Diana Stoll is a garden journalist who loves to spread the joy of gardening.

This article applies to:



Easy-to-Grow Plants
by Diana Stoll    

 I have been gardening so long I can’t even remember my first trip to a garden center. In spring, when I walk down the rows of plants, it’s like a reunion of old friends – a lot of old friends. The astonishing number of choices must be daunting to new gardeners, and sometimes the plants with the prettiest posies or fanciest foliage aren’t the best choices. 

Over the years, I have found the following plants are almost guaranteed to grow beautifully as long as they are planted properly and given minimal care. This list is by no means all inclusive, but these plants perform without special attention and ensure new gardeners success as they begin their journey down the garden path.


Part Shade to Full Shade Plants
Alchemilla mollis (Common name: lady’s mantle) –  Tiny chartreuse flowers bloom in June; raindrops glisten like diamonds on fuzzy light green foliage; height 12 inches; grows best in part shade but tolerates full sun to deep shade; deer and rabbit resistant.

Aster divaricatus (Common name: white wood aster) – Airy clouds of small white flowers cover glossy dark green foliage in fall; height 24 inches; thrives in part to full shade and tolerates dry soils.

Brunnera macrophylla (Common names: Siberian bugloss, false forget-me-nots) – Sprays of bright blue forget-me-not-like flowers rise above heart-shaped, dark green leaves over a long period in spring; height 12-18 inches; prefers moist soil in part shade; deer and rabbit resistant.

Epimedium x rubrum (Common names: red barrenwort, bishop’s hat) – Dainty cherry red and soft yellow flowers dangle over semi-evergreen heart-shaped leaves in spring; height 8-12 inches; slowly spreading ground cover; best in part to full shade; deer and rabbit resistant.

Helleborus orientalis (Common names: hellebore, Lenten rose) – Large, long-lasting, cup-shaped flowers nod above leathery, glossy, dark evergreen foliage in very early spring; color of flowers may be white, light green, pink, rose or purple; height 12-18 inches; plant in part to full shade; deer and rabbit resistant.

Hosta, many varieties (Common name: plantain lily) – Lush foliage in shades of green, chartreuse, yellow, blue, white and combinations of those colors; grown more for foliage than flowers; range in size from a few inches to a few feet; grow best in light to full shade.


Full Sun to Part Shade Plants
Amsonia (Common name: blue star) – Baby blue, star-shaped flowers bloom late spring to early summer; height 2-3 feet; A. hubrichtii has thread-like foliage, A. tabernaemontana sports willow-shaped leaves; best bloom in full sun but plants tolerate part shade; deer and rabbit resistant.

Coreopsis verticillata ‘Zagreb’ (Common names: threadleaf coreopsis, whorled coreopsis) – Small, bright yellow, daisy-like flowers blanket fine-textured, needle-like foliage; bloom all summer; flowering in fall is possible with shearing in mid-summer; 18 inches; full sun to light shade; deer and rabbit resistant.

Echinacea spp. and cultivars (Common name: coneflower) – Large, daisy-like flowers with dark-cones in their centers bloom mid-summer to fall; flowers may be lavender, pink, yellow, orange, red, green or white; height 18 inches to 4 feet, depending on variety; prefers full sun but tolerates part shade; deer and rabbit resistant.

Geranium, both ground cover and garden perennials (cranesbill geranium, perennial geranium) – Many species and cultivars with a broad range of foliage shapes and sizes; small flowers range in colorful shades of white, pink, rose, purple and blue; height 3 inches to 2 feet depending on variety; best in full sun but satisfactory in part shade; deer and rabbit resistant.

Nepeta x faassenii ‘Purrsian Blue’ (Common name: Purrsian Blue catmint) – Tiny, sky blue flowers bloom all summer into fall over fragrant gray-green foliage; height 12-18 inches; grows best in full sun; drought tolerant; deer and rabbit resistant.

Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Blovi’ Viette’s Little Suzy   (Common name: black-eyed Susan) – Golden yellow daisy-like flowers bloom mid-summer into fall; height 12-18 inches; best flowering in full sun but plant tolerates part shade; deer and rabbit resistant.

Sedum, both ground covers and garden perennials (Common name: stonecrop) – Many species and cultivars with succulent foliage in shades of green, blue, red, purple and yellow and clusters of star-shaped flowers; height a few inches to 3 feet; most varieties prefer full sun, but ground cover types tolerate part shade.


Cornus alba ‘Bailhalo’ Ivory Halo  (Common name: Ivory Halo tatarian dogwood) – Green leaves with wide white margins held on bright red stems in winter; fall foliage color is purplish-red; mature size 4-6 feet tall and wide; grows in full sun to part shade; deer resistant.

Cotoneaster apiculatus (Common name: cranberry cotoneaster) – Glossy green leaves on spreading branches; fall foliage turns shades of yellow, orange, red, wine and purple; mature size 3 feet tall and 6 feet wide; small pink flowers turn to red berries in late summer; grows best in full sun but tolerates part shade; deer resistant.

Euonymus fortunei ‘Canadale Gold’ (Common name: Canadale Gold wintercreeper) – Brilliantly colored, light green leaves edged in yellow on mounding shrub; evergreen foliage; mature size 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide; sun to part shade.

Hydrangea paniculata, many cultivars (Common name: panicle hydrangea) – Large, white maturing to shades of pink, cone-shaped blooms on the tips of sturdy stems bloom mid-summer into fall; height 2-20 feet depending on type; sun to part shade.

Hydrangea quercifolia, many cultivars (Common name: oakleaf hydrangea) – Large, white pyramidal panicles of flowers in mid-summer age to rosy pink on sturdy branches with exfoliating bark; fall foliage impressive mix of wine red, purple, orange and bronze; height 2-8 feet depending on variety; part shade.

Syringa pubescens subsp. patula ‘Miss Kim’ (Common name: Manchurian lilac) – Cone-shaped clusters of fragrant, lavender flowers bloom in May; fall foliage is reddish-burgundy; height 5-6 feet; best bloom in full sun but tolerates light shade; deer resistant.

Thuja occidentalis ‘Bobozam’ Mr. Bowling Ball (Common name: Mr. Bowling Ball American arborvitae) – Very dense, lacy, blue-green, needled foliage forms rounded mound; evergreen foliage; size 2-3 feet tall and wide; full sun to light shade.

Weigela florida ‘Verweig’ My Monet (Common name: My Monet dwarf weigela) – Rosy-pink, tubular flowers in spring; dramatic pink, green and white variegated foliage all season; height 12-18 inches; full sun to part shade.


Acer x pseudosieboldianum ‘IslNW’ North Wind  (Common name: North Wind Korean maple) – Foliage emerges red in spring, turns green in summer, orange and scarlet fall color; mature size 20 feet tall and 15 feet wide; outstanding alternative to Japanese maple; full sun to part shade.

Acer griseum (Common name: paperbark maple) – Ideal tree for small yards; fall foliage orange and red; spectacular exfoliating bark for winter interest; mature size 20-30 feet tall and wide; full sun to part shade.

Amelanchier grandiflora ‘Autumn Brilliance’ (Common name: Autumn Brilliance serviceberry) – White flowers in spring turn to dark blue berries in June; fall foliage is brilliant orange-red; mature size 15-25 feet tall and wide; full sun to part shade.

Betula nigra ‘Cully’ Heritage (Common name: Heritage river birch) – Very adaptable, fast growing, medium-sized tree; fall foliage is yellow; appealing exfoliating white bark for winter interest; mature size 40-60 feet tall and wide; full sun to part shade.

Carpinus caroliniana (Common names: American hornbeam, musclewood, blue beech) – beautiful understory tree; fall foliage is yellow to orange-red; blue-gray, ridged bark for winter interest; mature size 20-35 feet; part shade to full shade.

Malus ‘Prairiefire’ (Common name: Prairiefire flowering crabapple) – Deep pink flowers in spring turn to persistent, small, dark reddish-purple berries late in June, remaining for winter interest; foliage emerges red-tinted and turns dark green; mature size 15-20 feet tall and wide; full sun.







This article appeared in a previous edition of a State-by-State Gardening publication.


Posted: 04/04/19   RSS | Print


Share this story on:
Facebook       Twitter            

Other People Are Reading



Biker_Gardener - 04/08/2019

I am a horticulturist, with lots of personal experience gardening in a number of states, and am familiar with the zones in which many plants will not only live, but will perform well. I have seen numerous articles from Florida Gardening magazine or State by State Gardening, like this one. that are either geared to Florida or as in this case include Florida that do a poor job of zone recommendations. For instance, this article is said to be relevant to zones 3a-11a, yet many plants included are not suited for all of these zones, especially zone 11a. For instance the Alchemilla mollis and Brunnera macrophylla are usually listed for zones 3-8, not 11. Epimedium x rubrum does well in zones 5-9 not 3-11.Please do a better job as a credible gardening publication.

{screen_name}'s avatar