Plants with a Purpose
Everyone loves choices. From creating privacy with plants to the best perennials for a cutting garden, our expertly selected options, are a great place to start! Click on a category or plant below to gain inspiration and learn more about the perfect plant for that special spot in your garden.
Astilbe chinensis 'Maggie Daley' ('Maggie Daley' astilbe)

In late spring, lavender-pink flowers rise above this plant’s lacy, fernlike foliage, which forms an airy network beneath. The blooms appear a bit later than typical for other astilbes, and they extend later into summer. ‘Maggie Daley’ is moderately drought tolerant once established. Pair it with Japanese painted fern ( Athyrium niponicum var. pictum , Zones 5–8) for a beautiful combination. And deer and rabbit resistance is the pièce de résistance! -Kielian DeWitt, Fine Gardening #147 (Octover 2012), page 76

Calendula officinalis

Pot marigolds bloom most of the summer, but are intolerant of intense heat and may die out during periods of hot humid weather. Their branching stems are covered with simple, alternate leaves and they produce large flowers in different hues of yellow and orange in the summer.

Celosia cristata 'Century'

The flowers of this celosia cluster together in great numbers and look like silky, feathery plumes in vivid hues of yellow, red, magenta, or apricot. The plumes rise above the foliage on 2-foot-tall stalks, which wave their flags of color in the breeze from July to frost.

Dahlia 'Kaiser Wilhelm'

Of the maybe 10,000 named dahlias introduced in the 1800s—when dahlias ranked right up there with roses in popularity—only three survive. One of them is 'Kaiser Wilhelm', introduced in 1892. Its 3-inch flowers have neatly curled petals of soft custard-yellow brushed with burgundy, and a green button eye just like that of an old rose. The plant can grow to 5 feet.

Dryopteris erythrosora

In spring, autumn fern’s fronds unfurl a copper red, then turn to bronze, and finally become a shiny dark green. The fronds are upright and lend a lacy texture to the woodland garden. This fern is usually deciduous. -Lou Anella, Regional Picks: Southern Plains, Fine Gardening issue #127

Digitalis obscura

This foxglove has long-lasting flowers in seductive shades of burnt umber. Its glossy, linear leaves are evergreen in mild climates, but turn brown in colder climates.

Gladiolus 'Carolina Primrose'

This 3-foot-tall, small-flowered perennial glad was originally collected from an abandoned home site in North Carolina. Pure yellow with a wildflowery grace, it seems to be a form of a wild South African glad introduced about 1900 as Gladiolus primulinus .

Hypericum androsaemum 'Albury Purple'

This is a bushy, deciduous shrub with upright branches. Purple-flushed green leaves grow up to 4 inches long and are mildly resin scented when bruised. 'Albury Purple' bears stalked, star-shaped or cupped yellow flowers, up to 11 per cluster on distinctive 2-edged stems. Round, red berry-like fruit follows.

Iris sibirica

Attractive, grass-like leaves to 18 inches long are topped by showy flowers in a wide range of colors. Flowers unfurl in May and bloom well into June. Cultivars include ‘Caesar’s Brother’, with rich purple flowers; ‘Eric the Red’, a bright violet-pink Siberian; and ‘Chilled Wine’, a garnet iris suffused with blue.

Rudbeckia hirta ‘Indian Summer’

'Indian Summer' is a standout among a sea of Black-eyed Susans because of its extra-large, golden yellow flowerheads. It will bloom from early summer until first frost. Use it in borders, cottage gardens, meadows, or for naturalizing. Butterflies are drawn to it. The species is native to the central U.S.

Tulipa 'New Design'

Tulipa ‘New Design’ (1974) has pink-bordered leaves and silvery pink, 14- to 20-inch-tall blooms flushed yellow with pale fuchsia tips. This bulb is easygoing and long-lived.

Astrantia major

Masterwort produces many small, ivory flowers that are flushed pink and bloom continuously throughout the summer and fall, wafting a sweet scent. Like Queen Anne’s lace, each masterwort blossom is an umbel of tiny flowers, framed by a collar of papery bracts.

Limonium latifolium

Sea lavender is a rosette-forming perennial with mid- to dark-green leaves to 12 inches long, occasionally to 24 inches. Deep lavender-blue flowers are borne in panicles made of spikelets on wiry stems.

Oxydendrum arboreum

Sourwood, the lone species of the genus, is found in woodlands and along streams of eastern North America. This plant (named for the sour taste of its leaves) forms a pyramidal tree to 30 feet tall, with canoe-shaped, glossy leaves that turn vivid maroon, yellow, or purple in autumn. In late summer, its delicate panicles of fragrant, urn-shaped flowers spray forward, decorating the tree in white. The blossoms, which resemble lily-of-the-valley, are followed by yellowish seed capsules that turn brown and persist into winter. It makes an outstanding specimen both for a prominent position and also for a naturalized setting.

Solenostemon scutellarioides ‘Dark Star’

The simple, indigo-purple leaves of mid-size ‘Dark Star’ draw all eyes to its inky depths. Coleus are tender tropicals that are generally grown as annuals because they are hardy only in Zone 11. They are easy to grow, reliable plants known for their colorful foliage that comes in many color combinations and mixes well with other garden plants. 'Dark Star' contrasts well with white flowers or silver foliage, or it can be used to emphasize the blueness of certain flowers.

Ageratum houstonianum 'Blue Danube'

This early, compact bloomer grows to only about 6 or 7 inches tall. With its icy blue-purple flowers, it works well when planted tightly along the foreground of a bed. Its color blends easily with most other hues and textures. -Julia Jones, Designing with annueals, Fine Gardening issue #120

Alocasia micholitziana 'Frydek'

Satiny deep green to black leaves and glowing white veins on 18-inch-long leaves make this elephant's ear great in containers, in a shady border, at the edge of a pond, or as a houseplant. It also has pale stalks with purplish banding. 'Frydek' is very tolerant of a range of soil pH, heat, humidity, and heavy soil. It can even take about a half day of sunlight.

Begonia 'Crackling Fire'

Gorgeous new series of boliviensis begonias in six colors – Red, Orange, Yellow, Creamy Yellow, Pink and White. Perfect for baskets and containers. Plants are more sun and drought tolerant than other begonias. Crackling Fire begonias are low maintenance and self-cleaning. Plants are loaded with flowers and bloom continuously until frost. Their sturdy, upright habit prevents breakage.  Plants reach a height of 4-10 inches with a spread of up to 10 inches. Crackling Fire is perfect as a container plant or hanging basket and thrives in full to partial sun. -Suntory Collection

Colocasia esculenta 'Black Magic'

Rising to about 36 inches, the elephant ear's deep-purple stalks suspend luxurious leaves of the same color. When the leaves’ undersides are dusted with chalky-looking bloom, they have an intriguing, almost gray look. This plant does well in a bog or even in the margins of a water garden, as well as in average garden soil.

Cordyline australis 'Purple Tower'

'Purple Tower' is a cultivar of the New Zealand native cabbage tree, frequently grown in greenhouses, as houseplants, or as large accent plants outdoors. It is hardy to Zone 10. The narrow, plum-purple leaves reach 3 feet long. The fragrant white flowers are small, but they are borne in large panicles in spring and early summer on mature plants. Plants grown in containers only rarely flower, however. Young plants are often sold as houseplants. Mature specimens have thick trunks with foliage at the top, resembling a palm tree. They are striking container specimens and can be plugged into a summer border. The species has naturalized in portions of California and the southern U.S.

Cornus alba 'Elegantissima'

This vigorous deciduous shrub provides a long season of interest in the garden with its variegated leaves, attractive berries, pretty fall color, and red winter stems.

Dichondra argentea 'Silver Falls'

Long silvery stems, sometimes reaching 4 feet or more, bear silvery, small leaves. Use this striking plant as a groundcover or in containers.

Ensete ventricosum 'Maurelii'

This banana-like perennial has large paddle-shaped leaves, which range in color from deep claret brown to red-purple to pale green, produced from the center of the plant, with thick midribs bright red beneath. White flowers are borne in inflorescences 3 to 4 feet long. Fruits are banana-like but dry and unpalatable.

Fuchsia 'Gartenmeister Bonstedt'

This cultivar boasts single, long-tubed, brick red flowers and dark bronze-red leaves and stems.

Nephrolepis exaltata 'Rita's Gold™'

Slightly more compact than classic Boston ferns, this golden-leaved selection features striking chartreuse fronds that prefer shade but will tolerate intermittent sun. It shimmers from a distance and blends beautifully with impatiens, begonias, and caladiums in mixed containers. Introduced in 2006.

Pentas lanceolata 'New Look Red'

Red star-shaped flowers with small white centers bloom atop erect stems from spring to autumn. This evergreen perennial or subshrub is often grown as a summer annual. It generally stays under 2 feet tall in the garden, but the species can reach over 6 feet tall in the wild. Grow in a bed or border, or in containers.

Pieris japonica

This neat, rounded shrub has given rise to many noteworthy cultivars. It grows to 12 feet tall and 10 feet wide, producing drooping clusters of delicate white blossoms in winter and spring. Use this shrub in a woodland, rock garden, container, or as a foundation plant.

Scaevola aemula

This heat and drought tolerant plant is an evergreen perennial, often grown as an annual. It has spoon-shaped leaves and fan-shaped bluish flowers.

Strobilanthes dyerianus

A soft-stemmed shrub grown for its extraordinary foliage, Persian shield has thick, quilted purple leaves to 6 inches long splashed with iridescent pewter or silver. In autumn, it bears delicate funnel-shaped violet flowers in an eye-catching spike formation.

Tropaeolum majus 'Jewel of Africa'

This climbing, old-fashioned cultivar grows to 8 feet tall. In summer and fall, it bears flowers of maroon, yellow, cream, and orange, and in-between shades of peach, apricot, salmon, and scarlet. The leaves are marbled with white variegation. The leaves and flowers are edible.

Zinnia Profusion Series

The needlelike leaves of these Profusion Series zinnas lend a soft textural feel that contrasts nicely with the glowing hot colors of the flowers. The vibrant flowers are about 2 inches in diameter, and the plants grow to just 12 to 15 inches tall and wide. Use them en masse in borders and beds, or plant them in containers. -Julia Jones, Designing with annuals, Fine Gardening issue #120

Aucuba japonica and cvs.

Aucuba are grown for their bold foliage, autumn fruit, and adaptability to shade, dry soil, pollution, and coastal conditions. A. japonica is a rounded, evergreen shrub with small, reddish purple flowers in spring, and red berries (on female plants) in fall. It grows to about 10 feet tall and wide. 'Crotonifolia' has leaves that look like they were speckled with yellow paint. 'Gold Dust' is female with heavy yellow speckling. 'Mr. Goldstrike' is male, more upright, and has gold-splashed leaves. Use as a hedge or specimen, in a container outdoors, or as an imposing houseplant.

Fargesia nitida

This striking clump-forming bamboo, with olive-purple stems, dark green leaves, and an upright habit, is suitable for screening. May be grown in a container if provided with adequate moisture.

Hamamelis × intermedia 'Arnold Promise'

This vase-shaped, deciduous shrub, up to 12 feet tall and wide, has ascending branches and bright green leaves that turn yellow in autumn. It produces large yellow flowers in mid- and late winter on the bare branches. A cross between H. japonica and H. mollis.

Humulus lupulus ‘Aureus’

'Aureus' is a fast-growing, twining perennial with roughly hairy shoots and deeply lobed, maple-like leaves in a luminous, clear shade of yellow. Clusters of subtle, fragrant, greenish yellow flowers add texture in summer and mature to pendent, papery, cone-shaped fruits.

Bignonia capreolata 'Tangerine Beauty' ('Tangerine Beauty' cross vine)

A better-behaved cousin to the less-than-polite trumpet vine, cross vine is a colorful solution for a fence or arbor with afternoon shade. Although this east Texas native is slow to establish, ‘Tangerine Beauty’ sports brighter, showier flowers than other cultivars and will reward your patience with loads of orange blooms in both spring and fall. Flowers bloom on old wood, so prune this vine immediately only after blooms fade. -Leslie Finical Halleck, Fine Gardening #147 (October 2012), page 74

Buddleia davidii 'Black Knight'

Butterfly bushes are carefree deciduous shrubs that are reliably fragrant and easy to grow. Butterflies swarm to their blooms all summer long. 'Black Knight' has deep purple-blue, almost black, flowers in elongated clusters on arching branches to 10 feet tall if not cut back, and half that size if cut back. The blooms come from early summer to first frost. The foliage is willow-like and grayish green.

Forsythia spp. and cvs.

Its blaze of yellow flowers is surely one of the first harbingers of spring. Forsythia are widely recognized for their utility in a shrub border, a bank, or for hedging, and their light to deep yellow, four-petaled flowers.

Lonicera sempervirens

This woody, twining climber has two-lipped, tubular scarlet-orange flowers, yellow inside, in terminal whorls in summer and autumn. Bright red fruit appears in autumn.

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’

This elegantly shaped grass has narrow leaves with white mid-ribs and a vase-like form to 6 feet tall. It shows bronze autumn color and can stand throughout winter to provide architectural interest. Tassel-like inflorescences appear in fall and can be used as cut or dried flowers.

Myrica pensylvanica

This North American coastal native exhibits quiet beauty and an easy-going habit. It grows to 10 feet tall, and spreads slowly to form colonies with glossy, semi-evergreen aromatic leaves.  It looks equally at home as a hedge, in an herb garden, or in a natural meadow.

Cephalanthus occidentalis

A native small tree found in wetlands from Minnesota to Florida and from New England to California, buttonbush can reach 8 to 15 feet tall and is often wider than it is tall. Prune it into a small multi-trunked tree to reveal the curly bark of its young stems and the punctuated pale spots of its older stems. Blooms are extremely rich in nectar and attract butterflies and other insects.

Pennisetum alopecuroides

This species produces 2- to 5-foot-tall mounds of narrow green foliage and bottle brush-like silvery-pink to purple flowers, both of which mature to shades of brown. It is the parent of numerous cultivars with notable flowers that range from purple to gray/black. It and some of its cultivars self-sow plentifully in warm climates. It is marginally hardy in Zone 5.

Pyracantha coccinea 'Teton'

Developed by the National Arboretum, 'Teton' pyracantha has a striking upright form, reaching 12 feet tall or more, and orange to golden yellow fruit. It is also resistant to fireblight and scab. Less hardy than some other cultivars, only to Zone 6.

Rhamnus frangula 'Asplenifolia'

A bushy, deciduous, slow-growing shrub with finely textured, scalloped leaves, this plant grows to 12 feet tall and almost as wide. 'Asplenifolia' bears clusters of green flowers, followed by round red fruit that ripens to black in the fall. Grow in a shrub border or as hedging. All parts may cause severe discomfort if ingested.

Rhus typhina 'Tigereye Bailtiger'

Lemon-lime foliage, fuzzy stems, and intense fall color make this sumac cultivar a standout. It grows into an upright, rounded form about 6 feet tall and as wide. New growth emerges chartreuse. Fall brings leaves of yellow, scarlet, and orange. Flowers are yellowish green and followed, on female plants, by hairy, dark red fruit. This plant spreads by suckers and can be invasive. The species is native to North America.

Thuja occidentalis 'Emerald'

This cultivar is a compact, evergreen, pyramidal tree that retains its glossy, bright green foliage throughout the year, making it a valuable hedge plant or specimen.

Viburnum carlesii

This deciduous shrub with toothed, dark green leaves bears pink buds in late spring that open to white or pink-flushed flowers borne in domed clusters. The intoxicating fragrance is reminiscent of spice cake. The plant also has attractive red foliage and berries in the fall. It grows to about 6 feet tall and wide.

Syringa × hyacinthiflora 'Mount Baker'

This early flowering hybrid produces fragrant, single white flowers. It forms a shrub 8 feet high by 10 feet wide, and exhibits autumn coloring. This hybrid and its offspring show some disease resistance.

Styrax obassia

This plant is a small tree or large shrub reaching 30 feet tall and 20 feet wide. It starts out in a pyramidal shape and becomes more open with age. Fragrant, bell-shaped, white flowers are borne on 4-inch to 8-inch long chains. Flowers dangle from rounded, dark green foliage in late spring, followed by small light brown fruits that usually drop by late fall.

Rosa 'Carefree Beauty'

This vigorous, upright shrub rose sports smooth, olive-green leaves and clusters of cup-shaped, semi-double, fragrant, bubble-gum-pink flowers from spring to fall. Flowers are followed by round hips in shades of orange and red.

Philadelphus coronarius 'Aureus'

Mock orange is an upright, deciduous shrub grown for its very fragrant, creamy white flowers that bloom in early summer. 'Aureus' has golden yellow leaves in spring that turn yellow-green in summer. Use in a shrub border or woodland garden.

Paeonia lactiflora

This stunning herbaceous woodland peony has upright red-mottled stems and dark green leaves that are elliptic or lance-shaped with rough margins. It bears usually solitary, single creamy white to pale pink blossoms that are cup-shaped and elegant. The blooms measure 3 to 4 inches across and have pale yellow stamens. Like all peonies, the flowers are with us for too short a time. They are followed by beautiful seedpods.

Monarda didyma

Bee balm, a clump-forming perennial, bears minty-scented scarlet, pink, or purple flowers in midsummer on branching, square stems. Leaves are aromatic as well. This native of eastern North America attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.

Mirabilis jalapa

This bushy perennial has oval, deep green leaves on branched stems. In summer, blooms appear: fragrant red, pink, magenta, yellow or white flowers with a delicate, faded-vanilla aroma. Flowers open in late afternoon and die by morning.

Lilium 'Casa Blanca'

Often used by florists and for weddings, 'Casa Blanca' lily has large, pure white, scented flowers.

Heliotropium arborescens 'Marine'

'Marine' heliotrope has a compact form with broadly oval to lance-shaped, wrinkled leaves tinged with purple. In summer, it bears a profusion of fragrant deep violet-blue flowerheads up to 6 inches across.

Datura metel

Datura metel grows 3 to 4 feet tall with large dark green leaves that have a bad smell. However, the large trumpet-shaped flowers have a sweet fragrance that spreads throughout the garden in the morning and evening. Flowers may be single or double and range from white and yellow to pink and purple.

Clematis terniflora

This deciduous, late-flowering twining vine with deep green leaves and profuse, fragrant white flowers is easy to grow and will thrive and bloom in shade. Star-shaped blossoms are 1 inch across, appearing from late August to October and maturing to attractive, plume-like seed heads. The shiny green foliage is leathery.

Cestrum 'Orange Peel'

A wonderful hybrid derived from Cestrum diurnum and C. nocturnum , 'Orange Peel' is a veritable living bouquet of pure orange blossoms that, in warmer climates, begin with the first mild days in spring and last until the first hard frost. The tubular flowers have no fragrance during the day, but as soon as the sun sets, a sweet scent lingers in the air. In Zones 8 and warmer, 'Orange Peel' will be a deciduous shrub 6 feet tall and wide. In Zone 7, it will act as a die-back perennial and easily reach 3 to 5 feet tall and wide during the growing season. In colder zones, it makes an incredible summer-blooming annual.

Brugmansia suaveolens 'Pink Delight'

Foot-long, rich pink blossoms are nocturnally fragrant and pour out from narrow calyces to terminate in wide, flared openings.

Actaea simplex

This clumping woodland perennial with deep green foliage up to 4 feet tall and 2 feet wide bears spikes of  fragrant white flowers 1 to 2 feet long in fall. Cultivars exist with varying leaf colors and forms.

Salix integra 'Hakuro-nishiki'

The branches of this shrub are slightly upright, taking a softer fountain shape as they lengthen. The leaves are mottled in shades of white, pink, and green, maturing to green and cream. Stems turn a striking red.

Pulmonaria ‘Silver Shimmers’

This eye-catching perennial has silver-plated leaves with speckled margins. Its blooms are among the largest of all lungworts, beginning as pink buds and opening in early spring to display platinum blue flowers.

This plant will eventually form a decent-sized mound that resembles a mountain of liquid silver. It's perfect in a woodland border and makes a great ground cover and container plant. In mild winters, its leaves may stay evergreen.

Daphne × transatlantica 'Summer Ice'

This rounded shrub has leaves with white margins, and pale pink star-shaped flowers that bloom in the spring, fall, and sometimes in between.  The blossoms release an intoxicating fragrance. 

Phlox paniculata 'David'

This pure white phlox is valuable in the garden because of its abundant, fragrant flowers, its sturdy growth habit, and its resistance to powdery mildew. Growing to about 3 ½ feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide, it blooms from early summer to early fall. It needs a consistently moist soil. Use it in a border or cottage garden. It will glow at dusk.

Hibiscus syriacus ‘Diana’

'Diana' has deep green foliage and large, pure white flowers that bloom from mid- to late summer. Unlike some other roses of Sharon, its flowers remain open at night. It requires little maintenance and, once established, will tolerate extreme heat, drought, and poor soil. -Judith Ireland, Regional Reports: Northeast, Fine Gardening issue #122

Nicotiana sylvestris

This thick-stemmed annual or short-lived perennial reaches 5 to 6 feet tall, forming a large basal rosette of dark green leaves to 36 inches long. Lightly fragrant, long and tubular white flowers dangle in dense clusters from atop the tall stems. This plant starts blooming in late July or August. Flowers close in full sun.

Miscanthus sinensis 'Variegatus'

Variegated Japanese silver grass is a boon in any garden where fine texture, a gentle color scheme, and a bit of swaying in the wind are welcome. This grass can be used as a focal point, an anchor plant, or even as a privacy screen.

Leucanthemum × superbum 'Becky'

This Shasta daisy cultivar has especially large white flowers with yellow centers held on 3- to 4-foot-tall, strong stems that don't need staking. It also blooms later than most of the other cultivars. It originated in a Southern garden, but it is very adaptable to other climates. The masses of crisp, bright blooms are a mainstay of the summer border.

Lamium maculatum 'White Nancy'

Lamium is a genus with many cultivars that are outstanding foliage plants for the shade, most notably ‘White Nancy’. This evergreen ground cover’s beautiful, 1- to 2-inch-wide leaves are silvery white with green edges and have a quilted appearance. Clusters of white flowers appear from spring through summer.

Ipomoea alba

This twining perennial has evergreen, oval or rounded, mid- to dark green leaves. Fragrant, 6-inch white blooms appear in early summer to fall, opening in early evening.

Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan'

This cultivar of a native meadow coneflower has white, daisy-like flowers from early summer into early autumn. Its prominent, coppery-green, central cones are surrounded by large white ray petals that reach 4.5 inches long.

Cornus controversa 'Variegata'

This rounded, deciduous tree with spreading, tiered branches is especially dramatic in the landscape. Its branches stand out in winter while the leaves, edged in a bold creamy white, add superb color and texture to the garden. In early summer, single white flowers are borne in large, flattened clusters up to 7 inches across. Blue-black fruit follows in autumn, attracting birds.

Centaurea cineraria 'Colchester White'

Best used as a foliage plant, this plant's intricately cut, frosty-silver leaves produce a large, elegant arching mound. It also bears pale lavender-blue pin-cushion flowers on lanky 30-inch stems in late spring.

Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost'

This woodland plant is valued for its flowers and its heart-shaped, ground-covering leaves. Its small blue flowers go nicely with ephemeral bulbs in mid- to late spring,  as the enlarging leaves block out the ripening bulb foliage. 'Jack Frost' can take dry summers and wet winters. This cultivar is prized for its improved tolerance of heat and sun. -Marty Hair, Regional Picks: Upper Midwest, Fine Gardening issue# 127

Boltonia asteroides 'Snowbank'

Boltonias are vigorous perennials grown for their sprays of aster-like flowers, which appear above clean, gray-green foliage. Their vigorous nature makes them suitable for naturalizing. They are also great in the border (and for cutting), but will benefit from frequent dividing to keep in bounds, and may be cut back in late spring for more compact plants. 'Snowbank' produces masses of white flowers in late summer.

Artemisia schmidtiana

This plant produces a 12-inch-high, symmetrical mound of silver-green, silky-hairy leaves. They make this plant a nice counterpoint to very colorful plants.

Anemone × hybrida 'Honorine Jobert'

This tall, woody-based perennial is distinguished by its elegant flowers. This cultivar displays the purity of a single, white, open-faced flower with a delicate center ring of golden yellow stamens. Every moment of floral development from bud to seed brings satisfying interest.