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South Dakota Home Garden: Bullet Proof Plants

Carnations belong to the Dianthus Family


Today we're going to talk about bulletproof plants. You may think you don't have a green thumb and you're really scared to even try any plants. Erik Helland with Landscape Garden Centers will give you maybe half a dozen good plants you shouldn't be able to kill. Some suggestions are for full sun and some that are in partial shade or shade. But remember, most of these, if not all these plants need to have well-drained soil. We keep on saying that, but well-drained soil will make your life so much easier. And what do I mean when I say well-drained soil? If you dig a little bit of a hole and you pour water into it, and the water sits there for days upon end that is not well-drained soil. What you want to have is, when you dig a hole, you pour water into it, it takes a period of time, maybe an hour or half an hour for it to drain away, that would be well-drained soil. If you need to make well-drained soil, you're going to have to remove a bunch of the poorer soil, add organic matter into there, and then make sure that it's draining away from where these plants are going to go. 

Yellow is a popular color for daylilies.



Let's get to the plants. Some of the diehards we always know are daylilies. Daylilies are tried and true, the easiest plants and they will reproduce and they're easy to share. If your neighbor has a whole bunch of these, go ahead and ask them if you can actually divide a couple plants.  Or, you could just buy them.   Daylilies are really easy. They will keep on coming back year after year, it is a perennial. It will flower once each season, typically during the summertime. Daylilies come in a variety of colors, a lot of yellows and oranges, reds and purples. That will be really good color palette to choose from.  They will probably be anywhere from 18 inches to two feet tall, with some of the flowers getting up to three feet tall. 


One plant that is good for shade, hostas. Hostas are hot, they are popular, they're easy to grow. Once again, you need well-drained soil.  The hosta has so many different variations of the leaf. Some of them will have a blue tint. These will flower once per season also.  They will shoot up a stem with the flowers on them. Typically, the flower colors are going to be a white or a lavender. Expect blooms later on in the summer.

Hostas are a diverse group of plants.

Another prime plant for shade is the bleeding heart or dicentra.  It’s a very, very nice plant to have. It'll have these little heart shaped flowers that come out. But it's a very, very tough plant.  Once again, this is a perennial. That means the plant is going to grow throughout the year, flower. and then at the end of the year it'll just die back to the ground. 

Bleeding hearts are also known as Dicentra.

All of these perennials are really awesome because they can be shared. They're shareable plants. So if you see them at your parents' house, the best time to split them is going to be in the spring or the fall.   You can just go and take a section of the plant, but make sure that plant is big enough.  A plant that is 12 inches in diameter would probably be the best.  You just take a quarter off, remove it and make sure you plant it at the same depth. 

Another good solid plant is, of course, the Iris. Irises are really tough, they will spread. Iris are good to have in an area where they're allowed to spread. But they also have perimeters.   They basically need to be surrounded by a house, a building, concrete something that keeps them confined. These do really well facing east, in full sun.   Iris blooms vary in color from cool hues to warm yellows.  There is a shade for everyone. 

Loosen the soil of the root ball before you place your plant in its new location.

Another one that's been used a lot is Nepeta, cat mint. This one is very fragrant. It is a lower growing plant, about two to three feet wide. It's bulletproof, you cannot go wrong with these. These will want full sun. When you're going to place a plant,  dig a hole the size of the pot plus two to three inches around the outside of it. You also want to dig an inch or so deeper too, and make sure that soil is loose. Once you take it out of the container, you're going to place it into the ground, then tuck the soil around it. When you have roots that are exposed, you can scratch those roots apart. That way they grow into the softer soil. 

Dianthus would like full sun, well-drained soil. It does very well. It's a great one for spring blooming. 

Just remember, you may think you don't have a green thumb, but these plants will convince yourself that you can actually grow something. 

Nepta, or catmint, offers purple blooms.  In this image, Dianthus contrasts with red.