Age-Old Wisdom meets Modern Tools
How to Have an Easy, Carefree Garden
Coneflowers are among the easiest perennials to grow in your carefree garden.V. J. Matthew/Shutterstock
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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!