The Best Plants to Pick
Sure, you could spend all spring and summer weeding, watering, and tending the garden, but there's an easier way to grow a stunning landscape. It all starts with the right plants. Choose one of these low-maintenance options and watch your garden flourish—with little effort on your part.
Where some plants struggle in poor soil, the coneflower thrives. Also known as echinacea, this purple flower, native to the eastern United States, attracts pollinators and repels deer. In return, all it requires is a trim in late summer to rejuvenate its bold blooms. If your region receives normal rainfall, you can forget about watering your coneflower, and will only need to fertilize the plant in rare instances, like when buds remain undeveloped. Otherwise, this is one drought-tolerant plant that you can ignore all season long. Available on Amazon; $20.99.
Creeping thyme is a favorite of home cooks and lazy landscapers alike. This fragrant—and edible—perennial ground cover needs little more than warm weather and the occasional watering. Its hardiness and drought-resistance recommends it as a lawn alternative, and its tiny white flowers lure butterflies to the yard. If an unseasonable freeze is in the forecast, cover your thyme with a tarp to protect it until temperatures rise. Available on Etsy; $2.50.
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There are low-maintenance plants, and then there’s creeping sedum. Available in myriad varieties, these succulents, also known as stonecrop, can survive unfavorable conditions of all kinds. Plant creeping sedum in an arid region where it can thrive in the midst of drought, or line a driveway with stonecrop, where it will survive runoff from road salt used to melt winter ice. These succulents come in every color from bluish-gray to reddish-bronze, and can find a home in most any garden. Available on Etsy; $4.95.
Also known as wild lilac, Texas ranger wows with vibrant lavender, purple, and magenta blooms. For all its showy blossoms, this flowering shrub is surprisingly low maintenance. Plant it in full sunlight, then water it only during the summers or in times of drought, to be rewarded with splashy color and curb appeal. Available on Etsy; $17.99.
If you want a low-maintenance plant with year-round color, look no further than the beautyberry shrub. After months of green foliage speckled with lilac blooms in the spring and summer, the beautyberry's leaves fall away to reveal dazzling purple berries (a favorite snack for birds) for most of fall and winter. Virtually drought-tolerant and resistant to disease and pests, this is one garden variety that requires little to no effort on your part once you've planted it. Available on Etsy; $5.99.
Looking for low maintenance and lots of options? Leafy hosta plants can thrive almost anywhere—best in Zones 2 through 10, no matter the level of sunlight—making this groundcover an easy choice for yards with plenty of shade. Just water in the morning to prevent its green, gold, or variegated leaves from burning, and keep it hydrated throughout the day as needed. Once established, watch this lush plant become a regular landscape addition, returning year after year. Available on Etsy; $17.
Hummingbirds, bees, and beginner gardeners love the color that meadow sage's long-blooming flowers bring to the garden. The long stalks are an easy way to add deep and vibrant violet hues to your landscape. Plus, this perennial handles full-sun and holds up to neighborhood deer visiting with the munchies. Available on Amazon; $17.99.
You may be familiar with the aromatic mint plant for its ability to repel mosquitoes and make good mojitos. But the easy maintenance this plant requires to boot is as much a blessing as it is a curse: Peppermint plants' invasive roots grow so quickly that they can overtake your garden. Keep this fresh greenery potted in individual planters that transfer easily from the windowsill to patio to reap its benefits all year long. Available on Etsy; $5.99.
Rudbeckia (Black-Eyed Susan)
Drought-tolerant and disease-resistant, these bright yellow flowers with big, brown-to-purple centers make easy additions to any garden. And if their sunny color alone doesn't make you smile, the butterflies they bring to your yard may do just that. But beware: The yellow-budded perennial also lures wildlife like rabbits and deer to your garden patch, so it's best to place them near plants known to be repellents, like lavender and rosemary. Available on Amazon; $9.95.
Dusty miller makes a striking statement in any garden. The lacy, silver-gray leaves contrast with vibrant green foliage, so it works nicely as a lush backdrop for shorter plants or a border around taller plants. Besides its beauty, dusty miller has another noteworthy quality: ease of maintenance. The deer-resistant plant requires little care once established, and it will happily tolerate both heat and drought. Although it’s considered an annual, dusty miller tends to return every year in warmer climates (hardiness zones 8-10). Available on Etsy; $15.
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Lamb’s-ear gets its moniker from its soft, fuzzy, silver-green foliage, which resembles a real lamb’s ear. The low-growing perennial is often used as a border plant or ground cover, and it bursts with spikes of pink-purple flowers in the spring. In addition to requiring little maintenance once established, Lamb’s-ear easily handles both drought and poor soil conditions. 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. For best results, grow in areas of full sun or partial shade with well- draining soil. Available on Etsy; $9.49.
Arkansas Blue Star
The feathery green foliage of Arkansas blue star changes with the season. After blooming with soft blue star-shaped flowers in the spring, it develops green feathery needle-like leaves in the summer, which turn brilliant gold in the fall. The leaves remain through a portion of the winter months as well. Low-maintenance Arkansas blue star resists deer and drought, making it a durable and beautiful option for any garden. Many homeowners combine the perennial with other grasses or use it as a border plant. Grow Arkansas blue star in full sun to partial shade, and make sure it has well-draining soil. Available on Etsy; $34.60.
Fountain grass has feathery, cascading blooms that bring dramatic interest and texture to your yard—especially when planted in groups. The perennial grows in a mound shape, and its tan, pink, or purple flowers appear in late summer and fall. Since fountain grass thrives in dry soil, it’s ideal for drought-prone regions. It’s also very adaptable, making it an extremely low-maintenance plant. For an attention-grabbing garden design, grow fountain grass as an accent among other shrubs or green perennials. Available on Amazon; $20.50.
Catmint, a non-culinary mint variety, is a long-living perennial with beautiful purple-blue flowers and gray-green foliage. Blooming in early spring, catmint grows up to three or four feet tall. Gardeners often plant the aromatic herb in rock gardens or along edging. Catmint is easy to grow, tolerates both heat and drought, and resists deer and rabbits (although, true to its name, it attracts cats). Pruning the flowers after they’re spent may give you another show later in the season. Available on Etsy; $12.95.
Tremendously popular with American gardeners since the late Victorian era, clematis satisfies not only in the rapid speed of its growth, but also in its delightful tendency to climb and cover outdoor structures, lending shade, privacy, and undeniably charming curb appeal. The color, size, and timing of clematis blooms differ by variety. Some explode with large, violet-petaled flowers in the middle of spring, while others produce small, white blooms, which arrive in late summer or fall. All that said, no matter which variety you choose, you can expect the hardy perennial to always fare best when positioned in full sun and planted in cool, moist, well-draining soil. Available on Etsy; $14.95.
Virginia-native coral honeysuckle grows naturally across much of the United States, from the northern reaches of Maine all the way down to the Florida Panhandle and as far west as Illinois. Meaning, despite the look of its show-stopping, hummingbird-attracting, trumpet-shaped blooms—or its bright-red, later-summer berries—this twisting, twining vine needs no special attention. Grow it in full sun or partial shade, and don't worry too much about watering, as coral honeysuckle withstands drought admirably well. Note only that if you wish for the vine to climb rather than grow into shrub or a ground cover, you must train it do so with narrow supports. Available on Etsy; $25.99.
Why do so many homeowners continue to plant butterfly bush, even though many experts now consider the Asian import to be an invasive species? Simple: It’s a truly tough shrub made beautiful by eye-catching trusses of pink, white, or purple blooms. In addition, true to its name, butterfly bush typically doesn't fail to attract—you guessed it!—butterflies. So, there's a lot to like. However, unless you're prepared to see butterfly bush take over your garden, and perhaps you neighbors' gardens as well, remember that you must make sure to select a sterile, non-invasive variety, one whose full, mature size would fit in the sunny spot you plan for it to occupy. Available on Etsy; $16.99.
Gardeners would be wise to remember that in nature, bog rosemary grows in soggy wetland areas. That means, if you don’t want to drive yourself crazy watering the compact, rounded shrub over and over again, you must be sure to plant it in soil that stays consistently moist. Also, bear in mind that bog rosemary (no relation to the herb rosemary) can be poisonous if ingested, so you may wish to look elsewhere if you have pets or children. All that said, so long as you can give the evergreen a suitable home, you can expect it to thrive without much care or pruning, and for masses of bell-shaped flowers to join the bluish, needle-like foliage from mid to late spring.
The common name "houseleek" refers to a diverse family of succulents with 40 distinct, identifiable species and hundreds more hybrids. Color, texture, shape, size—all are variable, sometimes wildly so, from one exotic-looking specimen to the next. Still, despite their diversity, houseleeks do share one key thing in common: the ability to withstand drought, wind, frost, and indeed, most any challenging situation, with the strong exception of waterlogged soil. Unless you live somewhere with sandy or gravelly soil, ensure proper drainage by planting each houseleeks on small mounds. Once in the ground, houseleeks demand next to nothing of their caretakers, a fact that seems only fitting, given that the Latin name for houseleeks roughly translates to "forever living." Available on Amazon; $16.35.
If your backyard is looking a bit bare but you can’t afford to splurge on landscaping plants, creeping Jenny is an ideal, low-maintenance plant. This ground covering spreads to fill empty areas while providing a splash of color with its bright green and yellow leaves. It’s also an excellent “spiller” for cascading over pots or walls. Thriving in average to rich moist soil, creeping Jenny loves soaking up the sun from late spring into summer. Available on Etsy; $9.99.
Knock Out Roses
From their bold color to easy care, Knock Out Roses are everything the name promises. Easy to grow and resistant to many diseases, they’re a good choice for lazy gardeners. Of course, like all roses, they will look best if you put some effort into maintenance. For best results, plant Knock Out Roses where they’ll receive plenty of sunlight, and prune shrubs after the last frost. Of course, this hardy rose bush will continue to bloom year after year, even if you don’t lift a finger. Available on Amazon; $24.99.
If you live in a dry, arid region then you want a garden that looks good without draining your tap—and your wallet. That’s where the ice plant excels. This beautiful bloom is heat- and drought-tolerant, although it cannot survive in zones where winter frost is a danger. This colorful succulent thrives in rocky soil and can go as long as 2 weeks without water, making it a perfect addition to your desert garden. Available on Etsy; $5.
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The geranium brookside’s hardy, long-lasting blooms have earned the plant a glowing reputation among long-time gardeners. Enjoy the lovely blue flowers from late spring through summer, and then take in the color-changing leaves during the fall. This perennial will attract butterflies to your garden, and is deer- and rabbit-resistant so you can grow curb appeal, not a salad bar for local wildlife.
Ribbon grass is an easy boon to a lush garden. As the name suggests, its long, graceful leaves spread to cover swaths of landscaping beds. Ribbon grass does best in moist soil and shade or partial light, and tolerates various climates (zones 4 through 9). The only work required to keep it looking lovely is an inch of water per week and a quick trim each spring to spur fresh growth. Available on Etsy; $10.
Coral bells is a low-maintenance plant that will add color and texture to your landscape thanks to its flowers and foliage. It’s tall, bell-shaped flowers bloom in varying colors of red, coral, pink, and white during late spring and early summer, but it’s colorful foliage-greens, golds, and purples-lasts through the first frost. Native to woodland areas, it doesn’t need full sunlight. Little work is required from you once it’s established. Available on Etsy; $14.
The peony is so many people’s favorite flower for its large, lush petals and varying shades of reds and pinks. But don’t be fooled by this pretty perennial it’s no delicate flower, it’s actually pretty resilient. The deer- and rabbit-resistant plant can grow in hardiness zones 3 through 9, assuming you provide it full sunlight, well-drained soil, and space to spread out. Once it blooms you’ll want to stake it since its flowers get heavy. While the blooms only last for a short remainder of time (late spring and early summer), the green leaves look good all season long. Available from Burpee; $19.95.
The spotted laurel is an easygoing evergreen that is tolerant of many conditions. With its thick, glossy leaves it’s an excellent choice as a hedge, foundation plant, or container plant. While you might want to keep it trim to prevent it from getting too tall or overbearing your path, it grows so slowly you won’t have to do it frequently. Available on Etsy; $21.
You can trust marigolds to thrive in your yard without having to do much work beyond planting them. Find a spot for them where they can soak up the sun and let nature take over from there. The gold flower isn’t fussy about soil types and won’t wilt from intense heat. Enjoy marigolds from spring through fall. Available from Burpee; from $24.95.
Colorful cosmos are a perfect pick for your summertime garden. The long, delicate flowers are drought and heat tolerant, and will attract birds, bees, and butterflies to your yard. Coming in a range of colors, the annuals don’t require special treatment and mix well with other flowers and plants. Available from Burpee; $5.95.
Few plants add so much drama with so little TLC as the canna lily. To grow, place the bulb in the ground after the threat of frost has passed, then water, cover with mulch, and wait for it to sprout. Once the tropical beauty blooms, you’ll need to keep it moist, although if you forget to water, the surprisingly drought-tolerant plant can survive a skipped sprinkler session. Available on Etsy; $9.95.
Best Garden Ever
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