Almost everyone wants a beautiful, care-free garden. As you think about and select plants to buy for that garden you may be hoping for the same thing. As a horticultural consultant, I am frequently told, “I want a low maintenance garden with plants that are easy to grow and easy to maintain.” While there is really no such thing as a maintenance free garden there are some colorful plants you can use that will help your summer be more care-free…that is less time working in the garden and more time enjoying it!

One of my favorite care-free perennial shrubs for blooms from April to November in many areas is the Knock-out Rose. It grows about four feet high and wide and when planted in a sunny location, it will smile with color without the use of pesticides or cutting the stems. It appreciates a light haircut yearly, a feeding of slow-release fertilizer and a drink of water when dry, but other than that it will leave you alone. I think the red and pink varieties are the best.

Topping my list for annual non-stop blooms until a hard freeze is Black and Blue Salvia. It grows almost three feet high, requires no maintenance except for water and an initial slow-release fertilization and attracts bees, butterflies and/or birds and is fragrant. I plant it around my mailbox each year and always get rave reviews.

One of the best work-horse perennials for sunny blooms all season is ‘Early Sunrise’ coreopsis or tickseed. It prefers poor, drier soils, benefitting from a single early season, mild, slow release fertilization. It is a bee-attractant and great for cutting and making bouquets.

New this year to the plant world is a hybrid self-cleaning petunia called Picasso. So far its pink trumpet blooms edged in lime green are performing great in hanging baskets and I think you will welcome this easy annual into your garden. The self-cleaning petunias like the surfinias, waves, plush and supertunia series all provide easy care color from early spring until a hard freeze.

A few others on my suggestion list of low-maintenance sun perennials for long season color are: Rozanne geraniums, plumbago, repeat blooming daylilies such as Happy Returns, gaura, and lavender.

Some annuals you may want to include for sun are calibrachoa (trailing petunias), portulaca, Angelonia, lantana, wax leaf begonias and zonal geraniums (if you don’t mind snipping their dead heads off occasionally).

Hope you have a summer filled with color and time enough to enjoy it and meditate on the wonder of God the Father and the beauty of His creation.