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Have a Garden Problem? We've Got a Plant for You

If you struggle with drought, pesky insects, deer or other garden problems, try these tough-enough-to-take-it plants.

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Photo: Greg Thompson for The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at

Grow Plants That Solve Your Garden Problems

No garden is perfect. Ravenous rabbits and deer can demolish your beds and borders overnight. Hot, humid weather invites pests and plant diseases. Flowers and foliage that need rich, organic matter can struggle or die in poor soil. Some of us just want flowers for cutting, but the plants we're growing have weak, floppy stems.

You can solve some garden problems, like fencing out the wildlife and amending your soil. Others, like water restrictions, high humidity or salt spray coming from the ocean, are tougher to handle. But don't give up. The solution is to choose the best plants for your conditions. Spot your garden problem in our list and find the fix you need.

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Photo: Terra Nova Nurseries

Problem: Dense Shade

Your choices for flowering plants are limited if your problem is heavy shade, especially if shallow-rooted trees are competing for water and nutrients. A site that gets morning sun and afternoon shade can give you more options, or, for best results in a shady site, go for a naturalistic look with native plants, groundcovers or flowers that bloom in early spring before the trees leaf out. Other possibilities: grow plants that thrive in part or dappled shade to full shade, like Corydalis ‘Blue Heron' or Corydalis 'Canary Feathers'. Both are woodland natives hardy in USDA Gardening Zones 6 to 8. In moist, well-draining soil, 'Blue Heron', pictured here, grows 10 inches high and 12 inches wide and blooms in spring and summer. Many coleus, like 'Monkey Puzzle', are also ideal for shade.

top perennials for shade

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Photo: Terra Nova Nurseries

Problem: Full Sun

Hours of intense sun can cause pale or bleached-looking spots on your plants, eventually making leaves turn brown and die. Fortunately, some flowers and foliage plants soak up the sun happily, like Centaurea ragusina ‘Snowy Owl', grown primarily for its big, velvety white leaves. Hardy in Zones 9 to 11, it reaches 18 inches tall with a 16-inch spread, and it tolerates drought. As a bonus, deer usually leave this plant alone, and it occasionally opens bright yellow blooms in spring. You may see it called silver knapweed. For other sunny spots, try coneflowers, daylilies, fan flowers (Scaevolas), geraniums or sunflowers.

perennials for full sun

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Photo: Ball Horticultural Company

Problem: Downy Mildew

Many diseases can attack garden plants, but we're singling out downy mildew because it nearly wiped out the impatiens market in 2011. Now, breeders have introduced Beacon Formula Mix Impatiens (shown here). They're named for lighthouses — beacons — in areas where downy mildew has been a problem. These easy-to-grow annuals resist this previously untreatable disease. They flower from spring until frost when grown in a shady spot and watered regularly. At maturity, they're 14 to 18 inches tall and 12 to 14 inches across. If your garden problem is powdery mildew — a different disease that affects a plant's appearance but doesn't usually lead to death — try Veronica 'Venture Blue'. It resists powdery mildew and opens its purple-blue flowers from about May until August. Hardy in Zones 4 to 8, it matures around 22 inches tall and 13 inches wide and needs full sun.

how to identify plant diseases

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