Tough-As-Nails Plants

Creating an eye-catching garden doesn't require a degree in horticulture — what you need are low-maintenance plants that can handle a variety of conditions. Try growing these foolproof selections in your garden.

Hardy Summer Wine Yarrow DK - Garden Design © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Yarrow

This care-free perennial (Achillea) features lacy gray to green aromatic foliage topped by yellow, pink, peachy, rose or white mounded flower heads. Many varieties are native and attract bees and butterflies. Yarrow requires full sun and is very easy to grow, preferring poor soil and no fertilizer. The plant is drought tolerant once established. USDA Zones: 3 to 11

Cranesbill Blooms DK - Garden Design © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Hardy geranium

Also known as cranesbill, the perennial geranium grows 1 to 2 feet tall and wide, producing feathery, fernlike foliage and pert blossoms that light up the garden in a variety of eye-catching colors, including blue, purple, magenta, pink and white. Many varieties bloom from spring into fall. These easy-to-grow plants thrive in regions with cool to mild summers and grow best in full sun or light shade. Protect geranium from the sun's harsh rays in hot summer areas, and keep the soil moist during the spring and summer. USDA Zones: 4 to 9

The Primrose Woodland Wildflower DK - Simple Steps to Success: Lawns and Groundcover © 2012 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Primrose

This group of perennials (Primula) features hundreds of species of plants with brightly colored whorled blooms borne atop erect stems. Most primrose flower during the spring months, and some are fragrant. These easy-care plants grow in full sun to part shade and thrive in a wide variety of locations, from woodland settings to rock gardens. They do best in areas with cool, humid summers. In hot, dry climates, treat primrose as annuals and grow in part shade. Keep the soil evenly moist but not soggy. USDA Zones: 4 to 8

Pennisetum Hameln

Fountain grass

This graceful perennial grass (Pennisetum setaceum) grows 3 to 4 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide, decorating the garden with eye-catching plumes throughout the summer and into the fall.

Fountain grass tolerates a wide variety of conditions, from dry, gravely sites to moist locations. For best growth and coloration, plant in a sunny, well-drained location. Fountain grass dies back in the winter months, even in warm climates. In northern locations, grow the plant as an annual, or dig it up in the fall and overwinter indoors. USDA Zones: 8 to 10

Euphorbia Schillingii Glows Green Even in Shade DK - Simple Steps to Success: Family Garden © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Euphorbia

Euphorbias encompass a large group of annuals, biennials, perennials, and evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs, with poinsettia, crown of thorns (E. splendens) and croton being three of the most well-known selections from this genus. Many euphorbias are easy-care plants, as long as they're planted in well-draining soil. Use caution when gardening with euphorbia, as the plant's foliage contains an irritating, sometimes poisonous sap. USDA Zones: 2 to 11

Annual Event DK - Learn to Garden © 2008 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Pot marigold

This easy-to-grow annual (Calendula officinalis) features cheery orange and bright yellow blooms that light up the garden from spring through summer in cold climates, and from late fall through spring where winters are mild. The narrow leaves are sticky and slightly aromatic. Plants grow 1 to 2 feet high and 1 to 1 1/2 feet wide, with dwarf strains reaching just 15 inches. Pot marigold grows in just about any soil type, as long as the drainage is fast. Water regularly and encourage blooming by fertilizing every six to eight weeks and deadheading.

Marigolds' Pungent Odor Deters Pests DK - Simple Steps to Success: Containers for Patios © 2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Marigold

The robust common marigold (Tagetes erecta) is an annual that blooms from summer through fall with flowers in shades of gold, yellow, cream and white. The ferny foliage is highly aromatic, and the plant reaches 3 to 4 feet tall and 2 feet wide. Rarely bothered by pests, this vigorous plant is often used in the garden to repel insect invaders.

Provide a full-sun location, good drainage and regular water. Avoid overhead watering, as the moisture causes the large flower-heads to droop and break.

Purple Woodland Sage

Salvia

Perennial salvias are a huge family of plants. Most have aromatic, often edible foliage and produce colorful spikes in blue, pink, purple, red, yellow or white. Besides decorating the garden, perennial salvia attracts butterflies, hummingbirds and bees.

Salvia grows in just about any sunny site that has good drainage. The plant prefers regular water but holds up to moderate drought. USDA Zones 4 to 10

Big and Bold DK - Simple Steps to Success: Family Garden © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Sunflower

The cheery common sunflower (Helianthus annuus) is an easy-to-grow annual that makes a bold statement in the garden. A wide variety of sunflowers exists, from those that reach a couple of feet tall to mammoth varieties towering 10 to 15 feet. Most sunflowers have the signature bright yellow petals with the chocolate brown center filled with seeds, although there are a few varieties featuring petals in pale yellow and rust. Simply give sunflowers full sun and water regularly, and they'll reward you with months of colorful blooms.

Daylily

Daylilies (Hemerocallis) add reliable color to the garden with their trumpet-shaped flowers that come in shades of orange, pink, red, purple and yellow. Although a single flower lasts just one day, each stalk produces several blooms. Choose from among early-, mid- and late-season varieties so you can have blooms from early summer to fall.

For the best growth, daylilies require full sun to part shade, good drainage and regular water. Little to no fertilizer is required. Watch for deer and rodent damage. USDA Zones: 3 to 10

Native Prairie Plants

Purple coneflower

A butterfly magnet, the purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) is a native herbaceous perennial featuring 2- to 4-foot-tall stems topped by flowers containing bristly, cone-shaped, orange-brown centers with purple, lavender or pink petals. Rose, yellow or white varieties are also available. Depending on the variety and location, coneflowers often bloom for a month or more from late spring to mid fall. The plant grows from early summer into the fall and dies to the ground in winter, coming back the following spring. Tolerant of a wide variety of soil types, purple coneflower thrives in moist to dry conditions. Plant in full sun to partial shade. USDA Zones: 3 to 10

Stunning Sundowner DK - Simple Steps to Success: Family Garden © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

New Zealand flax

The dramatic sword-like foliage of this easy-to-grow perennial (Phormium tenax) adds a structural element to the garden. The plant's upright or arching leaves reach 9 feet long and come in green, bronze or maroon.

New Zealand flax tolerates a wide variety of soil types and is drought tolerant, although the plant performs just as well with regular watering. When given winter root protection with mulch, flax is hardy to 20 degrees F. In colder climates, use this fast-growing plant as an annual in the spring and summer garden. Plant in a full-sun location with good drainage. Hardiness: USDA Zones: 7 to 10

Buddleia

The butterfly bush (Buddleia) is a large deciduous or semi-deciduous shrub with arching, often fragrant plumes in shades of purple, yellow, orange, pink, red or white. A pest-resistant, vigorous grower that thrives in most well-draining soils, the plant prefers even moisture but tolerates some drought. Grow in full sun to part shade. Encourage bushy growth and more flowering by pruning after bloom and in the early spring before the plant begins growth.

This tough plant dies to the ground in USDA Zones 5 and 6, but it comes back the following spring. USDA Zones: 5 to 10

White Christmas Rose

Hellebore

Prized for their nodding bell-shaped flowers during winter and early spring, this perennial also has ultra-clean, pest-free foliage that's usually evergreen. Flowers come in a variety of colors, including cream, lavender, green, pink and white. Hellebores grow 12 to 24 inches tall and up to 20 inches wide.

The plant is long-lived once established and reseeds. Hellebores do best in moist, well-drained soil, although the plant can tolerate some dry periods. USDA Zones: 4 to 9

Yucca Tree in Garden Urn

Yucca

A huge family of evergreen trees, shrubs and perennials, yuccas feature rigid sword-shaped leaves and white bell-shaped flowers. One famous yucca variety is the Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia), which makes up the bulk of vegetation at the California state park with the same name. Many young yuccas such as Y. elephantipes are sold as easy-care houseplants. Yuccas grow best in full sun in well-draining soil. They are drought-tolerant plants, requiring little water once established. USDA Zones: 5 to 10

Sun coleus

Unlike its shade-loving cousins, sun-tolerant coleus (Solenostemon hybrids) maintains its rich hues in full sun. The plant reaches up to 2 feet tall and wide. Though a perennial, sun coleus is grown as an annual in all but the warmest of regions. This fast-growing foliage plant springs up readily from seed. Provide rich, well-draining soil, regular watering and feed monthly with a high-nitrogen fertilizer. Pinch out flower spikes promptly because their appearance causes coleus to become rangy. Shown here: The frilly leaves of 'Killer Klown' are chartreuse and maroon in shade, yellow and maroon in full sun.

Four O'Clock Fragrant Flower

Four o'clock

The trumpet-shaped blooms of this shrubby perennial (Mirabilis jalapa) perfume the night garden during the summer months. Four o'clocks thrive in just about any soil type, quickly growing 3 to 4 feet tall and wide, and becoming covered in blooms in shades of red, pink, white, yellow and bicolors. Grow the tropical plant from seed as an annual each year or mulch and overwinter in USDA Zones 7 through 9. In colder climates, lift tubers in fall and store indoors till spring in dry peat moss. The plant blooms best in full sun but takes some shade. USDA Zones: 9 to 11

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