No-Fail Perennials of the South

You can't pick plants that are easier to grow than these old-fashioned favorite perennials.

By Felder Rushing and Kelly Roberson


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Summer Bulb Care
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    Beautiful landscapes don't have to be a lot of work. You can enjoy a low-care landscape with beautiful blooms from spring to fall -- it's just a matter of picking the right plants. We've pulled together a group of plants that are among the easiest to grow in the South. These perennials are old-fashioned favorites -- in fact, you may see them thriving in old gardens that have been untended for years.

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Obedient Plant

    This fast-spreading plant offers beautiful spikes of snapdragon-like flowers in late summer. Native to the region, it'll add easy-growing grace to your garden as long as you give it plenty of room to roam.

    Plant Name: Physostegia virginiana

    Growing Conditions: Full sun or part shade and moist soil

    Size: To 4 feet tall and wide

    Grow it with: Black-eyed Susans for a stunning contrast in color and texture. Both bloom like crazy in late summer and into fall.

    Zones: 4-8

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Ajuga

    Pick this low-growing groundcover to add splashes of color to shady areas in your yard. Ajuga offers short spires of blue flowers in spring, but the real value is the green, burgundy, bronze, or variegated foliage that looks good spring to fall.

    Plant Name: Ajuga reptans

    Growing Conditions: Shade and moist, well-drained soil

    Size: To 6 inches tall and 3 feet wide

    Grow it with: Japanese painted fern; varieties such as 'Burgundy Glow' complement the colors perfectly for a professionally designed look!

    Zones: 3-9

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Crinum

    This is one of the toughest plants you can grow. Sometimes called bog lily because it loves moist soil, crinum offers bold clusters of pink, purple, or white fragrant flowers from spring to fall.

    Plant Name: Crinum americanum

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and moist soil

    Size: To 2 feet tall and wide

    Grow it with: Daylilies, which offer beautiful foliage and similar clusters of flowers.

    Zones: 9-11

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Yellow Flag Iris

    A vigorous plant, yellow flag iris loves wet spots -- such as near a pond or water garden. Its yellow blooms add color in spring, and the evergreen foliage adds interest the rest of the year.

    Plant Name: Iris pseudacorus

    Growing Conditions: Full sun or part shade and moist soil

    Size: To 5 feet tall and 2 feet wide

    Grow it with: Ranunculus, which adds a playful contrast in shape and texture.

    Zones: 5-8

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Canna

    Canna is a tropical garden classic: Its triumphant foliage and large, multipetaled flowers add distinctive summer beauty to the garden. Search out varieties such as 'Pretoria' with variegated foliage for even more landscape interest.

    Plant Name: Canna indica

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

    Size: To 7 feet tall and 2 feet wide

    Grow it with: Lantana, which acts as a great and flowery skirt at the base of the tall canna.

    Zones: 8-11

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Lilyturf

    A wonderful accent and border plant, lilyturf (also called liriope) clumps are topped in autumn with spikes of interesting lavender or white flowers. Choose varieties such as 'Silver Dragon' with variegated foliage to lighten up the dimmest areas of your shade garden.

    Plant Name: Liriope muscari

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

    Size: To 1 foot tall and wide

    Grow it with: Grasses often work well with other grasses, and the same is true with striped lilyturf. Play off its shorter height with the blue hue of little bluestem.

    Zones: 6-10

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Southern Shield Fern

    Ferns prove that plants don't need flowers to add beauty to the garden. Southern shield fern is common in forests and fields across the South; while not as lush as other ferns it adds simple elegance and beauty to woodland plantings.

    Plant Name: Dryopteris ludoviciana

    Growing Conditions: Shade and moist, well-drained soil

    Size: To 2 feet tall and 3 feet wide

    Grow it with: Pair it with hostas; choose large-leafed versions with deep green or variegated foliage for visual interest.

    Zones: 6-8

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Black-Eyed Susan

    If summer heat makes your garden fade, add this versatile plant. Hot temperatures bring out the best in this summer border and container favorite.

    Plant Name: Rudbeckia fulgida

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide

    Grow it with: Black-eyed Susans make for a great addition to a casual garden bed, as do the summer blooms of accenting phlox.

    Zones: 4-9

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Cast Iron Plant

    Cast iron plant is the perfect pick if you're trying to garden in deep shade. Its tolerance of low light isn't the only reason the plant earned its moniker; cast iron plant is really one of the toughest you can grow.

    Note: It's commonly grown as a houseplant in the North.

    Plant Name: Aspidistra elatior

    Growing Conditions: Shade and moist, well-drained soil

    Size: To 2 feet tall and wide

    Grow it with: Variegated cultivars of cast iron plant look great against the vertical foliage and lacy leaves of ferns.

    Zones: 7-11

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Phlox

    Beloved by gardeners, bees, and butterflies, phlox adds showy flowers starting in early summer and continuing through the season. Many are also wonderfully fragrant, especially on warm, humid evenings. The scent can fill the yard -- or the house if you cut the flowers and bring them inside

    Plant Name: Phlox selections

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

    Size: To 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide

    Grow it with: Purple coneflower; the two bloom together and will put on a display the butterflies can't resist.

    Zones: 3-8

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