Easy Care Shrubs & Perennials

Today is the last installment of the Ready…Set…Garden! series: Easy Care Shrubs and Perennials. In this series I’ve aimed to whet our appetites for the coming season by sharing ideas for garden planning, worthwhile gardening books to read, the most useful tools to use, and today’s list of shrubs and plants that you may want to consider as you cruise the garden shops and nurseries over the next couple of months.

And that’s pretty much where I get my plants – garden centers and nurseries. The garden centers will have the basics at great prices and the nurseries carry more unusual varieties, and still better prices than mail order. At one time I bought quite a bit through the mail, but prices have gone up during the past ten years so I don’t usually save money buying them that way. Plus I’ve had a much lower success rate. The only exception would be certain varieties of fruiting plants and shrubs like raspberries, currants, grapes, and such that are harder to find. For these, I like to buy from mail-order places that are in my region, though, to have the best chance of growing them to maturity.


A couple of years ago, I listed my all-time, garden tested, no-fail perennials along with my thoughts on a national magazine’s list of so-called no-fail perennials. It’s still a good read and pretty much on-target with the perennials I still grow consistently. To that list of seven, I add these easy perennials you will find throughout my yard:

  1. Stella D’Oro daylily. Nothing fancy here, just putting out green sword-like leaves (that are a great contrast to other leaf shapes) and yellow flowers all summer long. I bought two plants at a nursery the first year I started redoing the backyard beds and have used those to populate many other beds because they are so easy to divide and grow.
  2. Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla). Yep, I love this cottagey, airy plant for the front of borders. I don’t have a problem with it seeding too much for me, but then again, I have a lot of soil to fill. I might feel differently if I were on a small patch of land.
  3. Verbena Bonariensis. From two plants I started from seed, I now let them grow all over the garden and I love the effortless show they put on all through the summer – even the dog days.
  4. Sedums. Autumn Joy and similar varieties provide a nice season-long show, first with green buds and then color-changing large blooms.
  5. Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia). Yes, it’s normal, regular, done everywhere. But there’s a reason – it blooms when I need some color (July-August), is not fussy about soil, and comes back reliably each year – even when it doesn’t get watered (a-hem…).

And here’s a short list of my favorite shrubs:

  1. Boxwood. Love, love, love it for it’s subtle small leaves, it’s easy to control shape, the way it lends itself as a partner to so many plants, and how it stays green and lovely all year long. Oh, and how it’s a plant-it-and-forget-it plant. Well, as close as you can get with plants, that is.
  2. Hydrangea. More hydrangeas. And even more. Gee, can you tell it’s my favorite shrub like, ever? I have lace caps, mop-heads, all-season bloomers, oak leaf, and a Pee Gee standard. Not enough – I had to go and get this one last year, and it’s my new favorite. All I can say is: SO much bloom, SO lovely, and SO perfect for vases and drying. It all makes up for the barren sticks it becomes in winter. And combined with boxwoods? Sigh. There’s a cottage combo for you.
  3. Spirea. This three-season shrub blooms in the sun or shade, has large and small varieties, and comes with green or glowing yellow leaves. It’s another plant-and-forget it shrub I would never be without.
  4. Dwarf Alberta Spruce. The conical slow-growing shape is perfect for containers and in beds as a counterpoint to round boxwoods and sprawling flowering shrubs. It’s evergreen needles provide some shape and interest to the garden in winter and early spring. I have about 10 planted around my house in beds and pots as I write this. At around $3-5 for a gallon sized plant, it’s a lot of consistency for your dollars.
  5. Camellia and/or Weigela. Both are large shrubs that once planted don’t need anything but watering (if planted in a space where there’s room to grow). They don’t bloom long, but they are lovely and look great in a large back border.

As you can see, nothing is unusual, hard to find, or expensive. I can’t justify spending large amounts just to have the newest or most unusual plants. I look for beauty, longevity, and low initial cost all wrapped up in the easiest care possible. And these all fit the bill. What would you add to the lists?

Link up below for the Tuesday Garden Party and share what’s going on in your garden this first week of March!


  1. Jenny says

    Thank you for hosting. I enjoyed reading through your plant list ~ I love the Stella d’Oro daylily too. I’m looking forward to planting some here once we get settled. I’m sharing a post featuring the progress we’ve made on our homestead as we prepare for our market garden this spring. Have a great week.

  2. Christie says

    What ?!! You live in Oregon and don’t have a clematis on your list ?! I think the garden police are going to give you a ticket or something. ; )
    I would add ” heavenly bamboo” to your list. It isn’t a real bamboo. Beautiful small leaves that turn a little red in winter. Plus red berries in winter. No fertilizer, no bugs, just water.
    ~ C

    • says

      Well…cough..my lists include plants that grow for me and don’t take much babying. Sigh. I’ve got about 4 clematis right now, I’ve had a few die and one that always wilts mid-season. The rest get mildew, need trimming and cutting all season to look good, and are just temperamental for me. But I still grow them. :) And yes, heavenly bamboo is a good addition, too!

  3. says

    Woohoo! Stirrings of garden life in Oregon. Over here in Salem, my daffs are all up-some blooming as are my tulips and crocuses. And as you can see from my addition, my hellebores are going nuts this year. Happy Spring! And thanks for hostessing.

    Yael from Home Garden Diggers

  4. says

    so glad that you are hosting a garden party! Love your list of plants! Just do a “part 2″ post for the plants others think you overlooked :)

  5. says

    Glad to see the garden party is back! I’ll probably link up next week since things are starting to bloom around here.

    I also stopped buying plants from mail order catalogs. I don’t know why, but my success rate with them was just awful. I’d rather buy the seeds and do it myself or we have a very nice nursery in Atlanta that carries more than just your normal veggies and landscaping plants that I like to get plants from.

    Yes, love Black Eyed Susan and purple Coneflower – they last all summer into fall here.

  6. Patty Augeri says

    Just read your latest post about your favorites….may I ask what you recommend for clay soil and not enough sun? Sounds like a done deal but I do get my spirea to bloom, along with the lilies and sedum you mentioned. I need something else besides my bee balm for no care, forget about it sure to thrive in my CT garden!

    • says

      I guess we have that in common, Patty, even though we are a continent apart: all our soil is clay, too. So everything that does well for me has to make it in clay soil that I add compost to yearly (on top of newspapers for weed control, as it breaks down it fertilizes….). The original list of 7 perennials I linked to has some that do well in shade to part-shade: brunnera, Japanese anemone, Hebe, Heuchera, and some varieties of hardy geraniums. Give them a try!

      • Patty Augeri says

        Thanks Jami. I’m going to try the newspaper trick instead of just scattering my homemade compost on top. My huecheras always die, and geraniums barely bloom but I will see how the others do….not familiar with Hebe, can’t wait to start but still have a few months to go!


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