go now to see Bob Vila's best gifts for green thumbs.