Garden & Landscape Tips

Threadleaf tickseed
Threadleaf tickseed blooms yellow or gold for weeks in summer.
George Weigel

Few gardeners are blessed with good enough soil that they can just dig and plant perennials. Instead of the loose and well drained soil rich in organic materials that is preferred by perennials, so many yards are filled with less than desirable conditions for planting perennials. These conditions include root-rotting, poorly draining clay, or sandy soil that dries out too fast, or more rocks than soil, or most common of all, so-called “builder’s soil” that’s a few inches of topsoil laid on top of compacted subsoil following home construction.

Whatever the cause, lousy soil is a crucial strike against success in perennial growth. This is because, unlike other plant types, perennials are particularly finicky when it comes to surviving in unusual conditions.

When faced with lousy soil, you have two options:

One is to invest the time and effort into improving the soil to create better conditions that will suit even the wimpiest choices. Changing the soil conditions is especially possible for perennials, rather than other types of plants, because they have small root systems.

The other is to stick with tough playing perennials. If you’re leaning in this less-work direction, here are five of the best-performing “survivors” when it comes to perennials:

Being of the mint family, Catmint’s minty fragrance repels deer and rabbits.
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  1. Catmint. Very sun-, heat- and drought-tough, catmint grows in a low mound with  grayish-green leaves and long-lasting blue flowers. Unlike some mints, this perennial doesn’t send out fast-spreading runners. Catmint grows 15 to 24 inches tall. Full sun.
Lenten Rose
Contrary to what their name suggests, Lenten Roses are a part of the buttercup family.
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  1. Lenten rose. Also known as helleborus, this durable, animal-resistant, evergreen perennial is among the first plants of the season to bloom. It boasts flowers that are hanging and bell-shaped, most commonly found in white or pink. Shade or part shade.
Don’t recognize the name of this garden mainstay? That may be because it is better known by another name: Sage.
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  1. Salvia. This popular, deer-resistant perennial features purple flower spikes in May and often again in early fall. It’s one of the best plant performers in sun, heat, and drought, and will typically grow one to two feet tall.
Coral Bells
Coral Bells are great, not only for their colorful leaves and hardy growing abilities, but also for the low maintenance they require.
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  1. Coral bells. Although these foot-tall plants get wiry white or pink early-summer flowers, they’re mainly grown for their wide, colorful leaves that range from gold to rosy-red to purple. Best in morning sun and afternoon shade.
  1. Threadleaf tickseed. A native type of coreopsis, this little sun-lover with fine-textured foliage grows in 12- to 18-inch mounds and is nearly covered in button-sized yellow flowers for two months in summer.
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