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My favorite idiot-proof plants

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By Jennifer E. Beaver
Staff Writer

I don’t have patience with fussy plants. If a plant needs coddling— something outside of appropriate sunlight and water and occasional fertilizer— it doesn’t last long in my yard. I make two exceptions: tomatoes, because I love them; and geraniums, because they remind me of my mother. But I also recall her saying, “I got rid of the geraniums because of those damn caterpillars.”
Here are proven plants that perform well for me time and time again. Many tolerate drought and do well in containers and in the ground.

1. Lantana: People either love or hate lantana, but you can’t beat it as a garden workhorse. It flowers cheerfully through rain, heat and neglect, and bugs leave it alone. You’ll find it in purple, yellow, and a radiant mix of carnival colors. Just remember to read the plant tag and choose varieties based on how you want the lantana to perform. Some grow into huge shrubs; others trail into sturdy groundcovers.

2. Mandevilla: Want to attract attention? Put this adaptable shrub with its hot-colored trumpet-shaped flowers in your front yard. Everyone who sees the vibrant crimson or pink flowers beckoning from a trellis or cascading fetchingly over the side of a container wants a mandevilla of their very own. A Brazilian native, mandevilla blooms through the year, most heavily in spring and summer.

3. Pittosporum: There are many kinds, but my favorite is a tall shrub with the Latin moniker Pittosporum tenuifolium. Silver Sheen, one favorite variety, grows to 20 feet with an open, airy form and tiny shimmering leaves that contrast beautifully with its thin black branches. Happy in sun or part shade, Silver Sheen is great as a border plant or used for height in a landscape.

4. Purple fountain grass: This carefree grass adds welcome height and movement to borders and large containers. Plumes sway and dance in the breeze; arching seed heads make every garden look graceful. In most locales, warm-season grasses such as this one go brown in the winter. Here, it looks good nearly year-round. To revitalize, trim it back to a few inches. It will grow back better than ever.

5. Sweet pea bush: This undemanding shrub has perky spring-green leaves that look good all year. Frequently in flower, it has lovely lavender/pink and white blossoms that resemble sweet pea flowers. There are two sizes. Full-size Polygala x dalmaisiana can grow five feet tall and wide and is bare at the base. I prefer the smaller Polygala fruticosa, which is more manageable at 3×3 feet.

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My favorite idiot-proof plants