These unfussy, long-lived plants pump out beautiful foliage and flowers year after year. Plant in fall or spring when cooler temperatures help them get a healthy start.
Alstroemeria (Peruvian lily)
Flowers of the evergreen hybrids come in shades of purple with dark flecks and last well in bouquets. Alstroemeria aurea blooms come in shades of yellow and orange.
The 2-to 3-foot tall plants produce flowering shoots as long as the soil doesn't get too hot. (Twist the shoot off at the base to keep them coming).
More plant-care hints
Catmint (Nepeta x faassenii)
Loose spikes of lavender-blue flowers cover the soft, silvery-green mounds in late spring and early summer.
As soon as blossoms fade, shear plants back by half, or cut faded flower stems to the ground to encourage rebloom.
Plants (to 1 foot tall) make attractive, informal hedges.
Colorful and super tough, 'Ruby Star' from Monrovia nurseries has large pinkish-purple blooms with pronounced coppery centers.
The plant grows 2 feet tall; the flowers are 4 inches across. Among the many showy hybrids are 'Orange Meadowbrite', butter-yellow 'Sunrise', and reddish-orange 'Sundown'.
Coreopsis 'Mango Punch'
The low, mounding perennial covers itself in summer with mango-orange flowers that have a red blush.
We love the fresh, fruity hue of this new variety. Clip the faded blooms so the flowers will keep coming.
All about coreopsis
Forget-me-not (Myosotis sylvatica)
Must-haves for lightly shaded woodland gardens, these much-loved plants bear tiny but exquisite blue flowers in spring in mild climates.
'Baby Blue', a hybrid from Proven Winners, has true blue flowers and grows 6 to 8 inches tall.
Gaura (G. lindheimeri)
White flowers cluster like butterflies atop tall spikes on these airy 2½- to 4-foot-tall plants. Selected forms include 'Siskiyou Pink' (to 2 feet tall), with rose-pink flowers and 'Whirling Butterflies' (to 3 feet tall), with white flowers.
These garden workhorses thrive in light shade (full sun in cooler climates). They send up slender, wiry stems of tiny bell-shaped, pink or white blooms. But it's the scalloped or lobed leaves we love most; they come in delicious shades of cool lime, plum, chocolate, and more.
Our current crave: 'Southern Comfort' from Terra Nova nurseries; its hue is rich and mellow, like its namesake.
Jerusalem sage (Phlomis fruticosa)
Tall stems of these Mediterranean natives are set with widely-spaced, hooded yellow flowers.
Moisture-conserving thick, typically furry or hairy leaves are lance-shaped. Pretty planted with lavender and red hot poker (Kniphofia 'Bressingham Comet').
Every garden should have one of these beauties. English lavender is the most fragrant, but Spanish lavender's deep purple "rabbit ears" stand out in garden beds.
Where space is tight, grow a compact form; one we love is Lavandula angustifolia 'Thumbelina Leigh', from High Country Gardens. It stays 12 to 15 inches tall.
'Moonshine' yarrow (Achillea)
One of the most carefree and generous bloomers, yarrow has tight clusters of deep yellow flowers on 2-foot tall plants.
Pair it with blue flowered catmint.
Penstemon (P. gloxinioides)
These bushy plants are fairly short lived, but to make up for it, they produce lots of trumpet-shaped blooms over a long period.
Deep purple 'Midnight' and scarlet 'Firebird' are standouts for their vivid, south-of-the-border colors. Pink and white 'Appleblossom' looks fresh and springlike.
Pineapple sage (salvia elegans)
At its best in fall when it sends up spikes of vivid red flowers, this salvia's foliage smells like ripe pineapples.
The plant grows 4 feet tall. S.E. 'Golden Delicious' grows 1 to 3 feet tall with fire-engine red blooms and chartreuse leaves.
Masses of velvety purple flower spikes cover gray-green shrubs from late summer into spring in mild-winter climates (bloom stops with frost in colder regions).
Plants reach 3 to 4 feet tall and 4 to 6 feet wide.
Sea holly (Eryngium amethystinum)
Amethyst flower heads surrounded by 2-inch silvery-blue bracts open atop tall stems in summer, emerging from a rosette of spiny, medium green leaves.
The thistlelike blooms resemble 4th of July fireworks--great for bouquets.
Dense flower clusters on sturdy stems rise above bright green leaves. Blooms start out blush-colored, aging to coppery pink, then rust as weather cools.