Every garden needs a few plants that can handle whatever abuse we throw their way. That’s not to say we should be needlessly tough on them, but let’s face it, there are times when we just don’t have the time or energy to water, places in the garden that are less than ideal conditions, and years when the weather mocks gardeners despite all their efforts. For those and so many more times when our gardens must rise to the challenge, here are some (almost) indestructible plants.
1 . Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)
Black-eyed Susans are hardy Plains plants. They grab a hold of soil and take whatever they need from it. It’s really pretty amazing how much they can flower on so little care and feeding. Like another Plains plant, coneflower, black-eyed Susan has a proclivity to form a thick mat of roots. I recommend dividing these every few years, while you can still get a spade through them.
2 . Coneflower (Echinacea)
If you’ve ever tried to divide a large clump of coneflowers you know what a wicked root system they have. Coneflowers are a great choice for controlling erosion. The roots weave together in a mat, holding the soil in place while supporting the entire clump. The newer varieties are beautiful and tempting, but most haven’t really been put to the test yet. If you want an unflappable plant for poor soil and full sun, here’s a winner.
3 . Daylily (Hemerocallis)
It wasn’t so long ago that daylilies were the darlings of the plant world. Every year saw the introduction of hundreds of new cultivars, all hoping to be the next Stella d’Oro. Now many gardeners have grown weary of them, and want to replace them with the next new thing Before you lift your spade, consider why the daylily became popular in the first place. Nothing phases this plant. Oh sure, there’s the odd slug or thrip, but on the whole, daylilies can handle drought, flood, neglect, just about everything but deer. If you got a hot, sunny bed where nothing is happy, give daylilies another look.
4 . Hosta
Just about every old house has a border or 2 of hostas somewhere on the property. Long before they were the darlings of plant breeders, they were the go to plant for home owners who wanted something that looked good all season without any effort on their part. Not only does hosta thrive without attention, it seems to live forever.
5 . Peony
Peonies are not just low maintenance, they resent it when you fuss about them. These plants can live for decades and never need dividing. They are prone to botrytis or gray mold, which can ruin the foliage. However it rarely kills them. Come next year, they send out new growth and bloom all over again.
6 . Sedum
If tall sedum weren’t so attractive to deer, they’d be the perfect plant. These are succulents, so they don’t need supplemental water. Their thick, juicy stems shoot up early in the spring and remain attractive all season. By the time it’s time to cut them back, there’s already new growth at the base. This plant can’t wait until spring to emerge, it gets a head start in late fall and bides its time through winter.
7 . Yucca
Now, now, don’t turn up your nose. Yucca doesn’t get a lot of respect in the gardening world, but it’s not going to disappear because of it. Those spiky leaves fend off intruders and the long tap root anchors it deep in the soil and makes moving it (or killing it) very difficult indeed. Talk about axeric plant. If the common species is too coarse for you, try one of the variegated varieties. They’re almost as tough, just as architectural, and you get a long season of color.