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This conical shrub to small tree has palmate leaves and bears red (sometimes yellow-marked) flowers in 6-inch panicles in summer, followed by smooth-skinned fruit. The flowers attract hummingbirds.
Butterfly bushes are carefree deciduous shrubs that are reliably fragrant and easy to grow. Butterflies swarm to their blooms all summer long. 'Lochinch' has extremely fragrant lilac-blue flowers with orange eyes. It is a cross between B. davidii and B. fallowiana. Its arching, mounded habit typically reaches 3 to 5 feet in one season, but can grow much taller in the deep South. The 8- to 12-inch-long flower spikes begin in late summer and bloom until frost, starting a little later than the B. davidii cultivars.
This 3-foot-tall canna from the 1920s has impossibly deep, pure-rose flowers recalling orchids and leis. It's an old French variety.
Each of this plant's stunning lance-shaped leaves is the softest gray-green, edged subtly with a cream-colored pinstripe. These luminous 5-foot-tall plants are crowned with spires of delicate pink flowers with just a blush of salmon.
A great canna to start with if you're convinced you hate them is 'Madame Paul Caseneuve', from 1902. The pearly-bronze leaves and almost purple stems of this 3- to 5-foot-tall antique beauty are the perfect foil for its elegant, sensual flowers of soft pink shading to peach and apricot.
Growing to 6 or 7 feet, 'Sémaphore' features slender, dark-bronze leaves topped by spikes of narrow-petaled flowers of an unusual glowing color that's not quite yellow and not quite orange; perhaps flickering tongues of flame would be the best description. It is a Victorian classic from 1895.
This vigorous 5- to 6-foot plant sports fascinating foliage colors. Spring leaves emerge an intense purple and are soon striped with green, yellow, pink, and red. Vivid orange flowers appear in summer on this quick multiplier.
Rows of white flowers dangle above the fern-like foliage, opening in April and continuing intermittently until October.
Don't let its delicate appearance fool you: Western bleeding heart is hardy and tenacious. This elegant, herbaceous perennial spreads slowly from rhizomes to form drifts of soft blue-green, ferny foliage in shady woodland areas. Above the leaves in late spring, pink heart-shaped flowers hang gracefully from long, arched stems, attracting scores of hummingbirds but not the local deer. It is surprisingly drought tolerant during the summer months.
This southwestern native shrub grows to 20 feet tall and 15 feet wide and sports long, dull, spiny stems that green up and leaf out after a rain, followed by long, scarlet flowers that attract hummingbirds.When dry conditions return, ocotillo drops its leaves again. This cycle can replay several times a season. Great as a surprising specimen or forbidding hedge.
This cultivar boasts single, long-tubed, brick red flowers and dark bronze-red leaves and stems.
This erect shrub grows to 10 feet high and wide and produces many small, tubular, pendent flowers in shades of red, pink, and sometimes white. Flowers are followed by reddish purple fruits. Native to Chile and Argentina, Fuchsia magellanica is hardy in Zones 6-9 and adds bright colors and a tropical feeling to the garden. Use as a specimen or in a bed or border.
This cultivar has dark green leaves with a faint bronze sheen. Its narrow, dangling, red and purple flowers bloom throughout the season.
'Crimson Curls' heuchera is fairly pest free, but it requires constant moisture to look its best. White flowers contrast with ruby-colored foliage that deepens in direct sun. 'Crimson Curls' flowers in late spring, and if deadheaded, will flower again by late summer. It needs too much water to grow well in containers. Instead, use it massed along a walkway or in a woodland bed. -Ron Smith, Regional Picks: Upper Plains, Fine Gardening issue #120
Large, fuzzy, gray-green leaves distinguish 'Autumn Bride' from other cultivars of Heuchera villosa. Attractive white flowers bloom in midsummer. This heuchera tolerates full sun but prefers partial shade, especially in the afternoon. -Jane Hutson, Regional Picks: Midwest, Fine Gardening issue# 127
‘Halycon’ is a wonderful blue hosta that holds its strong leaf color all season. Its textured, blue-green leaves are thick enough to be slug resistant. Bell-shaped, pale lilac flowers are followed by seed heads that attract birds late in the season. 'Halcyon' grows fairly slowly. It can be used as either a ground cover or a specimen plant. -Jane Hutson, Regional Picks: Midwest, Fine Gardening issue# 127
Cardinal climber is a twining annual with deeply lobed mid-green leaves and 1-inch crimson blooms with white throats appearing in summer.
Morning glory is a fast-growing, twining annual with heart-shaped light to mid-green leaves and vibrantly colored, funnel-shaped flowers to 3 inches across. Cultivars include white-colored ‘Pearly Gates’; ‘Heavenly Blue’; crimson-colored, white-throated ‘Crimson Rambler’; and ‘Flying Saucers’, a batik-looking blend of white and blue accented by a golden throat.
This is a very fragrant native woodland phlox with powder-blue flowers in spring. Reaching only 1 foot tall, it can spread to almost 2 feet and makes an attractive groundcover under shrubs or planted with other spring-blooming wildflowers. Leaves are semi-evergreen and hairy; stems root along their length. The blue flowers are salverform with petal lobes. This plant attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.
Pale yellow, four-inch-long flowers dangle all around the stems of this evergreen, fuchsia look-alike. Given a long enough growing season, it can reach 5 feet tall and as wide. Where not hardy, grow it as a tender perennial.
Q&A Ground covers to avoid
by Nancy Ondra
Planting Ground Covers
Proper spacing and regular care are the best ways to create a lush, weed-free carpet
by Mary Hirshfeld
Flowering Ground Covers
To blanket an area small or large, these are the perennials to pick
by Nancy Ondra
Dividing a ground cover
by Liana Mackey
Plants for Pathways
These durable creeping perennials discourage weeds and soften the look of a walkway
by Marty Wingate
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