The Best Low-Maintenance Summer Perennials for the Midwest

asparagus fern
Photo: Jay Wilde

Choose these versatile, Midwest-friendly perennials for a beautiful, low-maintenance garden that fills your yard with color and texture all summer long.

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EverLast dianthus
Justin Hancock

The key to enjoying a beautiful, low-maintenance garden is to first choose plants that are well-suited to your growing zone. We've pulled together a selection of the best low-maintenance perennials for the Midwest—which falls within USDA Hardiness Zones 3–6—including both flowering and foliage varietals. Use these faithful favorites in your garden to score the best-looking yard on your block.

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Peonies at Klehm Farm
Bob Stefko

Peonies have a reputation for being ultra tough—and ultra beautiful. These easy-maintenance garden plants practically reward neglect with gorgeous, showstopping early-summer blooms that bring with them a delicate fragrance and add stunning beauty to cut-flower arrangements. There are a number of peony selections to choose from, each featuring different growth habits, flower shapes and colors.

Plant Name: Paeonia officinalis

Growing Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; well-drained oil

Size: 1–4 feet tall, 2–3 feet wide

Zones: 3–8

Pair It With: Calamint, which will add a light and airy quality to the peony's dense green foliage.

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Susan A. Roth

Though considered a biennial or short-lived perennial, hollyhock reseeds itself, so you'll always have a crop of the colorful summertime spires in your low-maintenance landscape. This plant is particularly well-suited to cottage-style gardens and is available in a variety of colors such as pink, purple, yellow, blue, and red.

Plant Name: Alcea rosea

Growing Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; moist, well-drained soil

Size: 3–8 feet tall, 1–3 feet wide

Zones: 3–8

Pair It With: Shasta daisy, which thrives in the same soil conditions and boasts a similar whimsical feel.

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Dean Schoeppner

Perennials with great-looking foliage are just as valuable as those with pretty blooms. Artemisia is a perfect example; this low-maintenace garden perennial offers feathery silver-green foliage that pairs well with flowers of every color, lending some much-appreciated texture to your garden and bouquets.

Plant Name: Artemisia spp.

Growing Conditions: Full sun; well-drained, rocky soil

Size: 1–3 feet tall, 1–10 feet wide

Zones: 3–9

Pair It With: Delphinium, which creates a stunning contrast with its upright, spiky habit.

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Matthew Benson

Hostas are the ultimate shade-garden plants because they're so tough. These perennials also offer a huge range of colors, sizes and patterns. Look for varieties with leaves in shades of green, gold, or blue to add unexpected visual interest to your garden or walkway.

Plant Name: Hosta spp.

Growing Conditions: Partial sun to shade; moist, rich, well-drained soil

Size: 6–36 inches tall, 1–8 feet wide

Zones: 3–9

Pair It With: Wood ferns—their wispy, textured foliage is the perfect contrast to any hosta variety.

Related: 17 of the Best Perennial Plants to Grow in Shade Gardens

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Bob Stefko

You can't find a flower much easier to grow than a daylily. While old-fashioned ditch lilies (as they're commonly known) are fast-spreading and practically indestructible, newer varieties of daylilies spread more slowly. Many bloom on and off throughout the summer, so you can enjoy their colorful burst of flowers all season.

Plant Name: Hemerocallis spp.

Growing Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; well-drained soil

Size: 1–4 feet tall, 1–3 feet wide

Zones: 3-10

Pair It With: Use a shrub, such as tough-as-nails ninebark, as a backdrop for daylilies.

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Dividing Daylilies

Dividing your plants is an easy way to keep them healthy and get more blooms out of what's growing in your garden already. Learn how and when to divide daylilies.

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Hardy Hibiscus

Perennial Hibiscus

This has to be one of the boldest low-maintenace perennials in the garden. Hardy hibiscus offers flowers all summer long in shades of red, pink, and white. Individual blooms can grow to be as much as 12 inches across and will continue to bloom through fall. Some varietals are more shrub-like, while others can grow as tall as small trees.

Plant Name: Hibiscus moscheutos

Growing Conditions: Full sun; moist soil

Size: 3–8 feet tall, 3–5 feet wide

Zones: 4-9

Pair It With: Spiderwort, which blooms before the late-waking hibiscus starts to grow.

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Bob Stefko

There are a lot of reasons to love yarrow: It's heat- and drought-tolerant, it's usually ignored by hungry deer and rabbits, and it makes for a great cut flower. The best part? Its summertime blooms appear in a rainbow of shades, including yellow, white, pink, and even terra-cotta.

Plant Name: Achillea millefolium

Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

Size: 6–36 inches tall, 2–3 feet wide

Zones: 3–10

Pair It With: Late-blooming sedum, which picks up after the yarrow stops blooming and is a great way to extend the season.

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Purple Coneflower
David Speer

These perennial blooms are as charming as they are tough. You can plant coneflower in virtually any sunny spot and it will bloom all summer long and into fall. Plus, the coneflower's lavender, white, pink, yellow, orange, or green daisy-shape blooms look great with any landscape design style, especially in country or cottage gardens.

Plant Name: Echinacea spp.

Growing Conditions: Full sun; well-drained soil

Size: 1–3 feet tall, 1–2 feet wide

Zones: 3–9

Pair It With: Lamb's ear, which will add soft color, texture, and ground cover.

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asparagus fern
Jay Wilde

Asparagus rewards you twice. In spring, enjoy its tasty and nutritious young stems. Then in summer, it leafs out to become a big, fine-textured plant that's a beautiful backdrop for any perennials you grow alongside it.

Plant Name: Asparagus officinalis

Growing Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; moist, well-drained soil

Size: 6–36 inches tall, 1–3 feet wide

Zones: 4–9

Pair It With: Coneflower, which blooms constantly through the summer and into the fall.

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