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04/10/2014 09:02 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

13 Plants That'll Really Pay Off (PHOTOS)


By Warren Schultz

What makes a plant a good buy? It's not purchase price alone. Value is best measured by how a plant performs once it's in the ground. "A bargain doesn't need lots of attention, isn't prone to disease or insect problems, and spreads on its own," says Lexington, Kentucky–based landscape designer Jon Carloftis. And while there's no question that annuals deliver the most bang for the buck in a single season, perennials, shrubs, and trees provide long-lasting structure and color to the landscape. We polled our go-to garden experts for their hardy and inexpensive favorites in all four categories.

Amazing Annuals

snapdragon

Snapdragon

Genus: Antirrhinum majus 'Snap Daddy'
Zones: All Zones
Cost: $6
Expert says: "This long-blooming snapdragon has bright flowers and variegated foliage—and flourishes in cool and hot temperatures." -Dennis Schrader, nursery owner, Mattituck, New York

cleome

Cleome

Genus: C. hassleriana 'White Queen'
Zones: All Zones
Cost: $1 to $4
Expert says: "To make a big splash in a sunny area, plant cleome. From late June to frost, you'll have four- to five-inch spiderlike blooms." -Jon Carloftis, landscape designer, Lexington, Kentucky

caladium

Caladium

Genus: C. varieties
Zones: All Zones
Cost: From $8
Expert says: "Caladium brings color to a shady garden in the heat of summer. And some newer varieties can even take a little more sun." -John Dromgoole, nursery owner, Austin

Perennials With Personality

black eyed susan

Black-Eyed Susan

Genus: Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii
Zones: 3 to 9
Cost: From $8
Expert says: "The showiest of my self-seeding perennials, these golden daisies bloom from mid-July through mid-September and beyond." -Patricia Hill, garden designer, Elgin, Illinois

maiden grass

Maiden Grass

Genus: Miscanthus sinensis 'Adagio'
Zones: 5 to 9
Cost: $9 to $12
Expert says: "This grass forms a light, airy four-foot-tall mound and grows really well in otherwise tough and dry sites." -David McMullin, garden designer, Atlanta

daylilies

Daylily

Genus: Hemerocallis varieties
Zones: 3 to 9
Cost: From $4
Expert says: "Daylilies are gorgeous and easy to divide. You can build a fine collection of colors and shapes by acquiring a few plants each year." -Barbara Damrosch, farmer and author, Harborside, Maine

Surprising Shrubs

lavender

Lavender

Genus: Lavandula spp.
Zones: 5 to 9
Cost: $6 to $10
Expert Says: "Lavender's practically indestructible, genuinely deer-resistant, and comes in beautiful hues." -Robert Kourik, garden designer, Sebastopol, California

yaupon holly

Yaupon Holly

Genus: Ilex vomitoria
Zones: 7 to 10
Cost: $12 to $30
Expert says: "This drought-tolerant Texas native can grow to 15 feet or taller. In winter, its attractive red berries feed birds." -John Dromgoole

spiraea

Spiraea

Genus: S. nipponica 'Snowmound'
Zones: 3 to 8
Cost: $7 to $40
Expert says: "The tiny cascading summer blossoms are spectacular. But the wild waterfall-like shape of the stems gives great 'fill' to landscapes year-round." -Rebecca Cole, garden designer, New York City

clethra

Clethra

Genus: C. alnifolia varieties
Zones: 3 to 9
Cost: $10 to $25
Expert says: "One plant will perfume a whole yard in August, so I have what my father jokingly called 'a plethora of clethora' next to the porch." -Barbara Damrosch

Tremendous Trees

sourwood

Sourwood

Genus: Oxydendrum arboreum
Zones: 5 to 9
Cost: $15 to $75
Expert says: "The sourwood offers four seasons of interest: late-spring blooms, glossy summer foliage, amazing fall color, and winter seedpods." -Jon Carloftis

apple tree

Apple

Genus: Malus domestica
Zones: 4 to 8
Cost: $10 to $20
Expert says: "Apple trees produce lovely, fragrant pink blooms followed by fruit. Plus, they can be trained on a wall, as espaliers, or bent over arches." -Judy Murphy, landscape architect, Lakeville, Connecticut

swamp white oak

Swamp White Oak

Genus: Quercus bicolor
Zones: 3 to 8
Cost: $25
Expert says: "On a dollar-per-square-foot basis, oaks are an incredible bargain. They may grow 60 feet or more and live for 300 years." -Steve Castorani, nursery owner, Landenberg, Pennsylvania

More from Country Living:
27 New Ways To Landscape Your Yard
The Top Outdoor Design Trends for 2014
The 10 Most Common Gardening Mistakes

13 Plants That Give You Bang For Your Buck originally appeared in Country Living.

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