You can buy commercially-prepared echinacea to make tea, but beware. WedMD warns that some echinacea teas are mislabeled and may contain harmful or even toxic ingredients. Some gardeners make their own tea by brewing a teaspoon or two of dried echinacea in boiling water, and adding a little honey for sweetening. These plants are often used to fight flu and other infections. Shown here: ornamental Big Sky™ 'Summer Sky'™ coneflower Echinacea purpurea x paradoxa.
Also known as a hen-and-chick plant, sempervivum is known for its gray-green rosettes that turn plum-colored when the temperatures drop. Where do sempervivums get the poultry nickname? The mother plant (the hen) spreads by making tiny, new rosettes on stalks (chicks). Use sempervivums in containers and rock gardens. These natives of the mountains of southern Europe can endure temperatures of 50 below. You’ve no excuse for killing them. Zones 2 to 9.
This native shrub boasts versatility that makes it a can’t-miss addition to your home and garden. Sweetspire (Itea virginica) grows in full sun to full shade, preferring moist (and tolerating wet) soil. White, sweetly scented blooms appear on plants in early summer. Little Henry (Itea virginica ‘Sprich’) downsizes the native shrub into a package that fits neatly in containers. In the landscape, use it as a shrubby edging plant along paths or planting beds. Little Henry grows 2 to 3 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 5-9.
For a bright pop of color in even the smallest garden, turn to Moscato barberry. Plants grow 2 to 3 feet tall and 3 to 5 feet wide. Lime green leaves provide strong color year-round. New leaves have orange edges that fade to lime. Use in containers, planting beds or along a walk. Hardy in Zones 4-7. Botanical name: Berberis thunbergii ‘BailAnna’
Chrysanthemums contain chemical compounds that act as natural insecticides, which are processed and sold as pyrethrum. It’s a go-to natural pesticide for dealing with fleas, ants, ticks, silverfish and bedbugs. Certain types of mums do a better job at repelling insects than others. The ones used commercially for extracting pyrethrums include painted daisy (Chrysanthemum coccineum) and Dalmatian daisy (Chrysanthemum cinerariifolium). Use these perennial mums in the garden to add daisy-like flowers to planting designs.
For a formal look, skirt an upright shrub—like Sunjoy Gold Pillar barberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘Maria’)—with billows of blooms, in this case a trio of Superbells: Tropical Sunrise, Yellow and Yellow Chiffon. With its modest spread, Sunjoy barberry is a great choice for containers, but that same vertical shape makes it a fantastic plant for the garden. The gold leaves command attention, and the plant thrives from full sun to full shade. Leaves shift to orange-red shades in autumn. Sunjoy Gold grows 3 to 4 feet tall and 18 to 24 inches wide. Hardy in Zones 4-7.
A newcomer to the market, Heat It Up Yellow blanket flower hit garden centers in 2020. Its sunny hued blooms open reliably all season long and make the perfect addition to containers or planting beds. In this pot blanket flower sparkles when paired with a dark leaf sun-loving coleus (Color Blaze Wicked Witch) and orange callibrachoa (Superbells Dreamsicle). Like other blanket flowers, Heat It Up Yellow has no pest or disease problems and is deer and rabbit resistant. Plants grow 12 to 24 inches tall and spread 18 to 36 inches. Typically grown as an annual, but hardy in Zones 8-10.
Unusual hand-shaped leaves with a striking color mix make Gryphon begonia a star for shade gardens. Avocado green leaves have maroon veins and are splashed with silver. Leaf undersides and stems also showcase maroon shades. It’s a natural for containers, easily filling the thriller role. It looks beautiful paired with red and white Super Elfin impatiens (shown). Gryphon does best in part to full shade, growing 18 to 24 inches tall and wide. In Southern zones, protect Gryphon from hot afternoon sun.
Evergreen clematis bring year-round color to gardens, and the variety known as Avalanche is no exception. This beauty offers an avalanche of snow white blooms in spring. Also known as Clematis x cartmanii ‘Blaaval,’ this clematis grows best in part to full sun. Vines grow 12 to 15 feet tall with support and belong to Pruning Group 1. This means plants don’t typically need pruning, but if you must cut stems to help contain growth or reduce height, make cuts immediately after blooming. Hardy in Zones 7-9.
If you’ve always wanted a magnolia but don’t have the space for a big tree, Baby Grand is the plant for you. It has classic Southern magnolia style with brown felt-backed evergreen leaves and creamy white perfumed blooms. Overall plant size after 12 years is 11.5 feet tall and 6.5 feet wide. That means it fits in small yards, entry gardens or even containers. Better still, this small beauty makes a stunning evergreen hedge (space plants 5 feet apart). Prune plants after flowering to form a tree, topiary or espalier. Left untrimmed, plants grow as a shrubby bloomer. Look for the white flowers in spring. Feed plants in the ground once annually after flowering. In containers, fertilize twice a year: after flowering and again in early fall. Hardy in Zones 7-11. The botanical name is Magnolia grandiflora ‘STRgra.’
Want a little drama in your yard? Make room for Vertigo purple fountain grass (Pennisetum purpureum ‘Tift 8’). This gorgeous grass adds bold color with its deep purple—almost black—leaves. Stems stand strong, and leaf ends drape gracefully. Use it solo as an accent plant, or arrange it in mass as a dark hedge. Vertigo commands attention in the garden or containers as it grows 4 to 8 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 8-11. In areas with cold winters, treat Vertigo as an annual.
For shady spots on a porch or patio, look to the gold leaves of BananAppeal small anise tree (Illicium parviflorum ‘PIIIP-I’) to deliver season-long color in containers. Despite the name of small anise tree, BananAppeal is a mounding shrub that fits well in pots and transitions effortlessly to a part to full shade planting bed. In the landscape, use it as an accent plant or focal point, or add it to a rain garden (it tolerates wet soil well). Leaves have an anise smell when crushed, making it a deer-resistant plant. BananAppeal grows 3 to 4 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 7-9.
For a strong vertical element, it’s tough to beat Fine Line buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula ‘Ron Williams’). In containers, count on this shrub to fill the thriller role. Buckthorn is an ideal choice for creating a privacy hedge on a patio or rooftop garden. Simply tuck it into pots and line them up to create a hedgerow of feathery foliage. Or use it in paired pots to frame a doorway. Buckthorn combines well with annuals, such as Margarita sweet potato vine, Giant Pink supertunia and Black Prince coleus. In the landscape, buckthorn grows 5 to 7 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 2-7.
Several varieties of blue fescue (Festuca glauca) are available on the market. ‘Elijah Blue’ is a classic form, offering powdery blue leaves that bring color to the landscape year-round. Wheat-like seedheads appear in early summer. This grass thrives in dry conditions and is an outstanding choice for rock gardens, troughs or containers. Drought-tolerant and deer-resistant, ‘Elijah Blue’ thrives in coastal conditions, too. Plants grow 8 to 10 inches tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 4-8.
Embrace a new boxwood that’s hardy, deer-resistant and beautiful. Variegated leaves sport green with a lime margin that deepens to gold as summer unfolds. This winter hardy boxwood adapts well to formal gardens, shrub borders or containers. Or use it as a hedge or foundation planting. Evergreen leaves provide good winter interest. Plants grow in sun or shade, reaching 1 to 3 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 5-9. Good to know: This boxwood tolerates heavy pruning but doesn’t require any pruning. If desired, clip to shape in summer.
Beloved for its ability to beckon bees, butterflies and hummingbirds, bee balm (Monarda) also earns rave reviews for its mosquito-repelling qualities. For many insect-deterring plants to work, you have to crush leaves or blooms to release the plant’s volatile oils. Bee balm is an exception to that rule. As it grows and blooms in your garden, it releases fragrances mosquitoes dislike (so does basil, by the way). Bee balm is a perennial that flowers in a variety of colors and plant sizes. This beauty is Balmy Rose monarda, which is a compact type growing to 1 foot high. It’s a great choice for edging beds or tucking into containers.
Inside a true bulb is a central shoot that contains layers of leaves and immature flowers. With bulbs planted in your garden, this central shoot forms after flowers fade. This is why it’s important to let leaves of bulbs like tulips and daffodils remain and stay green until they naturally die back. As long as leaves are green, they’re helping to store food that helps form the shoot for next year’s show. Most true bulbs have a protective papery skin (think onion, daffodil, tulip). An exception to this rule are the lilies, including Asiatic and Oriental types.
Available in orange, pink, bicolors, salmon, purple or yellow, calla lilies are easy to grow houseplants. White callas are lovely in Christmas-red containers, and stay in bloom a long time. They're tropicals, so wait until all frost has passed if you want to transplant them into your garden. They'll thrive in a sunny spot in slightly moist, organic-rich soil, but will require repotting and bringing indoors before the first fall frost. If you prefer, you can let the bulbs go dormant and store them in a cool, dry, dark place until you're ready to replant next spring.