Survivor Plants!

Bloomington, IN(Zone 6a)

A good garden writer once suggested going through your garden towards the end of the season and take note of what still looks fresh despite a classic Midwestern spring and summer. Then . . . get more of those plants and lose the prima donnas. Great advice!

So I did. Neither hail (April), high winds (April), storms (lots), heat and humidity (most of the time), some drought (last few weeks), or 7" of rain (two days ago) did these toughies in . . .

Perennials and annuals:

Echinacea (in pic - low evening light)
Daylillies (in pic - low evening light)
Crested iris
Annual salvia
Annual verbena
Cimicifuga (alright, you taxonomists - ACTEA!!)
Foxglove grandiflora (AKA ambigua)
Geranium something - wish I could remember what, 'cause it's GORGEOUS right through everything!
Hydrangea paniculata 'Pinky Winky' and 'Tardiva'
Ruella humilis (wild petunia)

Shrubs . . .

Viburnum (except the doublefiles, which I'm still trying to figure out)
Itea (this 'Little Henry' guy is a soldier - he gets sprayed with bird seed, but keeps on keepin' on!)

Prima donnas . . .

Delphinums (But, God help me, I love 'em . . .)
Foxgloves (Other than ambigua)
Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle' (SOOOO mad at her!)
Soapwort (just plain ugly)
Shasta 'Crazy Daisy' (she just needs so much help to be pretty)

How about you? Survivors? Prima donnas!

Thumbnail by sherriseden
Peoria, IL(Zone 5a)

My survivors are:
Ferns - Japanese Painted, Christmas, Ostrich, Maidenhair, Holly & Cinnamon.
Variegated Solomonís Seal

The losers are:
Bergenia Cardifolia

My biggest problem is from the roots of the Silver Maples that choke out certain plants that can't handle the competition. Heuchs are fine the first year but each successive year they get smaller and smaller until they die out after 3-4 years. I won't bother to do anything to keep the losers from dying out as I want to use the room for more hostas and I had planned on eliminating them anyways. Most people have problems with Maple roots vs. Hostas but my hostas do great without much help.

Waterman, IL(Zone 5a)

My Annabelels look like crap this year also. The flowers are small and laying on the ground. The stems seem very weak this year. The PG's are yucky too. Hostas are doing fine.

Haven't forgotten you Sherri. The weather's been too hot to dig, and the sqeeters have been relentless.

Bloomington, IN(Zone 6a)

Pastime, I was going to d-mail and tell you I haven't forgotten about your plants, either - too hot to mail them, they would suffocate. It's on my task calendar, though!

Franknjim, I put heucheras on the winners list 'cause they look great, but it's only their second year in the ground. I hope they don't shrink. I have two silver maples, and they are definitely water and space hogs, but hostas seem to do OK under them. There is a weird space by one of my maples that gets shade almost all day except for late afternoon when it gets about 3 or 4 hours of blasting sun. Nothing seems right for it. This year, I put the toughest plant I know under it, echinacea, and if it works - more, more, more echinacea!

Peoria, IL(Zone 5a)

Quote from sherriseden :
There is a weird space by one of my maples that gets shade almost all day except for late afternoon when it gets about 3 or 4 hours of blasting sun. Nothing seems right for it. This year, I put the toughest plant I know under it, echinacea, and if it works - more, more, more echinacea!

My Variegated Solomon's Seal is in a spot like that and loves it. I haves some in another spot that gets only morning sun and it is stunted and sparse but the afternoon sun spot grows thick and strong. I don't worry about the trees using up all of the moisture as I water heavily at least a few times a week.


Hobart, IN

sherri - Great list, especially because it's a little more regionalized. Echinacea should work in that spot for you. I get blooms in mostly shade but that plants are quite as robust. Sounds like you'd get a lot more sun than most of mine get.
My 'Annabelle' did pretty good this year but you all have had more rain than me. Heucheras, I'm pretty selective about because a lot of the new ones can't take the heat in the midwest so I have a list of those with villosa parentage that I buy from - they're somewhat tougher than the others. I just pulled out 3 daylilies yesterday. They take up too much room in my beds when they "splat" after blooming. All of my Deutzias did great this year - the plain white species, 'Chardonnay Pearls' and 'Magician'.

Bloomington, IN(Zone 6a)

Cindy, you don't know how long it took me to wrench from my thick head the notion that "under tree = shade"! I kept putting hostas under that maple until I realized . . . duh . . . it's not that shady! Hostas being the angels they are put up with it and soldier on. But, yes, I think the coneflowers will work. Yes, I read about the villosa parentage in heuches helping them survive heat. I don't know if my 'Silver Scrolls' have villosa in them, but they look great!

Oops - forgot one addition to the survivor list (and its one of my favs!) . . . AMSONIA!! Gorgeous steel blue flowers in late spring, beautiful feathery foliage all summer turning to a gold in fall! Here they are in their first year. I pulled them from that spot because I didn't like them in front of the wall. I don't like where they are now, either, though - in front of a white wall. God, they put up with me!

Thumbnail by sherriseden
Hobart, IN

What type of Amsonia do you have? I just bought A. hubrichtii last fall but it didn't bloom this year. Sigh.

Northeast, IL(Zone 5b)

Great topic! I think of plants as either "winners" or "losers" but that's pretty close to survivors and prima donnas, LOL.

Knockout roses (although right now I'm cutting the flower buds as soon as they appear to keep the Japanese beetles at bay)
Japanese painted ferns
Weigela 'Wine and Roses' now in its 2nd flowering
Autumn moor grass
Echinaceas, several types
Pulmonaria--long after they have flowered, the foliage still looks great
Variegated Solomon's seal
Brunnera 'Jack Frost'

Prima donna losers:

Phlox, except 'David'--they all look exceptionally scruffy this summer
Salvia (perennial)--I have several of them and have decided I hate them all, LOL
Veronica 'Royal Candles'--also got very scruffy after its first flowering
Coreopsis--looked great in bloom, now suffering
Shasta daisies--need deadheading every freakin' DAY to look decent

Hmmm, more winners than losers--so why do I feel my garden looks so awful right now? :D

Hobart, IN

Goldenberry - How do you keep the foliage on your Pulmonarias looking good? Usually after early July, the foliage on mine (several varieties) tends to turn brown and melt. I do get new foliage later on towards fall but they spend almost 6 weeks looking awful, especially 'Little Star' which is one of my favorites for flower color. Even my 'David Ward' will lose a few leaves.
I second the nomination on the Japanese painted ferns. They survive just about anything. The bulk of mine are planted in a very inhospitable place - crummy soil, no supplemental watering and some direct hot sun - but they look good all of the time! They seem to hold up better under dry conditions than a lot of my Hostas, which will droop if left dry too long.
Did you dead-head your Weigela to get a second bloom?

Northeast, IL(Zone 5b)

Cindy, I did nothing to the Weigela. Why it blooms again is a mystery to me.

As for the pulmonarias, the best performer for me is Trevi Fountain. I prune out the underlayer of leaves, which tend to die back, but the crown keeps producing new growth. Mine are in mostly shady locations. They have been there for several years and they get pretty big, for pulmonarias. I do have a pathetic Roy Davidson, and a new one whose name I can't remember that isn't looking so great, but it gets more sun than the others.

south central, WI(Zone 5a)

My winners are a dark pink TALL phlox..getting enough sun and air. One of the plants is about 6' tall. The phlox (in different shades) has taken 1/2 of the garden space that has the most daylilies!!! One clump on other side of house got powdery mildew and hit the garbage (not compost)
Big leaf ligularia-dinner plate size leaves are scheduled for the concrete leaf mold.
lamium, wild geranium, jack in the pulpit,
Dayliles-Mateus, Little Pleasure, Raspberry Candy, Raspberry Wine, Alpine Rhapsody, Donna Jeanne, Atlanta Moonlight, Siloam Doodlebug and a whole bunch of NOIDs.
Bleeding heart. Japanese fern., rose campion

Not so great this season..trillium, Many new dayliles from last couple of shopping seasons (I mean just how long are you supposed to wait!) hens/chicks-=need to move to drier place. Lost some special ferns to ground heave. Argh.
Peonies ran through so quickly-barely saw them.
3/4 of TBI sent up enough leaves for large salad, but only a gold one was impressive and never seen beforel!

Bensenville, IL(Zone 5a)

Good thread. Love that it is local

In addition to the ones already mentioned, survivors & favorites for me are:
Grasses - prairie dropseed (sporobolus herterolepsis), miscanthus Morning Light, Calamagrotis Overdam
allium Summer Beauty (great foliage and long blooming season - deer proof!)
salivias May Night, Caradonna, Amethyst
sedums Purple Emperor and Autumn Charm
daylilies Hyperion and Double Talk (foliage does not deteriorate after blooming)
landscape rose Pink Gnome (blooms off and on until mid-November & never any blackspot)
rugosa rose Fru Dagmar (fabulous fall color)
clematis Betty Corning & Princess Diana (still blooming)
geranium Brookside (wonderful blue flower, re-blooms if cut back, striking red autumn color)
peony Krinkled White (nice foliage all summer and turns lovely butter yellow in the fall)
Tiger lilies - both the orange and yellow
nepeta - all cultivars
baptisia autstralis

Prima donnas:
Many of the newly introduced heucheras, echinaceas and coreopsis

Bloomington, IN(Zone 6a)

Cindy, I have amsonia tabernaemontana and amsonia hubrichtii 'Halfway to Arkansas'. One has slightly wider leaves than the other, but I'm not sure which is which. I would give your hubrichtii another season to bloom - it may be that you bought it as a "youngster" and many perennials take a couple of seasons from seed to bloom.

Also, you asked about pulmonaria - this is the first year I tried a pulmonaria and it really took off. It's 'Mrs. Moon' and grew to about three times as wide as when I got it in April. I have it in bright shade: no direct sun at all, but in a bright area on the north side of the house. I wonder if the leaf browning you have is the late stage of mildew? They don't like to be crowded. Good luck!

Hobart, IN

Ach - 'Mrs. Moon' is the one Pulmonaria I've killed. 'British Sterling' is my best all-around Pulmonaria and I can successfully divide that one. 'David Ward' is not a fast grower for me but I love the leaf color. 'Little Star' was the most striking bloomer this spring.
I think you're right about the browning/mildew thing. I have a few Pulmonarias tucked in along the back of the house (faces east) where air circulation isn't the best.
frahn - The new Echinaceas are fussy? I had held off buying any of the newer ones primarily because of price. I did splurge on 'Sundown' last year though and it seemed to come though the winter ok for me. In half shade, it had 5 flower stems this year. I just started 'Ruby Star' and 'Green Envy' from seed this year. Are they a problem?
Hmm - just pruned back my Weigela a few weeks ago so I doubt I'll seen a second bloom this year. I'll have to learn not to be so OCD.

Bensenville, IL(Zone 5a)

Cindy, before spending more $$$ check out the echinacea forum. Much good information about which new cultivars are performing well for DG members and which aren't.

Hobart, IN

frahn - Thanks for that tip. I took a peak at the forum and never realized that some Echinaceas can be a little disappointing. I always thought that they were a pretty tough plant but then I'm used to plain ole purple coneflowers with a couple of 'White Swan' thrown in (all from seed). I don't have a lot of room for coneflowers since I'm mostly shade here. I do get some blooms in the shade but the plants aren't as vigorous as they could be.

Additional strong survivors on the prairie: Oriental Lilies, Candy Lily, Hollyhocks (despite the JP Beetles), Helenium, Bachelor's Button, Clematis, Becky Shasta Daisy (rampant here definitely not a prima donna), Liatris, Hummingbird Mint, Poppies, Tall Bearded Iris, and my all time favorite Daylily, Mums, Violets, Artemisia, Peony, Snow in the Summer, Missouri Primrose, Creeping Phlox.

south central, WI(Zone 5a)

onegoodman1955- what is hummingbird mint? Had planted All the plants that could interest them several years ago, put out feeder, let trumpet vine eat the roof shingles..had the one visit a few times..vine is gone, shingles are gone, feeder is gone.
I think it is the same hummingbird that checks out the phlox and the annuals in the planter. :) that is hanging out with the butterflies and fireflies this year.

Watertown, WI(Zone 5a)

What a great thread! Some good suggestions already.

Some of my favorites:

Pulmonaria (foliage always looks good to me, seems pretty pest free)
Hardy geraniums (I like the autumn color)
Threadleaf coreopsis
Dicentra exemia
Dicentra spectabilis (I cut mine back and the foliage stays all summer)
Sedum (can't kill the stuff)
Epimediums (again, love the fall color, and it's super hardy)
Variegated Solomon's seal
Echinacia, especially: 'Pink Double Delight,' 'Coconut Lime,' 'Fatal Attraction,' and 'Magnus'
Rudbeckia, especially R. fulgida 'Goldsturm'

And I have to say that while other people seem to say it's a prima donna, I have ZERO problems with delphiniums. I love them like crazy and would plant hundreds more if I had the space. (I don't mind staking, though. Some people find it a pain.)

My sulkers:

Ligularia (hates me for some reason)
Digitalis (Floxglove never returns for me for some reason, and always looks ragged after it blooms)
Astilbe, although mine are (finally!) having a good year this year. Must be all the rain.
Mophead hydrangea (I almost always lose all but a few blooms)

Hobart, IN

Kayly - I'm trying something new this year with my foxglove (the biennial type) that I read on another forum. As soon as the flowers have faded, cut off the bloom stalk or at least down to where there are more buds forming. Don't let it produce seeds. At the end of the season, mulch the plant for winter. Since I usually let the seeds ripen for either collecting or self-sowing, this will be a new approach. I figure since I have to start new plants almost every year, this is something worth trying. And since I have foxglove scattered in a couple of sites, I can always let a few go to seed while I try to preserve others.
Epimediums have become almost my staple shade garden plant. I would acquire more but they are kinda pricey.

Watertown, WI(Zone 5a)

I'll have to give that a whirl with foxglove, Cindy. Thanks for the tip!

I do love epimediums, but yes...what's with their prices? I've payed less for some designer hostas than I see some epimediums priced out at. Still, I adore their blooms and the foliage. And they're just so easy to care for. I've heard some people trim them back to tidy them up, but I've never had to--they just plain look good all year 'round.

Hummingbird mint is Agastache. Check out High Country Gardens. Ava grows like a weed for me.

Hobart, IN

Kayly - The only time I trim my Epimediums is in early spring before they bloom. I don't cut them down in fall since I can get some beautifully colored leaves for Thanksgiving flower arrangements. They never look that bad (for me) after blooming since the foliage literally covers up the spent flower stems. Almost a 3-season plant in my book.

Mount Prospect, IL(Zone 5b)

Great thread sherriseden!

Some of the tough guys in my garden - they don't mind droughts or floods, and bugs don't like them:

rudbeckia Goldsturm
Russian sage
Giant Chinese Silver grass - Miscanthus giganteus (aka M. floridulus)
honeysuckle vine Serotina Florida (Lonicera periclymenum) a well behaved slow grower
clematis Jackmanii and Madame Julia Correvon, I have managed to kill many clematis, but I've had these two for many years and they are actually very tough
sedum - I have a couple of types, names unknown, but nothing ever bothers them.
hellebores - very slow growers, but I ignore them and they bloom every spring.
perennial foxglove - Digitalis grandiflora

Picky or too much work or have other problems plants:
heucheras - I put them in more sun, less sun, give them more water, less water, they still die on me
recent introduction extra large flowers clematis - I've killed lots of them!
hostas - too popular with slugs no matter how much Sluggo I put down
salvia May Night and Marcus - too popular with earwigs no matter how much Sluggo Plus I put down
hydrangea Annabelle - time to trade her in for a model with stronger stems! always ends up flat on the ground after the first big Tstorm of the year!

Bloomington, IN(Zone 6a)

Thanks, Midwest!

A lot of folks on this thread have said the same thing about heucheras. This is my 2nd year with them and so far so good, but from what I'm reading, they may just be gone next year! I wonder if the slug problem with your hostas is actually an earwig problem or other such bug? They're such great plants, I'd hate to see you give up on them entirely! And if Sluggo isn't helping, they may not be slugs . . .

Cindy, good luck with foxglove method - I hope it works! As for me, I just pulled out all of them except for the perennial grandiflora (ambigua) variety. They just look nasty after blooming!

Kayley, I agree with your astilbe and ligularia losers. Ligularia wants too much water and astilbe just plain die!


Hobart, IN

The one nice thing about cutting back the main flowering stem on the biennial foxglove is that they send out more, smaller flower stems so kinda prolonging the bloom on them, especially when most of my half-shade garden is not in bloom.

Mount Prospect, IL(Zone 5b)

Thanks for the idea about the non-slugs sherriseden. It's only the hostas in back that are always being eaten, the ones in the front don't seem to have the same problem. I'll launch another attack on the back hostas using Sluggo Plus this time and see if that helps!

Bloomington, IN(Zone 6a)

Yes . . . when I read back in the thread more carefully, I saw you were using Sluggo Plus for slugs and earwigs. I'll bet that's what it is. Good luck!!

Hobart, IN

midwest - My 'Annabelle' does the same thing but I just chalk it up as to growing in a little too much shade. The stems don't collapse on the ground but they do seem to bow under a heavy rainstorm.

Verona, WI(Zone 4b)

I think the only answer to Annabelle's is to stake them with a peony mesh or other study grow-through-like wire contraption. I've done it in the past but didn't this year, and they're all on the ground this year.

I have astilbe's in two places, the ones on the top of the hill where they get too much afternoon sun and where there is generally dryer soil are amazing and have been for several years, the ones with lower light and more dampness bloomed the first year and then died out one by one. Try moving them where it's dryer perhaps.

I think sedums of any type do great in the mid-west as long as they get enough sun and not too much rich soil, fertilizer or water.

Hobart, IN

I agree with your comment on Sedums - have learned that it's difficult to grow them well in a mixed-bed. In part sun, I had to actually stake them to keep them from flopping. Ended up pulling it out of that bed.

Bloomington, IN(Zone 6a)

OK, I have one more to add to the survivor list: Polygonum virginiana (AKA Painters Palette). I've also seen this named Persicaria virginiana and I'm not sure if the two are different. I'll take a pic tomorrow, but this guy is gorgeous - tripled in size since I got it from a garden club sale. The tag just said "Painters Palette - shade". Just one season, but looks to be very vigorous. Maybe - TOO vigorous? Hope it's not a thug . . . : )

Watertown, WI(Zone 5a)

Speaking of vigorous and thugs...anyone have thoughts on agastache? I planted some this June and it has taken off like a rocket--it's at least 6 times bigger than it was when I planted it. It's very pretty, and blooming constantly, but I'm wondering if I should just give it a space of its own and let it take over. (It seems to be doing that already.)

EDIT: Duh. I just looked up my plant and realized that agastache is in the mint family, which is something I should've known from the start. (It was an impulsive purchase; what can I say? hehe) So, yep, I think I'll give it the spot it has (just outside my garage by the end of the driveway) to overrun. It won't cause any trouble there.

This message was edited Sep 7, 2010 12:30 PM

Bloomington, IN(Zone 6a)

Hi, Kayly - I just did a little reading on Agastache and it may not be as invasive as others in the mint family, so you may not have a problem. I've come to learn that "invasive" is kind of a subjective term - some say "invasive" if it seeds or spreads a bit; others say it just "naturalizes" even if it grows a foot an hour!

Watertown, WI(Zone 5a)

Thanks, Sherri! I do agree with you that "invasive" is subjective. I've heard plenty of people call rudbeckia invasive because of its heavy seeding, but I appreciate its natural spread and I don't find it thuggish. I have a feeling the agastache will be a similar plant--I'll just have to plan to give it plenty of space to claim. I really can't complain, because it's been blooming since I planted it in June without any attention from me. It seems to need no dead-heading, either.

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