Homeowners with busy lifestyles and smaller yards search for neat and tidy plants that don't take a lot of time to maintain. They want pretty flowers on compact mounding perennials with foliage that remains attractive all season.
There are plenty of perennials that fit this description. Here's a sampling.
Lady's mantle grows up to 18 inches tall and may be used for edging, small groupings or ground cover. Its scalloped, grayish-green fuzzy foliage catches raindrops or the morning dew.
In July, sprays of tiny, chartreuse flowers can be cut and used like baby's breath in bouquets. Lady's mantle is easy to grow in a lightly shaded spot in your garden. It often self sows.
Pumila Chinese astilbe happily grows in shade and is more drought-tolerant than other astilbes. It is a vigorous, low-growing perennial that is suitable as a ground cover or at the front of a shady border. Rosy-purple flower spikes appear over the neat, fern-like foliage in mid to late summer.
Chinese astilbe is happiest in moist, organic, well-drained soil. It is most beautiful when planted in groups of 3 or more.
Similar in form to Chinese astilbe is dwarf goatsbeard. It also prefers part shade and grows just 12 inches tall. Feathery panicles of creamy-white flowers top the fern-like foliage in June and July.
Dwarf goatsbeard is a good choice for rock gardens or woodland borders. It needs a moist, organic soil for best performance.
For sunnier landscapes, consider the charming Carpathian bellflower. Its diminutive size of 6 to 8 inches tall makes it easy to fit into the smallest of gardens. All summer long, upturned, cup-shaped flowers in shades of blue or white bloom among the bright green foliage.
Carpathian Bellflowers are lovely planted at the base of day lilies. They only require average soil.
Leadwort is a gorgeous late-blooming perennial for use as a ground cover or edger. Late to emerge in the spring, its foliage is glossy dark green. Cobalt blue flowers appear from mid-August through October. As the weather cools, leadwort's foliage turns an eye-catching bronze and scarlet red, while it continues to flower.
Plant leadwort in a sunny spot with well-drained soil. It is also pretty planted in fall containers.
Another long-blooming, reliable perennial is threadleaf coreopsis. This sun-loving, drought-tolerant plant produces masses of small daisylike flowers over very fine dark green foliage.
Moonbeam grows 18 to 24 inches tall with lemon yellow flowers. Zagreb is more compact growing 12 to 18 inches tall with deep yellow blooms. A newer variety, Sienna Sunset, grows 12 to 18 inches tall with golden orange flowers.
There are many more easy-to-care-for perennials with pretty flowers and a compact, mounding habit at your local garden center. Check them out.
• Diana Stoll is a horticulturist and the garden center manager at The Planter's Palette, 28W571 Roosevelt Road, Winfield. Call (630) 293-1040, ext. 2, or visit planterspalette.com.