10 Bulletproof Plants

These 10 plants don’t just make your garden gorgeous — they’re also surprisingly easy to grow.
By: Karin Beuerlein
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Photo By: Image courtesy of Monrovia.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Monrovia

Photo By: Image courtesy of Monrovia.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Monrovia

Photo By: Image courtesy of Monrovia.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Monrovia.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Monrovia.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Monrovia.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Monrovia.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Monrovia.

Butterfly Bush (Buddleia Lo and Behold® ‘Blue Chip’) Zones 5–9

Buddleias are easy-care plants, but they’re invasive in some areas. Look for sterile cultivars ‘Blue Chip’ (shown) and ‘Purple Haze,’ which don’t set seed and therefore don’t run wild. “They’re shorter and more compact, and because they’re sterile they have a much longer flowering season,” Staddon says. “Get them going in the garden and they’ll quietly take care of themselves.”

Flower Carpet® Groundcover Rose (Rosa cultivars) Zones 5–10

If you’ve skipped growing roses because the very thought of pruning and fighting leaf spot makes you too tired to go outside, your dreams have come true. Flower Carpet® roses are a groundcover alternative to fussier rose varieties — disease-resistant, drought-tolerant and unintimidating, they’re guaranteed to come in a color you love. “There’s no special way to prune them,” Staddon says. “Even if you take a pair of shears to them in the middle of the growing season, you’ll have new buds in 20 to 25 days.”

Katrina® African Iris (Dietes x 'NolaAlba') Zones 8–11

African iris is a true beauty — but one that gives gardeners fits because it tends to succumb to crown rot in areas with high humidity and heavy soils. Until there was Katrina®, that is, an exotic-looking variety that tolerates these problems gracefully and flowers over a very long season. The clean bloom outlines and strappy foliage fit well in both traditional and contemporary garden schemes.

Itoh Peony (Paeonia ‘Keiko’) Zones 4–9

Itoh peonies, which are crosses between herbaceous peonies and tree peonies, grow well over a wide range of climates and feature stunning foliage, giant blooms and a bounty of available colors. “I have come to be an enormous fan of them,” says Nicholas Staddon, the director of new plants for plant breeder Monrovia. “The flowers are to die for. People think they’re hard to grow, but it’s absolutely not the case — peonies outlive most of us. When you’re pushing up daisies, your peonies will still be pushing up blooms.” All they need is a good organic mulch and you’re off to the races.

Beesia (Beesia deltophylla) Zones 6–8

This groundcover grows about 18 inches high and is perfect for dappled shade. But its best attribute is its heart-shaped gunmetal blue foliage, which is offset by masses of snow-white flowers in spring. “The color is just striking,” Staddon says. “Plus this plant is very easily maintained and not at all invasive.”

Red-Flowered Yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora ‘Perpa’) Zones 5–10

This drought-tolerant favorite is a showstopper, shooting up six-foot red flower spikes over succulent blue-gray foliage. “This plant does fabulously well in high heat and is unbelievably hardy,” Staddon says. “It establishes itself quickly and can double its size in a year.” The new cultivar Brakelights® features blood-red blooms rather than the traditional coral red and attracts droves of hummingbirds and butterflies.

‘Ivory Prince’ Hellebore/Lenten Rose (Helleborus x hybridus 'Walhelivor') Zones 4–9

More vigorous than other varieties of hellebore, the creamy blooms of ‘Ivory Prince’ signal the end of winter in the woodland garden. What’s more, the plant is practically problem-free. “If you want a hellebore, this is the one to try because you’ll be successful with it,” Staddon says. “It carries the day when it comes to hardiness.”

Midknight Blue® Agapanthus/ Lily of the Nile (Agapanthus x ‘Monmid’) Zones 6–10

If you’ve grown agapanthus before, you may have been frustrated getting these lovely South African natives to flower consistently or to overwinter successfully. “Many people give up,” Staddon says. “But Midknight Blue® is different — if you live in hardiness zones six through ten, you’ll have success with this plant. It establishes itself well, it has a nice deep green fleshy leaf, and the flower color is striking — it’s the deepest blue of any agapanthus.”

Balboa Sunset® Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans ‘Monbal’) Zones 4–11

This plant wants no babying — no extra fertilizer, no water, no love at all. “I once heard the plantsman Michael Dirr say, ‘If you can’t grow Campsis, you should go and sell shoes,’” Staddon says. Leave this climber to its own devices near a trellis or fence and it will reward you with vigorous growth and a bounty of trumpet-shaped red blooms. (One area’s vigorous vine is another area’s invasive nightmare. Be sure to check with your local extension office before growing trumpet vine.)

Diabolo® Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius 'Monlo') Zones 2–7

This is a classic, long-lived garden choice that’s been around for many years, but many gardeners are still unfamiliar with it. “Diabolo® is a great four-season plant,” Staddon says. “She’s got great reddish foliage and will set white flowers in late spring that will turn into berries you can make jellies from. When she loses her leaves you’ve got amber-colored exfoliating bark to look at. And she’s absolutely bulletproof.”