13 Easy Care Plants

Kathy Brenzel, author of the Sunset Western Garden Book of Easy-Care Plantings, shares 13 of her top easy-care plants. These shrubs and perennials are low-fuss beauties that are big on color.
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Photo By: Image courtesy of Sunset

Photo By: Image courtesy of Sunset

Photo By: Image courtesy of Sunset

Photo By: Image courtesy of Sunset

Photo By: Image courtesy of Sunset

Photo By: Image courtesy of Sunset

Photo By: Image courtesy of Sunset

Photo By: Image courtesy of Sunset

Photo By: Image courtesy of Sunset

Photo By: Image courtesy of Sunset

Photo By: Image courtesy of Sunset

Photo By: Image courtesy of Sunset

Photo By: Image courtesy of Sunset

English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

Tough comes in a pretty package with English lavender. This Mediterranean herb packs perfume into blossoms and silvery leaves. English lavender can form a fragrant hedge. In smaller gardens, try a compact variety, like ‘Munstead’ or ‘Thumbelina Leigh.’

Lion’s Tail (Leonotis leonurus)

Late season color is what you get when you add deer-resistant lion’s tail to your garden. Deep orange flowers, which resemble small fuzzy balls, debut in fall. In frost-free zones, this is a towering shrubby perennial, soaring to 4 to 8 feet. In areas with frost, it performs like a perennial, topping out at 4 feet and dying to the ground for winter. Pair it with English lavender for an eye-catching combination.

‘Denver Daisy’ Rudbeckia hirta

This rugged rudbeckia is a stunner, opening bicolor blooms from midsummer to frost. Big flowers measure 6 to 8 inches across and feature brown centers surrounded with a red-brown halo and gold petals. Stems are sturdy—this is a must for cutting gardens.

‘Purple Pixie’ Loropetalum

Colorful and carefree, loropetalum takes gardens up a notch with its contemporary weeping form and dark burgundy evergreen leaves. Pink flowers appear in spring. It’s a small shrub, growing 1 to 2 feet high. Use it in a planting bed, or tuck it into a 2-foot or taller container to showcase its weeping style. Loropetalum is pest-free and drought tolerant.

Licorice Mint (Agastache rupestris)

Plant licorice mint for the colorful flower spikes, which beckon hummingbirds, butterflies, bees and other pollinators. The entire plant offers scents of licorice and mint. Orange flowers sprout from lavender bases, creating a striking scene in the garden. It glows planted with blue fescue. It’s also deer-resistant and drought tolerant.

‘Rozanne’ Geranium

Give your garden the gift of non-stop violet-blue flowers with white centers by planting ‘Rozanne’ geranium. This pretty girl creates a mound of stems that, if left alone, trail and clamber through a bed from spring to frost. Or, give it a haircut to keep it in place as the season wears on. It grows best where summers are cool, needing very little care.

Blanket Flower (Gaillardia x grandiflora)

Daisy-like blooms cover this perky perennial, adding bright and cheery hues to the summer garden. Blanket flower resists deer, drought and rabbits, attracts butterflies and thrives in summer heat. Look for varieties with flowers in shades of gold, red and all tones in between. ‘Oranges & Lemons’ is the variety shown.

‘Santa Barbara’ Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha)

This tough-as-nails perennial is a true showstopper with purple flower spikes that rise above gray tone leaves. ‘Santa Barbara’ is a more compact variety, topping out at 2 to 3 feet. It’s a butterfly favorite and brings strong color to the fall garden. Pair it with lion’s tail for a spectacular late-season display.

Coral Bells (Heuchera)

Splash some color into sun to part shade planting areas with the striking leaves of coral bells. This group of plants offers nearly any hue, from glowing orange, to neon lime, to almost black. Many varieties bring bicolor designs to life. Use them to edge planting beds or fill out containers. They’re frequently deer resistant and always carefree.


Dress up your late summer and fall scenery with the dependable performance of small-flowered garden mums. You can choose blooms in a rainbow of hues, including white, red, gold, pink, rust and burgundy. This perennial is reliable, low-maintenance and a strong contributor to autumn color.

‘Margarita BOP’ Foothill Penstemon

In its native environs, expect this stunning California native to flower year-round if you keep spent blooms trimmed. It splashes a true blue into the garden, with flowers that beckon butterflies and hummingbirds. ‘BOP’ stands for “bottom of the porch,” which is where a nurseryman found this gem growing. It’s hardy in Zones 6 to 10, although it may not flower constantly in cooler regions.

Coprosma Hybrids

Discover the beauty of this New Zealand shrub, which offers low growing habit and glossy leaves. It comes in a host of color combinations. ‘Tequila Sunrise’ brings yellow, emerald green and deep orange, while ‘Evening Glow’ has green and gold leaves that burnish to orange-red in autumn. ‘Rainbow Surprise’ has a mix of red, green and pink on leaves.

Smoke Tree (Cotinus)

Despite the name, smoke tree is actually more of a shrub, although many gardeners train it as a small tree. Flowers fade to form amazing pink or purple plumes that resemble puffs of smoke floating among the branches. The smoke appears through summer, creating a stunning landscape plant. Leaves are nearly purple. Several varieties exist; ‘Grace’ is shown.

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