Easiest Perennials to Grow

How to Have an Easy, Carefree Garden

By Larry Hodgson
April 29, 2019
easiest-perennials-garden-flowers

Coneflowers are among the easiest perennials to grow in your carefree garden.

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Find out how to have an easy, carefree garden with these beautiful and low-maintenance perennial plants.

To have a carefree garden, choose the right perennials … and plant them in the right spots.

You’ve probably heard that if you want your flower garden to grow with the least amount of effort, you should switch from annuals, those 1-year wonders that need to be replaced every spring, to perennials, which can live for decades.

This is generally true: At least you don’t have to replant perennials each spring. However, there are literally thousands of varieties of perennials! Some are indeed as easy as pie to grow; others, though, require at least as much attention as annuals.

What’s a gardener to do? Read on! The following are among the easiest perennials of all!

Why These Perennials Are So Easy

The plants listed here are perfect perennials because they …

  • do not need fussy care, such as pinching, staking, and deadheading (although some of these plants, e.g., daylilies, can benefit from deadheading)
  • are fairly resistant to insects and diseases, and may even be unappealing to deer (although a starving deer will eat anything)
  • have a long life span (more than 10 years)
  • adapt to a wide range of conditions
  • do not spread all over the garden via invasive rhizomes
  • grow and bloom well even if you do not divide them
  • are tough enough to hold their own against invasive neighbors
  • will grow almost anywhere in North America (Zones 2 to 9)

Check out these easy tips for perennial garden care.

1. Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta)

‘Goldsturm’ black-eyed Susan has been a staple for so long that just about everyone grows it. Take note, though, that it is a late starter, flowering at the end of summer. ‘Early Bird Gold’ is a selection of ‘Goldsturm’ that is physically identical to it but “day-length neutral”: It starts blooming early and doesn’t know when to stop, so it can bloom from late May until Christmas in some climates. (Northern gardeners can figure on a late June through October season.) Sturdy stems bear beautiful golden daisies with a black, conelike center. Read our Growing Guide for Black-Eyed Susans.

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2. Coneflowers (Echinacea spp.)

Kissing cousin to the black-eyed Susan, the coneflower produces big pink, purple, or white daisylike blooms on robust stems with a prickly, green to orange center. There are now hybrid coneflowers in a wider range of colors, including yellow, orange, tomato red, and even green, some with double flowers. It blooms from midsummer to early fall. Read our Growing Guide for Coneflowers.

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3. Daylilies (Hemerocallis spp.)

Lots of choices here, from big flowers to small, from dwarfs to giants, from early bloomers to fall bloomers—all trumpet-shape and borne over attractive, arching, grasslike foliage. Some varieties, such as the ever popular ‘Stella de Oro’ (yellow flowers), bloom all summer! Colors include yellow, orange, pink, purplish red, and “white” (well, more like cream), often with a contrasting eye. Each flower lasts but a day (thus the name, “daylilies”), but stems can produce dozens of flowers … and there can be dozens of stems!

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4. Goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus)

This is a big, tough perennial with stems so sturdy that they have survived tornados unharmed. The giant leaves are fernlike, and the frothy white flowers are rather like astilbe blooms. It’s a bit slow to develop and thus may not reach its full size for 4 to 5 years, but goatsbeard can live for 100 years or more in the same spot. Expect blooms in early summer.

goatsbeard-easy-perennial.jpg

5. Hostas (Hosta spp.)

Ever popular, hostas are tough as nails as long as you remember two things: You must buy slug-resistant varieties (these usually have thick leaves), and hostas have no resistance to deer. (Read our advice for getting rid of slugs and deer in the garden.) Hostas come in a variety of sizes and are grown mostly for their foliage—usually large leaves, with attractive veining in shades from dark green to chartreuse and blue, often with beautiful yellow or white variegation. The trumpet-shape flowers are white to purple and usually fairly insignificant; however, there are some large-flower, highly scented varieties. Usually thought of as shade perennials, many hostas will do fine with some sun, especially in cool-summer areas. Hosta blooms early summer to fall. Read our Growing Guide for Hostas.

hosta-easy-perennial.jpg

6. Peonies (Paeonia spp.)

Your great-great-grandmother probably grew peonies … and it’s highly likely that they’re still exactly where she planted them: Peonies are about the longest-lived perennials around. The deeply cut leaves are a glossy dark green that reddens in the fall, but their main attraction is the huge, beautifully scented flower in pink, white, or red (and, more recently, yellow or peach). Flowers can be single, semidouble, or double, but take note: Many of the double varieties require staking. Peonies bloom in mid- to late spring. Read our Growing Guide for Peonies.

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More Easy Perennials to Grow

Got more space to fill? None of these plants has caught your fancy? Okay, here are a few more …

  • Cushion spurge: Chartreuse flowers rise from mounds of green foliage that turns red in fall. Blooms in early spring.
  • Hens and chicks: Low rosettes of succulent leaves in green to silvery to red send up stalks of purplish red flowers. Blooms in midsummer.

hens-and-chicks-easy-perennial.jpg

  • Russian sage: This shrubby plant with sturdy white stems has silvery, highly aromatic leaves and a haze of lavender-blue flowers. Blooms from summer to fall.
  • Stonecrop: White to pink cauliflower blooms appear over succulent, blue-green leaves. Blooms in fall.
  • Siberian iris: This is the easy iris—it produces abundant blooms in purple, lavender, pink, white, or yellow in attractive, grasslike foliage. Blooms from late spring to early summer. Read our Growing Guide for Irises.

Which of these easy perennials is your favorite? Let us know below!

Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

coneflowers - echinacea

And coneflowers are also beneficial for the bees and other pollinators, who need all the help they can get! I am sure other of the flowers mentioned are, too. Please plant with the bees in mind.

Peonies

I have an established Peony plant (about 10 years) and every year there are 40-60 buds but I get only 4 to 7 which open nicely! The rest of the buds dry to a hard, crispness and I have to pull them off. No one seems to have an answer for me. I have the plant on an automatic drip, and I have tried about anything that has been suggested but nothing changes year after year. It is planted in full sun with late afternoon shade from an evergreen. The plant grows big and beautiful but the buds just won't open. Any suggestions? Thanks.

Hard Peonies that won't open

Peonies rely on ants and other insects to eat the outer layer off the bud. Once they eat enough away, the flower will bloom. Make sure you aren't using insecticides near them!

All of the Above

I am a plantaholic and garden in zone 6 on the Cumberland Plateau in TN. Thanks to Mary for the info on Russian Sage. I bought just one plant to use as an accent so I have to watch it carefully. My biggest gardening challenges are the deer and Japanese beetles! I have mostly perennials - Iris, peonies, day lilies, bleeding heart, hellebores, daffodils, black-eyed susan, bee balm, hosta, lily of the valley, shasta daisy, roses, clematis and much more. I would recommend two plants that the deer will not eat: lavender and sea holly. Happy gardening!

deer-resistant plants

Hi, Gay, Thank you for your thoughts on plants that deer leave alone. Russian sage is also in that number—ay least here in New England. One thing to be aware of though is that Russian sage will spread, sending “shoots” up several inches from the main plant. See Mary’s comment, below, on April 13, 2018. Like so many perennials, the first year is sleeps, the second year it creeps, and the third (and ensuing years) it leaps! But it is beautiful, especially waving in a light breeze. Good luck this season and thanks again!

Daylilies

You said that the perennials on the list don't need deadheading. I grow daylilies and it's true that they don't require deadheading just to stay alive but, if you don't deadhead, you will get far fewer and much smaller flowers than if you do. Your daylilies won't look like the ones in the catalogs or in the photos that are online if you don't do some deadheading.

deadheading daylilies?

You have a point, Robin. Removing the spent blossom enables the plant to put its energy into producing more blooms and not seeds. It’s not essential but doing so yields better results. We will change the text to indicate this.

Easy perennials

I have most of these plants in my Chicago Suburbs garden, another easy one that just blooms and bloom.. perennial geraniums!

Perennial geraniums

I have never hear of these or seen them at any nursery. Very interested to find out where they can be purchased. I always spend a lot on regular geraniums each spring. Love their bright colors and long lasting blooms.

Russian Sage/perennial

Russian Sage establishes deep tap roots and is next to impossible to get rid of once it gets started. I've been trying to clean it out for five years. Roundup wiped on the stems will kill them but the roots just send up more runners. Would love to roundup the whole bed, but I've got a beautiful 40 year old clematis that I don't want to hurt? Will never again plant one on purpose!

Black Eyed Susans

BES are easy to grow and I love them, but be careful. They can take over the whole area at the expense of other flowers.

The coneflower is my favorite

The coneflower is my favorite and I find it does best by staking and securing to the stake with hemp string, otherwise with heavy rain and time they flop over and don't look as good.

FAvorite perennials

I love bleeding heart - the old-fashioned Dicentra spectrabilis. (Probably mangled that Latin, despite 3 years of it in H.S.!) It grows well on the north shore of Long Island, seeds more of itself readily, and is reliable year to year. The flowers are graceful and colorful, the white variety is like snow blossoms against other more vivid blooms, and the large foliage is handsome. I have iris that are over 80 years old from my grandma's farm in Va. as well. And I love my patches of rue (Mom's Leslie clan badge) with it's ferny leaves, yellow flowers and interesting woody "berries".

Rue plants or seeds

Hi, I was just reading your comment, and wasn't familiar with "rue" so I did a search. It says it's strong odor keeps Japanese Beetles away, and this is something I would be interested in. Would you happen to know where a person could buy/order plants or seeds? A search hasn't turned up anything useful. Thanks!

Favorite flowers

I have the black eyed Susan's and a smaller dwarf like plant that resembles the Susan's , I would like to try the peonies , as I remember how heavenly they smell.

Peonies

My grandpa planted peonies in the 70s. They are thriving & need thinned to good homes. I have four rows half a block long of red/wine, rose/dk pink, pink, light pink, white, pink w/ white centers & single or double blooms. I was always told they transplant best in Sept., but there are so many that I haven't managed a means of keeping a record of the colors if they aren't chosen when they bloom the end of May.

peonies

Where are you located? I would love to have some.

Peonies

Are these still available? I would love to have some.

Easiest Perennials to Grow Article

As always...I appreciate the articles I read on TOFM, always informative and most helpful!! I wish I had read this article this past spring. We recently moved to VA, and the landscaping on the home we purchased was overgrown, out of control or dead. :( I started with some simple perennials, ie. day lilies, purple sage and lost all of my plants to either deer, or poor soil conditions. Not knowing this area or grow zone very well, I took a chance. After reading this article, I will know what to expect next season and look forward to a beautiful flower garden in my front yard!! Thank you.

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