No-Fail Perennials of the Mountain West

These old-fashioned plants are among the easiest you can grow. They're perfect for beginners or seasoned gardeners alike.

By Felder Rushing and Kelly Roberson


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Poppy Mallow, Callirhoe involucrata
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    Great-looking landscapes don't have to be a lot of work. Pick the right plants and you can enjoy a practically carefree yard that's filled with color from spring to fall. We've pulled together a group of plants that are among the easiest to grow in the Mountain West. These perennials are old-fashioned favorites -- in fact, you may see them continuing to thrive in yards where no one's cared for them in years. Grow them so you can have the best-looking yard in your neighborhood.

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Rocky Mountain Columbine

    Late spring to midsummer means Rocky Mountain columbine time in the garden! These easy-care wildflowers add a graceful touch of blue to the landscape.

    Plant Name: Aquilegia caerulea

    Growing Conditions: Full sun or part shade and well-drained soil

    Size: To 2 feet tall and wide

    Grow it with: Try the slender flowers of dainty shade lover lily-of-the-valley for a pretty pairing.

    Zones: 4-7

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Liatris

    The spikes of liatris tower above most other plants, but their vertical growth adds unique summer beauty for garden growth and cuttings.

    Plant Name: Liatris spicata

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 5 feet tall and 2 feet wide

    Grow it with: Butterflies and bees love liatris and coneflower; pair the two for a stunning combo.

    Zones: 4-9

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Purple Coneflower

    This perennial is as charming as it is tough; you can plant purple coneflower in virtually any sunny spot and it'll bloom all summer and into the fall. Plus, purple coneflower's daisy-shape blooms look great in any design style, especially cottage or cottage gardens.

    Plant Name: Echinacea purpurea

    Growing Conditions: Rich soil, full sun, will tolerate some shade

    Size: To 4 feet tall and wide

    Grow it with: Add contrasting color with yellow yarrow.

    Zones: 3-9

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Sedum

    Sedums are super versatile: They offer a ton of colors and textures. Almost all of them are tough, low-water plants that take heat and drought well. Try mixing them together; tall 'Matrona' looks great over a carpet of 'Dragon's Blood', for example. This combo's rich purple foliage will create oohs and aahs from garden guests all summer long.

    Plant Name: Sedum selections

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 2 feet tall and wide

    Grow it with: Use hen and chicks for foliage that adds even more texture.

    Zones: 3-8

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Russian Sage

    The leaves and blooms look delicate, but this vigorous grower adds fragrance and pretty late-summer to early-autumn blooms. We love the soft shades of silver and lavender in late summer when the garden is usually awash in shades of gold and red.

    Plant Name: Perovskia atriplicifolia

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 4 feet tall and wide

    Grow it with: Try the tiny pink flowers of a plant such as malva as contrast to the tall loose sage flowers.

    Zones: 5-9

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Oxeye Daisy

    Add cheer and charm to your yard with oxeye daisy. This easy-growing, fast-spreading plant blooms in late spring and early summer and is perfect for holding down a sunny slope or for cutting and using in a simple vase.

    Plant Name: Leucanthemum vulgare

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide

    Grow it with: Try a casual plant such as meadow buttercup for casual appeal.

    Zones: 3-8

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Fireweed

    Create drama and excitement in your landscape with fireweed's spikes of glowing pink flowers from midsummer to early fall. Give this perennial room to roam, though: It's a fast spreader. Because it grows fast, you'll have plenty of blooms to enjoy in the garden and to cut and use in the house.

    Plant Name: Epilobium angustifolium

    Growing Conditions: Full sun or part shade and well-drained soil

    Size: To 5 feet tall and 1 foot wide

    Grow it with: Consider a shrubby plant such as burning bush for structure and contrast.

    Zones: 3-7

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Rocky Mountain Penstemon

    Every summer, this rugged perennial brings on the butterflies and hummingbirds with its spires of purple-blue blooms that can continue to appear for more than a month. This slow spreader eventually forms impressive clumps -- so it's extra-easy to divide and share with gardening friends.

    Plant Name: Penstemon strictus

    Growing Conditions: Full sun or part shade and well-drained soil

    Size: To 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide

    Grow it with: Match with another vigorous grower, such as the sprawling flowers of poppy mallow.

    Zones: 3-8

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Dianthus

    There are hundreds of types of dianthus available, and while they vary in color, texture, and size, you can count on them all to offer great scents to your garden. Plant a handful of different varieties and you can enjoy their charming flowers all spring and summer long!

    Plant Name: Dianthus chinensis

    Growing Conditions: Full sun, well-drained, neutral soil

    Size: To 2 feet tall and wide

    Grow it with: Give dianthus height with the spiky blooms of liatris.

    Zones: 9-11

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Poppy Mallow

    Hot, dry conditions don't bother poppy mallow. This easy-growing wildflower creates a cushion of color all spring and into summer. The charming flowers look like miniature hibiscus in shades of glowing pink, purple, and white. It's a distinctive ground cover to grace those spots in the landscape where most other plants fail.

    Plant Name: Callirhoe involucrata

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 1 foot tall and 2 feet wide

    Grow it with: Try the long, contrasting foliage and bloom shape of plants such as daylilies.

    Zones: 4-6

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