When life hands you a nightmare gardening space, turn it into a dream come true with these helpful perennial plants. We’ve got ideas for plantings near concrete, in clay soil, along steep slopes in dray shade or in wet areas.

Concrete Jungle

Walters Gardens Nepeta Kit-Cat

Are you surrounded by hardscaping that soaks up plant-killing heat? Tough plants like these will fill in your concrete jungle.

Name: Nepeta ‘Kit Cat’
Exposure: Full sun
Height: 18 inches
Width: 30 inches
Zone: 3-8
Features: Dwarf catmint forms a wide, dense clump in sunny, dry areas; blooms all summer; catmints thrive in poor soil; rabbit and deer resistant
Color: Gray-green leaves; tiny blue flowers


Walters Gardens Veronica Hocus Pocus

Name: ‘Hocus Pocus’ veronica also called Speedwell
Exposure: Full sun/part shade
Height: 16-20 inches
Width: 12 inches
Zone: 4-8
Features: Features: Extra-long purple flower wands; well branched, uniform habit; low maintenance; easy to grow; deer resistant; attracts butterflies
Color: Purple flower spikes


Walters Gardens Asclepias tuberosa Hello Yellow

Name: ‘Hello Yellow’ butterfly weed Asclepias tuberosa
Exposure: Full sun
Height: 2 feet
Width: 2 feet
Zone: 3-9
Features: Easy-to-grow variety of a native perennial; long bloom time with deadheading; attracts hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees; deer resistant
Color: Golden flower heads turn into silver-white decorative pods


Walters Gardens Phlox Minnie Pearl

Name: ‘Minnie Pearl’ Phlox paniculata
Exposure: Full sun
Height: 15-20 inches
Width: 18-24 inches
Zone: 3-8
Features: Early bloom season; good disease resistance; slow growth habit; give garden phlox good air circulation to prevent powdery mildew
Color: White blooms; glossy green foliage

Clay Soils

Walters Gardens Baptisia Decadence Trade Blueberry Sundae

Clay soils aren’t all bad but if you’ve ever had to do much digging in them, you know how dense (and sometimes rock-hard) they can be. These perennial troopers will burrow in and flourish.

Name: ‘Blueberry Sundae’ false indigo Baptisia
Exposure: Full sun/part shade
Height: 3 feet
Width: 2-3 feet
Zone: 4-9
Features: Plants more compact and mounded than most; long-lived; low maintenance; deer resistant
Color: Dark blue flowers form ornamental seed pods; blue-green foliage looks good all season


Walters Gardens Rudbeckia fulgida varsullivantii Little Goldstar

Name: ‘Little Goldstar’ blackeyed Susan Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii
Exposure: Full sun/part shade
Height: 14-16 inches
Width: 14-16 inches
Zone: 4-10
Features: Makes a shorter, more florific, uniform mound than the well-known ‘Goldsturm’; easy to grow; attracts butterflies and birds; grows when surrounded by pavement
Color: 2-inch golden starburst blooms; green foliage


Walters Gardens Monarda Gardenview Scarlet

Name: ‘Gardenview Scarlet’ bee balm Monarda
Exposure: Full sun/part shade
Height: 18 inches
Width: 30 inches
Zone: 3-8
Features: Easy-to-grow; spreads quickly; attracts hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees; deer resistant; space plants far enough apart to allow good air circulation
Color: Scarlet flowers


Walters Gardens Aster Kickin Trade Lilac Blue

Name: ‘Lilac Blue’ aster (Michaelmas daisy) Aster KICKIN™
Exposure: Full sun
Height: 2-3 feet
Width: 2-3 feet
Zone: 5-9
Features: Bushy, compact mound of fine-textured green foliage covered in late summer by lilac flowers; attracts butterflies; grows when surrounded by pavement
Color: Purple-blue flowers with gold button center

Steep Slopes

Walters Gardens Sedum Dazzleberry

Turn a challenging steep slope into a breathtaking flower and foliage display with these determined hangers-on.

Name: Sedum ‘Dazzleberry’
Exposure: Full sun
Height: 6-8 inches
Width: 18 inches
Zone: 4-9
Features: One of the earliest fall-blooming sedums; high color impact; low-spreading; drought tolerant; grows when surrounded by pavement
Color: Blue-gray foliage with 6– to 8–inch raspberry flowers


Walters Gardens Hemerocallis Tiger Kitten

Name: Daylily ‘Tiger Kitten’ Hemerocallis
Exposure: Full sun/part shade
Height: 22 inches
Width: 18-24 inches
Zone: 3-9
Features: Daylilies grow in almost any condition, including near pavement that’s salted in winter and under black walnut trees; rabbit resistant
Color: 3–inch orange flowers with dark red eye


Walters Gardens Hosta Rainforest Sunrise

Name: ‘Rainforest Sunrise’ hosta
Exposure: Full sun/part shade
Height: 8 inches
Width: 16 inches
Zone: 3-9
Features: 2013 Hosta of the Year; slug resistant; wide variety of colors, shapes, sizes among hosta varieties; H. lancifolia is salt tolerant; grows when surrounded by pavement
Color: Leaves emerge light green, then develop dark green borders and gold centers


Walters Gardens Lamium Maculatum Beacon Silver

Name: ‘Beacon Silver’ deadnettle Lamium maculatum
Exposure: Full sun
Height: 4-8 inches
Width: 12-24 inches
Zone: 3-8
Features: Great groundcover plants; ornamental leaves look good even when not in flower
Color: Silver leaves with green edges; lavender-pink spring flowers

Dry but Shady

Walters Gardens Athyrium Felix Forma Lady in Red

Plants that thrive in shade are generally native to moist woodland conditions. But what if your shade is bone dry and even the grass won’t grow? Our picks will give you a lush landscape even in this trying environment.

Name: ‘Lady in Red’ lady fern Athyrium felix-forma
Exposure: Full sun/part shade
Height: 30-36 inches
Width: 24 inches
Zone: 3-8
Features: Lacy fronds add texture; red stems stand out; deer and rabbit resistant
Color: Green foliage with red stems


Walters Gardnes Epimedium Gradiflorum Lilafee

Name: ‘Lilafee’ epimedium (also sold as ‘Lilac Fairy’) Epimedium grandiflorum
Exposure: Full sun/part shade
Height: 8-12 inches
Width: 12-16 inches
Zone: 4-8
Features: Dainty purple spring flowers; easy to grow; spreads slowly by rhizomes; shear old foliage in spring, otherwise low maintenance; deer and rabbit resistant
Color: Heart-shaped leaves are bronze in spring, green in summer, bronze in fall


Walters Gardens Polygonatum Oderatum Variegatum

Name: Variegated Solomon’s seal Polygonatum odoratum
Exposure: Full sun/part shade
Height: 18-24 inches
Width: 10-20 inches
Zone: 3-9
Features: Lightly fragrant tiny white spring flowers; cream leaf edges catch the eye; yellow fall color
Color: Tiny white flowers; cream and green variegated leaves


Walters Gardens Dincentra Burning Hearts

Name: ‘Burning Hearts’ fernleaf bleeding heart Dicentra
Exposure: Full sun/part shade
Height: 10-12 inches
Width: 12 inches
Zone: 3-9
Features: Fern-leaf and fringed bleeding hearts bloom all season; blooms on this variety are the reddest
Color: Rosy-red flowers; blue-green lacy foliage


A view of Water plants with a gazebo in the background

Planting in a wet or marshy area? Occasional flooding isn’t a problem for these
tough plants: Lady’s Mantle, Rose Mallow, Bleeding Heart, Primrose, and Forget-me-not.

Try Japanese Iris, Sweet Flag, Beebalm, Ligularia Spiderwort, Lady Fern, Ostrich Fern, and Wood Fern for areas that are often submerged.


© Caruth Studio

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