25 Top Easy-Care Plants for Midwest Gardens | Midwest Living

25 Top Easy-Care Plants for Midwest Gardens

Plant these low-maintenance perennials and shrubs—including hostas, peonies, yarrow, daylilies, catmint and switchgrass—for a carefree Midwest garden.
  • Blanket flower

    Give these red or orange daisy-like flowers full sun, and they’ll bloom from summer deep into fall. Another plus: These drought-tolerant flowers attract butterflies, not deer. Zone 3-11.

  • Daylily

    Nearly impossible to kill, vigorous sun-loving daylilies tolerate drought and can even take part shade. Each bloom lasts just a day, but plants keep the trumpetlike blooms coming for weeks on end. Choose reblooming varieties like yellow ‘Stella de Oro’ (pictured) or red ‘Lady Scarlet’ for even more flowering time. Zones 3-9.

    Read more about daylilies.

  • Poppy

    Large crepe-paper-like blooms of poppy bring vivid pops of spring and summer color—neon orange and red to pastel pink and cream. Many kinds are available, including Iceland, Alpine, Atlantic and Oriental poppies. Little care is needed other than a sunny location and watering during dry spells until established. Zones 2-8.

  • Hosta

    Few plants can brighten even the toughest dry shade like these rugged and varied perennials. Superstars include ‘Pandora’s Box’ with green-edged white leaves and ‘Frances Williams’ (pictured) with large rippled blue-green foliage and chartreuse edges. Zones 3-9. 

    Read about 5 hot hosta plants.

  • Peony

    This voluptuous beauty is no diva, thriving for decades given full sun and well-drained soil. Expect attractive mounding glossy-green foliage and fragrant late-spring blooms. Solid performers include the classic double ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ and the semi-double ‘Coral Charm’ (pictured). Zones 3-8.

    Read more about peonies.

  • Yarrow

    Typically ignored by foraging rabbits and deer, sun-loving yarrow blooms generously and stands up to summer heat and drought. Choose sterile varieties like ‘Coronation Gold’ (pictured) that won’t spread aggressively. Zones 3-8.

  • Allium

    One of the easiest bulbs to grow, ornamental onions add interesting contrast to the garden with their clumps of grasslike leaves and rounded or nodding flower heads. Try ‘Forescate’ common chives for pink globes in spring or ‘Nodding Pink’ (pictured), a native ornamental onion with long-lived dangling pink flowers in late summer. Zones 4-9. 

  • Switchgrass

    Given ample sunlight, this fountain-shaped ornamental grass (panicum) offers blue-green foliage in summer and dramatic golden or red tones in fall. Plus, it’s not on the menu for rabbits, deer or grasshoppers. Zones 5-9.

    Read more about ornamental grasses.

  • Goldenrod

    Contrary to popular belief, this dependable perennial does not cause hay fever. It does, however, add glorious golden-yellow plumes to the late summer and early fall garden. Try 4-foot tall ‘Fireworks’ (pictured) for lacy blooms; ‘Golden Fleece’ grows 15"-18” tall with richly textured flowers. Zones 4-9.

  • Leadwort

    Late-season blue flowers play off autumn’s vivid red and orange displays. Ranging from 6 inches to 3 feet, this perennial does best in well-drained soils and makes a good groundcover for dry sunny sites or part shade. Zones 5-9.

  • Hardy geranium

    A dependable workhorse, perennial geraniums are lovely massed as a groundcover or used as an accent plant. The plant is tolerant of wet or dry soils in full sun to part shade. Choice varieties include ‘Biokovo’ with delicate pink flowers, ‘Bevan’s Variety’ with deep magenta flowers and ‘Johnson’s Blue’ (pictured) with its long-blooming flowers. Zones 5-9.

  • Catmint

    Drought-tolerant and deer-resistant, sun-loving catmint adds fragrant foliage and purplish-blue blooms to the summer garden. ‘Walker’s Low’ and the new ‘Cat’s Meow’ are varieties bred to remain upright rather than split in the middle. Zones 3-8. 

  • Helenium

    A member of the aster family, deer-resistant Helenium provides long-blooming yellow, mahogany or red daisy-like flowers to jazz up the fall garden. Vigorous varieties include bright yellow ‘Butterpat’ and coppery red ‘Moerheim Beauty’. Zones 4-8.

  • Penstemon

    A magnet for hummingbirds, this drought-tolerant native offers long-blooming brilliant tubular flowers in spring or summer and can tolerate part shade. There are numerous types, so be sure to pick one that suits your zone. Zones 3-9.

  • Sedum

    Gardening doesn’t get much easier than this. Undaunted by heat, humidity and drought, this disease-resistant perennial is among the first to emerge with attractive fleshy foliage in spring. Most offer long-lasting blooms in summer and fall. Choose from low-growing varieties like ‘Tricolor’ (pictured) or the taller, popular ‘Autumn Joy’ and ‘Vera Jameson’. Zones 3-10.

    Read more about sedums and other succulents suitable for the Midwest.

  • Veronica

    Resistant to insects, disease and drought, this spiky bloomer thrives for years without care. Though it’s most vibrant in full sun, it also easily handles part shade. Choose from a broad range of heights, from groundcovers to back-of-the-border types. Zones 3-9.

  • Little bluestem

    This native is a champ in sunny spots, boasting feathery spikes that blend well with everything from roses to black-eyed Susans. Resistant to heat, drought, disease and foraging animals, little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) turns a pretty straw color in fall. Zones 3-9.

    Read more about ornamental grasses.


  • Bluestar

    Clusters of delicate blue flowers top thin stems in spring, and mounded foliage stays attractive though summer. Bluestar (Amsonia tabernaemontana) tolerates wet sites; shining bluestar (Amsonia illustris) tolerates drought; threadleaf bluestar (Amsonia ciliata) (pictured) has narrow leaves that turn yellow in fall. Remove seed pods to prevent self-seeding. Zones 3-9.

  • Coreopsis

    One of the longest bloomers if deadheaded, coreopsis adds yellow, pink or bicolor flowers to the garden. Top choices include coreopsis grandiflora (pictured) and the thread-leaf ‘Moonbeam’ that will bloom for months if sheared back after flowers fade. Not a favorite of deer. Zones 3-9.

  • Potentilla

    Not to be confused with the woody bush called cinquefoil, this drought-tolerant subshrub cinquefoil makes a good groundcover that’s especially effective on slopes. Orange, yellow, pink or white flowers bloom from June through August. Red peeling bark offers winter interest. Zones 2-7. 

  • Russian sage

    Tolerant of heat and drought, this fragrant shrublike plant attracts bees, but not rabbits or deer. Its cool blue flowers delight all summer, mixing well with red, orange and yellow plantings. Zones 4-9.

  • Coneflower

    Deer resistant and tough as nails, this drought-tolerant overachiever will spread into a nice stand given a sunny location. Numerous hybrids come in colors from orange to green, but also consider the native pale purple coneflower. Its long drooping petals and large cone attract bees and butterflies; the seed heads are favorites for goldfinches and chickadees. Zones 3-9.

  • Aromatic aster

    Native to dry upland prairies, fragrant Aster oblongifolius prospers in dry, clay or rocky soil. Covered with flowers in fall, it makes a strong companion plant to little bluestem grass and goldenrod. Pinch in early summer to prevent flopping. Choice variety is ‘October Skies’. Zones 3-8.

  • Hardy hibiscus

    Giant saucerlike flowers on 5-foot plants make this one of the most dramatic perennials in the garden. Easily grown in wet or dry soil, these showy flowers attract butterflies, not deer. Individual blooms are short-lived, but plants bloom prolifically until frost. Zones 4-9.


  • Wiegela

    With no notable insect or disease problems, reliable Wigela florida is a 4- to 5-foot shrub that is pretty alone or in a hedge. Its showy pink flowers in spring attract hummingbirds; fall foliage is colorful. Weigela prefers full sun, but tolerates shade as well as clay soil. One to try: award-winning 'Alexandra' (also marketed as 'Wine and Roses'). Zones 4-8.


Comments (1)

kcarlson4021 wrote:
I found this article at the perfect time! I'm starting to plan out my garden and this helped a lot to figure out what flowers to choose. Great suggestions!

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