Easy-care perennials are on every gardener’s wish list. But many perennial plants are not quite as low maintenance as advertised. Some have to be divided every season or two, others are short-lived and some grow so fast that they choke out their neighbors.
Easy-care plants for your garden
Daylilies, rubeckia & giant white fleece flower
There are plenty of great, easy-to-grow perennials that can be star performers in your garden.
Larry Hodgson, a prolific gardener and author of the best-selling Perennials for Every Purpose has put together a good list of qualities these plants should have.
The attributes he includes are a lot to ask of a plant, he says. “In fact, it’s surprising, how few perennials meet all the easy-care characteristics.”
Characteristics of easy-care perennials:
Hostas are easy-care,
long-lived plants for shade
1. Longevity (90 percent alive and thriving five years after planting)
2. Resistance to disease and insects, so you don’t have spray them
3. Don’t need to be divided more often than every four or five years
4. Tolerance of a wide range of growing conditions
5. Cold hardy – no winter protection needed
5. Good tolerance of summer heat
6. Long blooming period, or foliage that’s attractive all season
7. Won’t take over your garden
8. Don’t need to be staked.
Some plants need more TLC
Phlox, for example, meets almost all of the attributes on the list except for disease and insect resistance. Keeping them mildew-free can be a summer-long nightmare, unless you are careful to purchase only mildew-resistant types and give them a garden space with plenty of airflow.
Peonies: easy-care, except for staking
Hodgson points out that some perennials on the list below, such as peonies and monkshood, may need staking.
Many otherwise ideal plants are either invasive – goutweed is a prime example, so it doesn’t make the list. Others tend to disappear after several years – such as lupines and shasta daisies.
Easy-going perennials to try
Coral bell, Heuchera ‘Tiramisu’
Photo courtesy Walter’s Gardens
“There are easy-care perennials you can plant this season, and expect to see blooming away happily in five, 10 or even 15 years,” says Hodgson.
Here is his list of favorite “no strain, no pain” easy-care perennials. (Links on the list below take you to more detailed info on the plants and their care and use in the garden.)
Daylily ‘Happy Returns’
easy-care and repeat blooming
Siberian iris ‘Butter and Sugar’
Photo: Missouri Botanical Garden