Have you given up gardening because nothing seems to survive in the soil around your home? There are hearty flowers that will usually thrive in even the least hospitable soil conditions.
A friend of mine asked me to help her choose some flowers to plant in an empty plot near her house. She gave me fair warning: Nothing had ever survived being planted in that location. Hmmmmm. I dug into the soil and saw the problem. It was dry and full of bits of concrete. Since she did not have the funds to bring in truckloads of rich soil, I needed to choose tough plants that would be almost impossible to kill.
I found a great price on butterfly bushes and selected two for the center of the plot. This is a perennial flowering bush with sweet, cone-shaped blooms. A native of Chile, this plant can usually survive under the most adverse conditions.
Next, I split some variegated hosta from my own overgrown garden and placed those around the border. I have personally planted this hosta in a wide variety of locations and have never had a casualty. In between the hosta, I added some of my own Stella D’oro lilies. There is a reason that you see these golden flowers around many commercial buildings: They rebloom throughout the season and virtually take care of themselves.
While I was browsing through a local greenhouse, I found several red and yellow yarrow plants, and purchased these tall flowering herbs to plant adjacent to the mailbox. Yarrow is often seen growing wild in untended fields because it needs no care or maintenance and doesn’t require rich soil.
I considered adding a flat of colorful portulacas at the edge of the bed, but decided against planting any annuals. My friend doesn’t like to water plants at all, and I knew that these might require an occasional drink. Portulacas are very tough and can survive hot, dry conditions, but annuals don’t have the deep roots that make perennials so hearty. If you have tough soil but are willing to water once a week or so, portulacas are a great choice and they provide vibrant tropical colors.
I initially watered the new bushes and flowers several times a week to get them through the shock of being transplanted. Everything is still alive and the butterfly bushes have nearly doubled in size. The lilies are blooming, and the yarrow looks fine but doesn’t yet have flowers. I am hopeful that this will be the year that the flowers survive, and that they will all return next Spring. If these plants can’t grow in this rocky soil, then I think it’s time to truck in some compost or build a patio!
Annual Gardening, Missouri Botanical Garden, by June Hutson with Brian Ward and
Ruth Rogers Clausen, Pantheon Books, 1995