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Top 10 Plants you Can’t Kill!

I can’t resist a “Top 10” list.  I also can’t resist weighing in on their choices.  So here are the plants, with Birds and Blooms explanation of why they love each plant, and my own assessment of each plant.


1.     Coneflower.   “The coneflower is the low-maintenance star of nature-friendly gardens. It comes in many colors, and it’s easy to find one you – and the birds – will love.”

Absolutely!  As shown by the photo above from my garden, I’ve grown it, and it’s attracted the critters I want in my garden.  It’s native to, depending on the source, either our region or the Midwest.  Yes, there’s a big argument about its origins, and I tend to believe the experts who say it was brought east from the Plains by Lewis and Clark.

Now about the variety of colors it comes in, there ARE detractors, with many gardeners preferring the original, but apparently plenty of adventurous gardeners are trying the wild shapes and assortment of colors coming from breeders these days.

2.     Cosmos. “It’s easy to grow from seed. So for a couple of bucks, you’ll have a gorgeous show in a single season.”

B&B doesn’t mention it, but the foliage is also lovely.  And I’ve found it easy to grow from seed.

3.     Daylily.  “Some cultivars attract hummingbirds and butterflies. A plant that is best divided every three to five years, the daylily is perfect to share with friends.”

There’s no disputing the toughness of daylilies or their ability to withstand drought (thanks to thick bulbous roots).  I once left a delivery of daylilies sit on my back porch for a month before planting the poor things, but they survived this mistreatment just fine.

4.     Hens and Chicks.  “This low grower also works wonders in containers. Since it doesn’t have a deep root system, you can plant it somewhere fun. Try growing it in an old birdbath or shoe.”

Hens and Chicks, like all succulents, are the heroes of the hot, dry summer and my new favorite plant for containers, which typically require such frequent watering.  They DO need sun, though, and good drainage.  I grow them and have been surprised by how quickly they reproduce, giving me plenty of chicks to pass along to friends.


5.     Yarrow.  “This plant is heat- and drought-tolerant and can survive on benign neglect.”

They come in very pretty colors, but plant them where they’re supported by other plants because they can be floppers.

6.     Hosta.  The ultimate low-care shade plant, hosta comes in endless varieties and colors. It also can be easily divided-perfect for the budget-minded.”

This is another one that’s super-tough thanks to its thick and massive root structure that holds lots of moisture.  They’re easily divided with a cheap steak knife, my favorite tool for the job.  Remember that they’re loved by deer, though, and I had to abandon them in my former, deer-infested garden.  Now in my deer-free space I’m happily regrowing my old favorites and a few more.  I love the blues, the big bold yellow-and-greens, and some of the thin-leaved miniatures.

7.     Sedum.  “Hello, butterflies! If you want flying flowers in your yard, this plant is a slam dunk.”

Another succulent that’s super-drought-tolerant, Sedums may just be my favorite perennials, especially the low-growers that make great groundcovers.  Bees loooooove them.

8.     Zinnia. “You’ll save tons of money growing these from seed. Start seeds indoors, or sow outdoors about 1/4 inch deep after the threat of frost has passed.”

The magazine goes on to say there are new heat-, drought- and disease-resistant plants on the market, so that’s good news.   And I’ve noticed some terrific new colors that aren’t gold or orange, both colors that don’t go well with my other plants.  Now there are pinks, purples and whites, so I might just give Zinnias a try.

9.     Petunia. “Even if you forget to water for a few days – it happens to everyone – these plants keep going.”

Petunias have been super-popular since the introduction or the fabulous Wave types a few years back, and the introductions keep coming.  I just returned from a trade show where petunias were everywhere, with salesmen promising self-deadheading (dead blooms that fall off all by themselves), no legginess, and greater drought-tolerance.  As a fan of the Wave and other brands for years now (especially paired with sweet potato vine in pots), I’m eager to try the latest creations.  

10.  Yucca. “Both flowers and foliage come with this beauty. For a unique variety, look for the variegata cultivar. Its blue-green leaves with white edges are stunning.”

Yuccas are about as drought-tolerant as a plant can get – almost as desert-friendly as cacti.  I’ve never grown them but agree that the variegated ones are gorgeous, and make an excellent accent in the border.  If I had the space and enough sun, I’d give one a try.

Photo credits:  Cosmos,  hens and chicks,   Zinnia.  Text and remaining photos by Susan Harris.

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Thanks for the list of drought tolerant plants. One plant that was not mentioned is the lirope that stays in tact after a brutal heat wave.

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