10 Plant Suggestions for Tough Spaces

Nearly everyone has a problem spot in their yard, whether it’s a place that’s too hot or too shady or too wet. But we’ve got some solutions for you! Here’s a list of 10 plants that overcome adversity and will impress with their non-stop durability.

1. The Angelina stonecrop, or Sedum rupestre, is perfect for a sunny, hot, dry site or an area where there isn’t much room for roots. A tough perennial that thrives on neglect, place Angelina next to a hot walk or driveway or throw even a tiny piece into a pot or garden bed. Even if it you have sandy or gravelly soil, Angelina will soon become a tough-to-beat ground cover from even just a tiny cutting.

2. The Diabolo Ninebark, or Physocarpus opulifolius, is a 6-8 foot tall/wide shrub with reddish purple leaves and a “the show must go on” attitude. Diabolo Ninebark is a hero in a drought, doesn’t care about your soil quality, and thrives in neglect, all while flourishing into a privacy-providing tough guy in the ground or in a container. It may get floppy if not given enough sun, otherwise, it’ll take whatever you throw at it. If a Diabolo is too large, try ‘Little Devil’ Ninebark, which tops out at 4 feet.

3. Millennium ornamental onion, or Allium ornamental onion, is attractive and has a long bloom time, but its real superpower is keeping critters out of your garden. Rabbits, squirrels and deer all do not care for the taste and smell of this plant, which makes it a great addition to the front of your garden beds. Plant Millenium in areas with full to part sun and there’s no extra care or maintenance required.

4. The Hosta ‘Empress Wu’ is a shade-loving BEAST that grows up to 5 feet tall by 8 feet wide. If you need to hide a utility box or need a little privacy in deep shade, Empress Wu is for you! This hosta has green leaves and pale lavender flowers, but it’s really the sheer size that people grow it for. Provide her with evenly moist, well-draining soil and keep an eye out for slugs.

5. The Bottlebrush Buckeye, or Aesculus parviflora, is an easy to grow deciduous shrub that thrives in part shade to full shade. Got a shady, damp spot? This is the perfect shrub for that! It grows to about 15x12 in moist soils, including some standing water. Bottlebrush buckeye shows off with panicles of white flowers in summer that are show-stopping, as is the leaf color in autumn.

6. The Hellebore, or Helleborus orientalis, is a shade-loving perennial that boasts the first blooms in spring and has evergreen foliage, so it always looks presentable. Frequently, Hellebores bloom again in the summer.  All Hellebores have somewhat understated flower color so make sure you plant it where you can appreciate those early spring blooms!

7. The Creeping Jenny, or Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’, is a low-growing ground cover with golden leaves, grown not so much for its yellow flowers as it is for its ability to grow in wet soil and establish itself thickly enough to choke out weeds. Golden Creeping Jenny is great at erosion control as well. It can be an aggressive spreader as much as it can be a problem solver, though, so check your local invasive species list.

8. The Canadian Hemlock, or Tsuga canadensis, is a needled evergreen that takes on a shady spot like a champ. Canadian Hemlocks can reach up to 60 feet tall and 30 feet wide. This low maintenance conifer has very small needles and cones which makes it a little less messy than other evergreens. On top of all that, deer do not care for it.

9. The Prickly Pear, or Opuntia compressa, is a cold-hardy cactus, well-suited to temperatures from zones 4 to 9. Do you have a “no-go zone” in your yard? An area you want to keep kids, dogs, deer, rabbits, the postal carrier out of? Prickly pear is just the right plant for that, its tiny bristles are terrifying to look at and difficult to remove. However, planting it is as easy as dropping a cutting onto poor, gravelly, shallow or sandy soil in a full sun situation. Although it shrivels up a bit in winter, it is considered evergreen. In summer, sunshine yellow flowers can be followed by a pulpy red fruit.

10. Limelight Hydrangea, or Hydrangeapaniculata, works hard every day to remove the label that Hydrangeas have as “difficult”. Limelight grows well in sun or shade, blooms chartreuse-white from mid-summer to frost and then wears it’s dried panicles throughout the winter. It requires little to no pruning or other care and it’s drought tolerant past its first year when it needs to settle in with regular watering. The cut flowers are stunning when clipped and put in a vase.