No-Fail Perennials of the Northeast

Beloved, hardy, and low-maintenance, these old-fashioned plants are among the easiest you can grow.

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  • Great-looking landscapes don't have to be a lot of hard work. If you pick the right plants, you can enjoy a yard that's filled with color from spring to fall -- without having to spend every weekend tending it. We've pulled together a group of plants that are among the easiest to grow in the Northeast. Use these old-fashioned favorites in your garden to create the best-looking yard in your neighborhood.

  • Astilbe

    Beloved for handsome foliage and dense, colorful plumes of flowers, astilbe blooms in shades of pink, red, white, and lavender in early summer. Many selections have bronzy foliage, too. 'Fanal', a selection with dark red flowers, is a favorite here at the Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden.

    Plant Name: Astilbe selections

    Growing Conditions: Shade and moist or wet soil

    Size: To 2 feet tall and wide

    Grow it with: Shade-loving hostas for a great contrast in texture and color.

    Zones: 3-9

  • Veronica

    This versatile, sun-loving perennial blooms through the summer in blue, purple, pink, or white spikes. 'Royal Candles', a dark blue-flowering form, is one of our favorites.

    Plant Name: Veronica selections

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 2 feet tall and wide

    Grow it with: Shrub roses. These plants pair beautifully for classic cottage-garden charm.

    Zones: 4-8

  • Miscanthus

    Perfect plants for any bed or border, ornamental grasses offer four-season interest. Miscanthus (sometimes called maiden grass) is among the easiest to grow. We love the types that have silver-variegated foliage -- it creates a more delicate appearance in the landscape.

    Plant Name: Miscanthus sinensis

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and moist, well-drained soil

    Size: To 8 feet tall and 4 feet wide

    Grow it with: Purple-leaf ninebark (another four-season plant) for a stunning contrast in shapes, colors, and textures all year long.

    Zones: 4-9

  • Blue Star

    This extra-easy growing perennial takes heat and drought well, isn't bothered by deer or rabbits, and offers beautiful blue flowers in spring. It offers an extra bonus: The foliage turns golden yellow before dropping in fall.

    Plant Name: Amsonia tabernaemontana

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

    Size: To 2 feet tall and wide

    Grow it with: Peonies, which bloom shortly after amsonia to extend the bloom season. Plus, both feature fabulous fall foliage.

    Zones: 3-9

  • Trillium

    Native to woodland areas of the region, trilliums love the shade and offer beautiful blooms in shades of white, yellow, or maroon. Some have variegated foliage for extra interest.

    Note: Trilliums tend to go dormant in midsummer.

    Plant Name: Trillium species

    Growing Conditions: Shade and moist, well-drained soil

    Size: To 16 inches tall and wide

    Grow it with: Ground covers such as lamium. That way you won't be left with empty gaps in your garden when the trilliums go dormant.

    Zones: 4-7

  • Coral Bells

    This slowly spreading plant is a hummingbird magnet; it produces spikes of bright red, pink, or white flowers in late spring and early summer. Many varieties have fantastic foliage overlaid in shades of silver, burgundy, bronze, plum, and gold, too.

    Plant Name: Heuchera selections

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

    Size: To 1 foot tall and wide

    Grow it with: Astilbe, which features feathery blooms that complement coral bells' blooms and contrast with their mounding habit.

    Zones: 3-8

  • Bee Balm

    Bee balm is a beautiful regional wildflower that's adored by hummingbirds and butterflies. Enjoy this perennial's flamboyant clusters of red, pink, violet, or white flowers throughout the summer. Because bee balm offers mint-scented foliage, many pests pass it by.

    Plant Name: Monarda selections

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and moist, well-drained soil

    Size: To 4 feet tall and wide

    Grow it with: White liatris for a beautiful contrast in color and texture (as well as a surefire way to attract butterflies).

    Zones: 3-9

  • Soapwort

    This relatively unknown plant deserves a lot more attention. It's a cinch to grow and features clusters of phlox-like pink, purple, or white flowers in summer and fall.

    Plant Name: Saponaria officinalis

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 2 feet tall and wide

    Grow it with: Yarrow; both are low-care, sun-loving perennials that make great cut flowers and have long bloom seasons.

    Zones: 3-9

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    Lily-of-the-Valley

    This sweet little ground cover offers delicate, bell-shaped flowers that feature a sweet scent. The deep green leaves create interest through the rest of the season.

    Plant Name: Convallaria majalis

    Growing Conditions: Shade and moist, well-drained soil

    Size: To 9 inches tall and several feet across

    Grow it with: Japanese painted fern, a slow-spreading fern that creates season-long interest thanks to its silver- and burgundy-touched fronds.

    Zones: 2-7

  • 11 of 12

    Old-Fashioned Bleeding Heart

    This long-lived perennial offers beautiful, arching spikes of pink, heart-shape flowers in spring. The soft-textured foliage is gorgeous, too.

    Note: Like trillium, it does tend to go dormant in midsummer.

    Plant Name: Dicentra spectabilis

    Growing Conditions: Shade and moist, well-drained soil

    Size: To 4 feet tall and wide

    Grow it with: Yellow corydalis, a cute perennial with ferny foliage that blooms spring to fall.

    Zones: 3-9

  • Next Slideshow 15 Top Native Plants of the Northeast

    15 Top Native Plants of the Northeast

    Add these easy-growing native plants to your garden for lots of low-maintenance color through the seasons.
    Begin Slideshow »
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