The easiest flowers to grow

The easiest flowers to grow

It's no surprise that this time of summer would find gardeners thinking of the plants that are easiest to grow. First, Beth Botts did it at the Chicago Tribune with a list of Five Plants Even You Can't Kill. Her choices: petunia, hosta, daylily, Russian sage, and coneflower.

Then Marty Hair of the Detroit Free Press added to the list, with more perennials you can't kill: lady's mantle, sedum, catmint, and ornamental grasses.

The problem is, a lot of what's foolproof in one part of the country isn't in another. Lady's mantle may be unkillable in Detroit, but it doesn't fly in the hot, humid South.

And hostas are wonderful for shady spots, but if you've got a damp climate, the slugs and snails will eat them up. (Right now, mine -- and all my neighbors' -- look terrible with holes all through the leaves as the result of two hail storms last month. They're alive, but they sure aren't enhancing the look of my front garden.)

As to petunias, I've been gardening longer than I can remember and have managed to kill numerous petunia plants -- or even worse, had them barely hang on all summer, looking as though they should be put out of their misery.

To me, the easiest annuals are Madagascar periwinkle (annual vinca), impatiens, red salvia, pansy (for spring in the North; and fall, winter, and spring in the South), sunflower, and wax begonia.

My easiest perennials are coreposis, daylily, gaillardia (blanket flower), goldenrod, sedum, and shasta daisy.

I love all kinds of ornamental grasses and so won't mention specific names, because the list would be too long. But I'll warn gardeners to make sure they're buying a perennial grass.

Many new ornamental grasses nowadays are annuals. There's nothing wrong with that -- if you know. But if you're expecting the plant to return the next year, you'll be disappointed.

Trying to determine the Top 10 plants is fun. But I'd hate to everyone to start planting just the ones on one list or another in a sort of "McDonalds-ization" of gardens.

My suggestion is to start with the "unkillables" and branch out from there, so that we have regional variation and all the gardens of Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Chicago don't look the same.

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