A plant tag can’t tell the whole story about how plants will function in our yards.
The best performers are able to endure our coastal heat and humidity, unpredictable cold snaps, droughts and heavy rains. They don’t need extra water or fertilizer. They are disease and pest resistant. They are not invasive. They are beneficial contributors to the local ecosystem.
Here is a list of nine low-care plants. They don’t much need more than appropriate light, good drainage, a yearly helping of compost and irrigation in droughty conditions. The first four are sun-loving perennials that bloom spring through fall.
▪ 1. Gaura is commonly called “Whirling Butterflies” because it sends up tall spikes of white or pink flowers that move with the wind. Gaura brings beauty to the garden as its flowers, held high on stems, appear to whirl in the air. The two- to three-foot spikes arise from a mound of green foliage.
2. Lantana blooms spring through fall. Butterflies love it and deer ignore it. Flowers are solid white and yellow, or various combinations that include lavender, red, pink, orange, yellow and white. The plant grows in shrub or trailing form. Lantana is notably versatile because of form and color options. For roots to establish before winter plant Lantana in spring or early summer.
3. Salvia, aka sage, is available in numerous varieties and colors, including red, blue, purple, coral, yellow and white. The color and height (flower spikes up to 3 feet) vary by variety — read plant tags in order to purchase the right salvia. It is an herb. Check out the various scents; each variety sports differently aromatic leaves.
4. Verbena, like Lantana, is versatile because of its form and color options. Although both plants are suitable for container use, Verbena is often a better choice because of its smaller size. Choose upright or trailing form, with flowers in purple, violet, lavender, red, peach, pink or white.
5. Leopard Plant is the common name for Farfugium japonicum — originally named Ligularia. It produces a large (up to 13 inches) kidney-shaped leaf on the end of each long stem. The mass of leaves grows in mounding form. Mature plants reach 3 feet wide by 2 1/2 feet high. Shiny dark evergreen leaves add a tropical look to shade gardens. In early fall Farfugium blooms with daisy-like yellow flowers on stalks held high above the plant. Give it regular water and organic well-drained soil. Use it as an anchor or focal point in a shade garden.
6. Fatsia japonica has large multi-lobed leaves. This evergreen shrub loves shade but easily tolerates morning sun. Although it can grow to 12 feet, it takes well to pruning and can function as a foundation plant. It blooms with clusters of white flowers in early winter, followed by black berries. Trouble free, Fatsia adds a tropical aspect to a shady garden.
7. Loropetalum, also called Chinese Fringe Plant, is a beautiful carefree evergreen shrub with a graceful arching habit. It likes compost enriched acidic soil, grows well in full or part sun, and benefits from irrigation during drought. New leaves emerge red-purple and mature to green-purple. In late winter Loropetalum dazzles in the landscape with masses of delicate bright fuchsia or white flowers. It continues to bloom intermittently but sparsely throughout the year. It grows to 15 feet, but it takes well to pruning. Dwarf sizes are also available. Use it as a foundation plant, hedge or specimen.
8. Knock Out Roses thrive in well drained, acidic, under full sun. The shrubs grow quickly to 3 feet wide and 2-3 feet high, with blooms March through November. They remain semi-evergreen in winter. They are disease and insect resistant, drought tolerant and self-deadheading. Prune only to shape. These roses respond well to yearly compost and fertilizer, and irrigation during drought.
9. Native S.C. wildflowers that love full sun and well-drained soil include purple cone flower (echinacea), black-eyed Susan (rudbeckia), wild petunia (ruellia) and goldenrod (solidago). All are perennials that provide seeds or nectar to wildlife. Online go to the South Carolina Native Plant Society web site for more native plants.
The right plants in the right place reward us with beauty, performance, reliability and reduced maintenance.
Reach Debbie Menchek, a Clemson Master Gardener, at firstname.lastname@example.org.