Long-lived perennials

Chevy Chase, MD(Zone 7a)

I am looking for suggestions on long-lived perennials that do well in our area. I'm not so much interested in ones that are functionally long-lived only because they reseed (like forget-me-nots or feverfew). I want to know about plants you can depend on come Hell or high water to return year-in-and-year-out. Oh, and ones that the deer don't like (so hostas are out). And that don't need (much) supplemental watering or lovely soil -- what I am dealing with is more like hardpacked clay that I don't plan to supplement much.

I don't want to coddle this spot - no deadheading, shearing, etc.

On the web I can find lists that are not region-specific. I'm sure there are some on Mid-Atlantic Gardning, but I can't find the lists (I may have started one years ago -- who knows?).

So my question to you: What is tough and ultra-dependable in your gardens - and deer-proof and doesn't need [much] supplemental watering? It would be nice if they also blocked weeds. The spot I have in mind is partly sunny (more sunny in some spots than others), and is on a hillside.

Here is a composite of some lists I found on-line, with my edits and some deletions. Which of these are tough survivors for you? Which need a lot of water (I'll rule them out) or nice garden soil (I'll rule them out too). This list is mostly in alphabetical order by Latin name. If inspired, I'll update it with your comments, additions and deletions.

Aconitum (monkshood)
Agastache (I've killed all I've tried to grow)
Alchemilla mollis (Lady's Mantle)
Aruncus dioicus (goatsbeard)
Asclepias (butterfly weed)
Asters (Aster laevigatus 'Bluebird', Aster tataricus 'Jindai')
Astilbe (Astilbe) (needs regular water)
Baptisia australis (false indigo)
Cimicifuga (bugbane)
Dictamnus (gas plant) (I haven't had success with this)
Echinacea purpurea (purple coneflower)
Eupatorium (Joe-pye weed)
Euphorbia (spurge) (but it is invasive)
Ferns (various species)
Helenium (sneezeweed)
Hemerocallis (daylily)
Heuchera "Palace Purple"
Hosta (but the deer eat them)
Iris, bearded
Iris, Siberian (needs water?)
Kniphofia (red-hot poker or torch lily)
Monarda (bee balm)
Nepata (catmint)
Oenothera fruticosa (yellow)
Ornamental Grasses (various species)
Peony (too much work for the location I have in mind0
Phlox paniculata ('David')
Platycodon grandiflorus (balloon flower)
Pulmonaria spp. (Lungwort)
Rodgersia (needs water)
Rudbeckia fulgida (black-eyed Susan)
Sedum Autumn Joy
Solidago (goldenrod) (I've never grown this)
Solomon's Seal (not sure how much water this needs)
Tiarella (Heuchera relatives)
Vernonia (ironweed) (I've never seen one)

Fleming Island, FL(Zone 9a)

I gardened in Severn MD till just recently'

Solomon's Seal needs no attention. Mine grew out back, in a shaded spot & I never bothered watering it.
Don't think you acn kill any Sedum. They are drought tolerant.
Iris, Glads, and Daylillies all multiply like crazy and need almost no care.

Goldenrod - watch out for alergies.
Astibile - had mine in mostly shade & rarely watered them.

Spider Wort - spreadls like crazy. Kind of goes dormant in summer & will rebloom in fall.
Lambs Ear - seems to grow everywhere & needs very little care.

Spurge is wonderful and gives green in the Spring and almost all winter) before anyting else comes up. Just pull out what you dont' want and you can easily keep it under control. Needs no special care.

Mums - grow anywhere

Columbine - come back & also throw seed - very little care needed.

Chevy Chase, MD(Zone 7a)

Thank you! A few follow-ups:

What Mums grow anywhere?
Our spurge is really deep-rooted and not easy to remove -- I know because I tried to dig some out for the recent plant swap, and it shocked me!
I haven't been so successful with Columbine -- I don't kill them but they don't spread.
You are right about the spiderwort -- it is all over my neighbor's front yard!

Lucketts, VA(Zone 7a)

We have the phlox paniculata David, and it has come back, but I would not say it is thriving. The deer got most of it last year. They are also fond of Tiarella and Heuchera. Our astilbe seem to need watering for them to bloom. Definitely agree with Qwilter on the Solomon's Seal. Some of ours is in clay with gravel mixed in as is the cimicifuga. Not a fun spot to dig in, but both seem to do well with little to no attention.

The campanula Elizabeth seems happy anywhere, sun or shade, clay or cracks in the patio pavers. It does spread, though, and only seems to need a lot of water if it is grown in a pot.

Chevy Chase, MD(Zone 7a)

OMG, ecnalg, you are scaring me! Our local deer have ignored my heuchera but love our hostas. I have a lot of heuchera out front -- I will be devastated if the deer develope a taste for them. Thanks for the warning about deer eating phlox as well....

I've heard that about Elizabeth -- I need to try some in the front, where I don't care if it takes over! (I've been loathe to try it in our back yard because of its invasive tendencies.)

I haven't been successful with cimicifuga, but maybe I haven't given it a fair shot....

Lucketts, VA(Zone 7a)

I'm glad you have not had phlox or heucheras browsed by deer. They actually browsed some of our variegated Solomon's Seal early in the season this year. They even browsed the aconitum last year. The voles love the underside of the hostas and heucheras.

Let us know if you want any Elizabeths. :-)

Bearded iris are pretty reliable if they have sufficient sun.

Chevy Chase, MD(Zone 7a)

Oh, I am feeling sicker and sicker. Maybe we are just lucky to have avoided the deer onslaught (other than the hostas) but we have a HUGE deer population here.

I got some bearded iris at the swap -- I'll try them in the sun....

Fleming Island, FL(Zone 9a)

Mums - the old fashioned white, orange, & yellow. Not the hybrid ones you find in all the pretty colors in the Fall. Mine were in clay in the back garden that only got watered when it rained.
Odd about your Spruge. I had one that was ferny and another that turned red in fall. I would pull both out by the handfull once other plants came in.

Of course, as soon as I figured out MD gardening I moved to FL. Now to learn all over again.

Chevy Chase, MD(Zone 7a)

Like Chrysanthemum x rubellum 'Clara Curtis'?

central, NJ(Zone 6b)

I think there is def some care you have to do with Irises, they need to be divided every few years and should be deadheaded, it's the Lousiana Iris that LOVES water

Liriope you can't kill the stuff
and I love reblooming Daylilies
Hen and Chicks

Chevy Chase, MD(Zone 7a)

Hen and chicks won't fill a large area, will they? I have a lot of space to cover.
I can't do daylilies, because of the deer.

What about Phlox subulata? Does that last? People around here have banks of it -- but I don't know how much tending it takes.

Lucketts, VA(Zone 7a)

Happy, here is a list of things that have been doing very well for me in my shade garden - reliably come back every year, no special needs, and the deer haven't touched them - and I have a BIG deer problem:

- hellebore
- brunnera (cultivars jack frost and looking glass, and generic green - all do great)
- phlox divaricata - woodland phlox
- dicentra spectabilis - old fashioned bleeding heart (but not the fringed - always disappears after a year or two)
- epimedium (love this - delicate blossoms in spring, nice foliage the rest of the season)
- solomon's seal (both the tall varigated kind that you gave me and the "dwarf" Polygonatum Humile http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/37087/)
- cimicifuga racemosa (make sure it is the racemosa species and not the 'chocoholic' cultivar - that particular one is pretty, but requires lots of water)
- geranium maculatum
- crested iris (does well, but maybe because it is next to the downspout - may require lost of water to do that well, don't know)
- primula sieboldi - japanese woodland primrose (I got from Lazy S'S Farm years ago: catalog description "Primula sieboldii Variable flowers in shades of white, pink and lavender in early Spring. From moist meadows & woodlands in Japan. A horticultural 'cult' has formed around these Primroses in Japan & the US. Probably one of the most carefree Primroses to grow. If we could only have one Primrose this would be it")
- and ferns (all kinds)

I was going to point out my favorites, but I just realized that all in this list ARE favorites!

Edited to add - these are all in part shade and re-read that you are looking for part sunny - but maybe these would be ok in either condition...

This message was edited May 29, 2012 12:00 PM

Chevy Chase, MD(Zone 7a)

Aspen -- this list is so helpful -- thanks for taking the time. Some are old favorites, but there are some new ones on your list I definitely will try: cimicifuga racemosa and primula sieboldi!

I love phlox divaricata and want mine to spread so badly -- but it just won't!

Dover, PA(Zone 6b)

Happy, As Jen said Iris need very little care, but I do treat ours every spring with GrubX. They do get a grub that can be hard on the tubers making the plants look, ahh, well sickly. Ric

Chevy Chase, MD(Zone 7a)

Thanks, Ric. I never get around to treatments like that -- even if I mean to, it doesn't usually happen. But I treated the lawn with milky spore a few years back so maybe we won't have a grub problem.

Silver Spring, MD(Zone 6b)

Happy, we have found using Liquid Fence to be very successful against deer. We have deer that walk right down our street and look at you, as to say "Hey Lady, hadn't you ever seen a deer before?" Deer loves hostas! We hadn't seen any for a few months but one evening this weekend, I was watching tv late and thought I heard a bump against the sunroom wall. Wished I'd got up and turn the light on outside or even went out because I probably could have saved a nice tall coneflower plant that was loaded with buds and a rudbeckia that I've never seen bloom yet..can't recall what the name of it is but it's supposed to be double blooms..I had used up my Liquid Fence anyhow but I had some Ropel so that would have helped but replenished my supply of LF on Sunday and sprayed. Only trouble with any deer deterrent spray, if it rains, you have to respray. LF has been very successful for us. We have a neighbor behind us that has the most beautiful, hugh hostas and she sprays every day or every other day and they don't come near her hostas..I've heard that Milorganite is advertised as a deer deterrent also a fertilizer. Comes in 35 lb. bags and you spread it on your flowerbed. The owner of Good Earth told me a lot of vegetable gardeners use it but he'd never heard any flower gardeners use it.

Chevy Chase, MD(Zone 7a)

Thanks, Pippi! What I am hoping it to come up with plants the deer don't like in the first place. I'm not methodical about using sprays and the like, and so it is without doubt that I'd forget one day and there would go my garden! It is only the front garden that has this issue, so we can be selective about what we put there.

What I am looking for is long-lived perennials that are truly low maintenance....

Mount Bethel, PA(Zone 6a)

For the past couple of years I have been so thrilled with the new Achillea red colors!! I have Paprika and Red Velvet and they spread just enough to fill the spots in without too much fuss or watering. Can't wait till they're large enough to split so I can really get them going in front of a large wild area that I have.

Warrenton, VA

Sedum (I stole some from next door, threw half into a pot and the other where it gets full afternoon sun blast), Phlox (Burpees "David" variety-I have the blue and it came back from being planted last year, all full and now getting ready to bloom-it was in full bloom all last year!), cactus (sorry to say but when in bloom they rival Orchids and spread out on their own-doubt deer like them-good for "plant it and leave it"), lavender-oh! Yes! Lavender! My six new plants died out except for one last year, their first, but that one is now HUGE and looks ready to divide! I think that they have different growing conditions but a slope would be very suitable.
While you're nosing around in Burpees, look at their "Hardy Chrysanthemums." I bought three this year, neglected them badly before hubby put them into the ground, and a couple of months later, they are really taking off.
Also, what about some veggies? Like, Rhubarb? Just a thought. Magnificent leaves, and edible to boot! Or, Asparagus? Again. just a thought.

Huntsville, AL(Zone 7b)

Shasta Daisies - nothing will kill them!

Chevy Chase, MD(Zone 7a)

Oh, I can kill Shasta daisies! Our soil is too heavy and not-free-draining. But I'm trying! I understand, Bec, that you are the source for the one that Ruby gave me at the swap, so thank you's to you are in order!

Huntsville, AL(Zone 7b)

Happy - my soil is clay and not draining either...these are Shastas with super powers...another you can try is BES, they can't be killed either!

Chevy Chase, MD(Zone 7a)

Black-Eyed Susan even I can grow -- millions of seedlings and I love them all. I hope the Shasta Daisy will do the same.

annapolis, MD(Zone 7b)

I have three shrubs that might fit your situation. They are adaptable and low maintenance and not fussy at all. These have grown well for me for almost 30 years and still bloom in what has become only about 5 hours of morning filtered sun! I really don't water or feed them either and, come to think of it, never have pruned them! My kind of bones.

Glossy abelia
Deutzia, both slender and 'nikko'
Itea 'Henry garnet' native to our area

Pic 1 slender deutzia with red maple
Pic 2 itea (white spire bloom) with noid honeysuckle
pic 3 deutzia blooms

Thumbnail by coleup Thumbnail by coleup Thumbnail by coleup
Crozet, VA

Once again Happy, Shasta Daisies are yet another one of the plants that we loads to share. Given advance notice, we can certainly pot up as many as you would like to have. At the last swap we weren't as prepared as we hope to be in the future. John didn't invest much time preparing last fall the way he says he plans to do this year. We will see on that one. He spent many hours last year fighting Iris borers and that really cut in to his dividing and potting plants for swaps and for market.

Shoot, maybe if he has a job of getting some things together for you, he will decide while at it, to do some for us and we can begin addressing our whole front yard which is a slope. Things get done very, very slowly around here. We really always have a lot going on and possibly both having adult ADD there are unfinished projects here, there and everywhere.

I am really excited about your plans for you slope and then lots of the plants we have to offer, you will accept because they do well in sun which has been an issue for you in the past while trying to mainly shade garden. So many of my favorite plants have come from you in the past and I really want to re-pay you in some way, so am thrilled with your pursuit of sun loving plants.

The very best of luck in this endeavor.


Chevy Chase, MD(Zone 7a)

Ruby -- You are so sweet to offer plants -- right now what I really need is advice about what plants require zero care and will live forever. Then the next part of the project will be to beg, borrow and steal them! I have found a few books that have been really helpful -- I hope in the next week or so I can draw up an initial plan. Then I'll circulate it to the Mid-Atlantic folks and I'll give the boot to any plants that the consensus is won't live forever with zero care and no supplemental water on a hardpan/clay/rock slope!

Warrenton, VA

How about some of those (not perennials) wide-spreading "Blue Rug" junipers? Regarding deer, I have whole book devoted to them! You might want to get one - most nice nurseries carry it.

In general, since deer are PREY ANIMALS and are hypersensitive about leaving a scent, this is what you use against them. Stinky stuff. Also, they can't handle fishing line, and that fluorescent plastic surveying tape (cut into 18" sections and tie onto anything nearby).

Supposedly, they hate Milorganite - makes sense, as they don't want anything on their feeties that would lead a tiger to 'em (true!). They also have an aversion to soft, feathery foliage (go figure). Now, this flies in the face of their magnetism toward Arborvitae (unfortunately).

I use organic sprays and honestly, as long as I am religious in spraying, they steer clear (well, so do I!).

I'd really think about those creeping junipers. I have five, bought them two years ago as pups, and they seem to be slow growing so get BIGGINS. They do seem to be working out well, though. And Bambi no cum near.

Maybe you will buckle and go with a combination of tall and low Junipers? Could throw in some daffodil bulbs, and then just stand back!

Crozet, VA

When the time comes for action Happy, I am sure that you can count on the good folks here. I too have enjoyed several Junipers on a hill side beside our driveway. Those and a couple of Rose of Sharon trees were the very first plants I purchased when I built this house in the early 1990's. At the time my funds were way low and I was able to sneak these purchases in to my grocery budget. At the time I shopped at a Food Lion which offered live plants from time to time and I would sneak the really cheap at the time purchases in to the food budget. This many years later they have certainly paid for them selves in terms of joy I have derived from having them.

Yesterday while reading about this upcoming project I shared bits of it with John. He made one good comment in regards to possibly planting Iris. He says to be careful with regular old time Iris and erosion issues. He is ever touting the issue of the Iris rhizome needing to be exposed. He made a mistake some years ago in planting a rather large bed of Iris on a very small slope and now has to be careful that soil and debri don't wash over top the rhizomes at the bottom of the slant. Us gardeners live and learn....live and learn.

Happy, don't feel as though you are being rushed to do anything in regards to this project. I just found the discussion yesterday and wanted to add my two cents. If you have to put off planning or planting for a while, so be it. No push, but from hearing some of the others views on this, it sounds as though lots of folks have lots of ideas and are all looking at it as a challenge and some fun to boot.

I know that we often, very, very often start with ideas that in reality aren't feasible at the time we think of the idea. My hubby bit off a lot more than he was able to chew some years back when starting a very major rock wall project. Life took over and the unfinished project has been an eye sore in my front yard for several years now. I have stopped complaining about it but back in the recesses of my mind, I hope he will at some point find motivation and time to complete it so that I can once agan have access to my favorite flower bed and have the ability to garden in it rather than watch it be taken over with giant sized weeds.

Anyway......go at your own pace. And the very best of luck with it all.


annapolis, MD(Zone 7b)

Ruby, here is an article I ran across in Fine Gardening magazine put out for trash on my paper route. "Shrubs For Slopes" The thing I like best is that the author is a landscaper in the central hills of Virginia so what he uses and why might be right on the mark for you or Happy. He talks about dwarf forsythia, golden St Johns Wort, a low growing spreading flowering quince, clethra, cutleaf stephanandra, coralberry, and "gro low" fragrant sumac.


Crozet, VA

Thanks Coleup.....will check it out. Years back there was talk of terracing the front, but I haven't heard that discussed for a while. Too many other things needing attention before that. He solved the problem with some of due to having in the neighborhood of about 400 Iris potted and sitting at the bottom of the yard. Needless to say, I don't often venture to the front yard, but often stand on the front deck and take in the view. At least we have a some what level back yard that I can get around in and work to my hearts desire.

Will check back after reading the article. Thanks so much again.


Warrenton, VA

Another thing I heard my father talk allot about but only now that I have my own land, do I understand and concur this is observation: Planting creates microclimates.
For instance, I have a cinderblock home, and the foundation plants are in for two years now. The hollies struggled the first year, then I threw in front of them some shrub roses. Didn't realize it at the time, but those roses kept the feeties cool of the hollies, and some of the baking sun off them.

Last year, I had the house repainted in a bright white. Talk about hot! Didn't realize how much it would heat up the planting environment. Had to take those shrub roses out (diseased), and immediately planted some shrubs that I would not have bought so big but was thinking of how the roses shaded the hollies...

So, although you can do a ton of thinking and become romanced by something really neat, you can never figure everything out! That is the amazing part of gardening - you give things your best guess, and Nature will tell you how you did...LOL! True!

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

Ha, too true. Somebody once said they buy anything new in threes, andgive one each to three different garden 'microclimates' in her yard. Then she sees which one it likes best.
Me, I buy one and move it three times..

Salem Cnty, NJ(Zone 7b)

Or me, I buy one and it makes it or not. Heehee

Chevy Chase, MD(Zone 7a)

SallyG -- That's interesting. I almost never move plants. I should probably start doing that more often.

annapolis, MD(Zone 7b)

Daves Garden article on the longevity of perennials with nice photos


Evidently, all of the micro climates in my yard are conducive to a wide variety of "invasives" among which I "plant" containers of perennials, shrubs, trees, tropicals and annuals. Those that survive the containerized life are happy here but might really take off in a real garden!

Chevy Chase, MD(Zone 7a)

Thanks, Coleup -- that's helpful!

Salem Cnty, NJ(Zone 7b)

Heehee, coleup

Good info

Crozet, VA

Thanks Coleup for both articles. Gosh, I see so many things that I would love to have but am not willing to spend money to get. Is that cheap of me? Before being introduced to plant swaps, I did spend a lot of money at mail order nurseries. I still make orders from time to time but not nearly as much as some years back.

My most recent mail order purchase both pleased and somewhat dismayed me on the few items that didn't live. Thankfully most of the nurseries have some sort of warantee which I have taken advantage of quite a bit over the years.

One plant that I had one heck of a time trying to grow originally is Bee Balm. I saw the catalog picture of Jacob Cline Monarda and wanted some for my very own. Evidently it did like the areas I chose to plant it because I had to contact the company selling it for replacements on a couple of occasions. In my front bed I had numerous bee balm labels, but no plants. It was very frustrating for me.

There came a time about three years ago in one of my back beds a little sprout appeared and I decided to watch it because I wasn't sure of it being a weed or a flower of some sort. I decided to let it grow. I never tried planting the Bee Balm in that particular bed but somehow one seed was dropped, probably a neighborhood bird is to thank for that and from that one sprout I now have two rather large patches of it. This is one of the strangest gardening stories I have. As someone mentioned earlier, Grayce I believe....we can do our part but nature is going to have her way in the end, every time. Heck, she does such a great job, so I will leave it up to her to beautify my surroundings.

Hope as we go in to the weekend that everyone has a pleasurable and productive one.


Chevy Chase, MD(Zone 7a)

Ruby: Your Bee Balm story is very interesting to me because you gifted me some of yours!!! In what enviroment did your Bee Balm finally find happiness?

Warrenton, VA

As I exited off 66 this afternoon, and stopped in a long line of traffic, I looked at the hills on both sides of my exit ramp. They are FILLED with the most beautiful, rambling arrangement of wildflowers (not the kind that Man threw down - you know, cast the seeds). I delighted in the heights, textures, and the clumps that were perfectly complimenting their flowering neighbors.
All were in harmony, all were thriving. Lovely! Sometimes, heavy traffic has unexpected rewards, if only to point out how a higher authority can out-do you in the gardening department every time...LOL!

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