Podcast: Let's Argue About Plants

Episode 32: Fast-Growing Perennials

These plants bulk up quickly but won’t aggressively take over

Every gardener has dreamed at one point or another of an “instant landscape.” Unfortunately, none of the home-shopping networks sell a garden that matures quickly. (Trust us—we’ve checked). The next-best thing is to plant an array of perennials that bulk up quickly, giving your beds a look of being full and therefore far older than they actually are. In fact, several of our recommendations can be divided within a year or two of planting, so you’ll get even more bang for your buck. The options we talk about in this episode may fill out quickly, but they aren’t aggressive or invasive.


Expert: Kelly Norris, director of horticulture and education at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden in Iowa.




It’s beautiful, tough as nails, and you can eat it! ‘Foxley’ thyme (Thymus pulegioides ‘Foxley’, Zones 5–9) is a billowy ground cover that is easily divided.


Anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum, Zones 4–8) is a pollinator’s dream. Although it does self-sow, the seedlings remain in the general area of the original plant and are easily removed if you don’t appreciate them.



Danielle thinks the flowers of ‘Blonde Ambition’ blue grama grass (Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’, Zones 4–9) look like little flags. Steve, on the other hand, thinks they look like praying mantis arms. Regardless, this is a well-behaved ornamental grass that bulks up quickly and adds great movement to a garden edge.


A lovely, fast-growing perennial for shade is candelabra primrose (Primula beesiana, Zones 5–8), which creates rosettes of romaine-lettuce-looking leaves in spring followed by tall stems of pink and purple flowers.

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