These less-work plants don’t need to be divided, deadheaded or regularly pruned—they overwinter, or self-sow, or both. Many annuals, biennials and some perennials produce offspring with no work on your part.
Your only job with these six plants will be editing your garden if sprouts pop up where they shouldn’t be, or if they begin overcrowding your planted specimens.
Orange California poppies, slender and delicate, are prolific in arid areas and bloom from late spring to fall. Their fern-like leaves and butterfly-esque flowers are a nice contrast to larger-leaved companions.
GROWING GUIDE: Full sun in poor to average soil. Soil rich in organic matter will produce lush foliage but few flowers. You'll rarely find California poppies sold in containers for one simple reason: They're so easy to start from seed that it's not financially smart for growers to grow them. Pick up a packet of seeds and you're all set.
Most columbines are hybrids so the volunteers may not match the color of the original. "Volunteers" include any plants not planted by a gardener. To cross-pollinate different species, plant two or more varieties. Hybrid volunteers will take different colors and forms.
GROWING GUIDE: Some sun to partial shade. Moist soil. Encourage reblooming and decrease volunteers by removing seed pods as they form.
Most home gardeners grow lupine hybrids. L. polyphyllusis typically one-half of the parent species for most hybrids. It has large leaves, with loosely formed spires of blue-purple flowers. When hybrids self-sow, the resulting volunteers will often revert to this species (and rarely maintain the colors or form of the originally planted hybrid).
GROWING GUIDE: Full sun to partial shade. Average to loamy, well-draining soil.
Chrysanthemum rubellum (alt. C. zawadskii )
Hardy garden mums are some of the most reliable late-blooming perennials. Planted before the height of summer, D. rubellum will grow to full size and bloom in its first year. Once a good freeze kills the greenery, leave the skeleton of the plant in place to protect the crown from disease and rot. In spring, trim back dead stems and keep new growth.
GROWING GUIDE: Full or partial sun. Loamy, well-draining soil.
Heuchera brings vibrant, year-round color to shade gardens. Its common name, coral bells, comes from the tiny, pink flower spikes which were formerly the main attraction of this plant. In recent years, heuchera has become known as a foliage plant. They still bloom the coral flowers, but the jewel-colored leaves steal the show.
GROWING GUIDE: Shade or partial shade. Organically-rich soil. Add manure or compost to planting site. Water well to establish. Drought resistant.
Verbena is commonly the “spiller” in annual-flower baskets. Recently, hybrids have been developed into hardy, garden-friendly perennials. The best known, V. canadensis, is called “Homestead Purple” and has bright, fragrant flowers. It's a fast-growing groundcover that blooms from late spring through summer.
GROWING GUIDE: Full sun. Average, well-draining soil. Encourage reblooming by trimming off dead flowers.