Easy to Grow Perennials

Perennial gardening can be enjoyable and nearly maintenance free. For many of us, time is always short, and though it seems that all the most beautiful plants are high maintenance (roses come to mind), a number of colorful but relatively fuss-free plants exist. The following perennials enjoy full sun, tolerate drought and neglect, yet still put on quite a show.

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida)
Flowers with bright yellow petals and dark centers bloom from July to September. A good variety is Goldsturm, a compact and sturdy plant that grows to about two to three feet in height. Black-eyed Susans may reseed themselves and spread, so take action according to your needs.

Daylily (Hemerocallis hybrids)
This perennial gets its name from the fact that the flowers bloom for about a day before fading away. This refers to individual flowers, but the plant produces many flowers during its bloom period. Daylilies are available in a wide variety of heights (one to four feet), bloom times (May through October) and colors (mostly in reds, yellows and oranges).

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
The flowers have pinkish-purple or white petals and orange centers and bloom from July to September. This perennial grows to about four feet in height and has coarsely textured leaves. It may reseed itself, which can be desirable if you want the plant to spread. Birds such as finches are attracted to the seeds.

Autumn Joy Sedum (Sedum x 'Autumn Joy')
This is a very undemanding plant that grows to about two feet high and has thick, fleshy leaves. The flower buds resemble broccoli heads at first, then turn pale pink and finally deepen to a rusty red color. Autumn Joy Sedum blooms from August to September or until frost, providing a splash of autumn color in the garden. If left up, the flower heads add some winter interest too.

Siberian Iris (Iris sibirica)
From May to June, this perennial produces white, blue or purple flowers that are great for cutting. After blooming, the plant makes dark seed pods that can be left up for fall and winter interest. The long, straplike leaves turn yellowy-orange in the autumn. The plant grows about four feet high and has many varieties to choose from.

Spike Gayfeather (Liatris spicata)
This plant provides a vertical accent in the garden as it produces two- to three-foot tall pink, purple or white spikes of flowers from July to August. Kobold is a good variety that doesn't require staking. The flowers are good for cutting and drying.

Threadleaf Coreopsis (Coreopsis verticillata)
This perennial practically grows itself and blooms profusely from June through October. It has a bushy growth habit, reaching about two or three feet in height, and delicate, lacy leaves. Good cultivars include Zagreb, which has bright yellow flowers, and Moonbeam, which has creamy yellow flowers.

Begin planting your new perennials after the frost-free date for your area. Add a little organic matter, such as compost, to the soil before planting to improve drainage and provide some extra nutrients. Keep freshly planted perennials well watered until new growth appears. With any luck, these attractive and reliable perennials will reward you with many years of beautiful flowers while still allowing you the time to stop and smell the roses.

When purchasing new perennials, it's usually most economical to buy them in a quart-size or smaller container rather than a gallon size. The plant will establish and grow quickly enough that the larger size provides little advantage. By the second year, or even by the end of the current season, quart-size perennials generally are mature enough to flower.

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