10 Outdoor Plants You (Most Likely) Can’t Kill

Gemma Johnstone
Written by Gemma Johnstone
Updated March 9, 2022
Woman with black chokeberry in garden
Photo: iStock/Getty Images

Make it seem like your brown thumb is green with these hard-as-nails plants

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Do you dream of a garden overflowing with summer blooms and lush fall foliage? Maybe you’ve spent a small fortune on plants, only for them all to wither and die soon after you’ve planted them. If it’s fair to say you don’t have a green thumb, the conditions in your yard are challenging, or you just don't have the time or energy to do a lot of garden maintenance, there are still many plant options to help you cultivate a garden oasis. 

Below are some great low-maintenance outdoor plants you (most likely) can’t kill. But, don’t forget, even these formidable flora still need certain conditions to thrive, so choose wisely based on your USDA hardiness zone, light conditions, and moisture levels.

1. Carpet Bugle

USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 10

If you want a super low-maintenance, deer-resistant, dense ground cover for a shady garden, evergreen carpet bugle (Ajuga reptans) is a winner. Plus, it puts on a beautiful floral display in the late spring and early summer when the whorls of tiny pink, white, purple, or blue blooms appear. It can even handle full sun locations if the moisture levels are right. 

2. Black Chokeberry

USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 8

The black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) is an adaptable and resilient shrub capable of growing in many gardens. It thrives in boggy spots where other plants won’t survive, and thickets also form in dry, exposed areas. With spring-blooming fragrant white flowers and black berries that feed wildlife through the fall and winter, unlike some other shrubs, it doesn’t have intensive pruning requirements, and you can leave it to its own devices.

3. Chives

USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 10

Herbs are some of the easiest beginner plants (providing you offer them the right light and moisture levels). If you have a sunny spot with well-drained soil in your garden, you can’t really go wrong with cool-season, cold-tolerant chives (Allium schoenoprasum). Simply plant some rooted clumps in the spring and watch them thrive. They might not be the most beautiful plant, but they offer an abundant harvest of leaves that are perfect for summer salads, and the edible flowers add a splash of color. These plants also repel pests, making them an excellent companion plant for the likes of tomatoes and lettuce. Just be aware they reseed readily, so you might want to deadhead the flowers.

4. Cosmos

USDA Hardiness Zones: 2 to 11

Garden cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus) are half-hardy, summer-blooming annuals that seed with practically no effort, grow fast, and thrive in poor soils. They’re the perfect addition for attracting pollinators—butterflies love them—and their whimsical, daisy-like appearance suits sunny cottage garden designs.

5. Crabapples

USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 to 8

Have you always dreamed of having your own fruit trees to make jams, attract pollinators, and enjoy the early fragrant spring blooms? If you’re worried they’ll be too tricky to grow, why not opt for a crabapple tree? They’re compact enough to be grown in smaller yards, tolerant of a range of soils, and easy to grow from seed. Malus 'Louisa' is a popular, disease-resistant cultivar with a weeping form.

6. Daylily

USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 to 9

Exotic-looking plants conjure up ideas of being delicate and hard to maintain. Daylilies are the perfect example of this not always being true—some cultivars may even thrive on neglect. These stunning, adaptable flowers grow vigorously in most soils, providing they get a full sun position. Healthy plants produce many flowers through their long bloom season, and these perennials will reward you with a stunning show for years with little to no effort.

7. Feather Reed Grass

USDA Hardiness Zones: 5 to 11

There’s a reason cool-season feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora) is one of the most popular ornamental prairie grass species. This tall, erect hybrid is versatile, attractive, deer-resistant, and ideal for lazy gardeners. It can survive in wet and dry soils and won’t need watering or major pruning. The award-winning cultivar ‘Karl Foerster” is readily available.

8. Marigolds

Hands and yellow marigolds
Photo: last19/Adobe Stock

If you want bright-blooming, no-fuss flowers capable of withstanding high heat and drought, then give fast-growing, versatile marigolds (Tagetes) a try. The pom-pom-shaped blooms appear early and last through the summer. They’re perfect for growing in containers or as bedding plants, and pollinators love these plants. Deadheading spent flowers increases the bloom time and quantity even further.

9. Russian Sage

USDA Hardiness Zones: 5 to 9

Do you live in a hot, dry location and want a perennial plant you can simply purchase, plant, and appreciate? Look no further than award-winning Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia). Drought-tolerant, pest- and disease-free, and able to thrive in any soil type, this plant is a fragrant subshrub resembling lavender. The only thing it asks for is a sunny spot—otherwise, the tall stems might flop, and it won’t produce such an impressive show of flowers.

10. Sedum

USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 10

Some hard-to-kill plants are frustratingly invasive, but sun-loving sedums don’t easily get out of control. These drought-tolerant succulents don’t grow too quickly and require minimal watering, division, or deadheading. ‘Autumn Joy’ is a popular upright cultivar that produces clusters of pollinator-friendly pink flowers that you can enjoy year after year with minimal effort.

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