Show Notes

Today, we talk about easy plants for your yard.  What are the best types of plants?

I cover the topic of annual plants and perennial plants and why these categories are important for you when you want a low maintenance landscape.

Show Notes:

  • Today’s topic: what are annuals and perennials and what they mean for you
  • How to use plants to save time and maximize beauty


  • Last for one growing season
  • Need to replant each year
  • Generally more beauty/pop/accent


  • Last multiple years
  • Short story: Perennials need less planting and establishment
  • Less work overall
    • Design
    • Planting
    • Establishment
    • Weeding
    • Removal

Tips for using easy perennials

  • Hardy, well adapted plants to region
    • Sun
    • Moisture
    • Soil
    • USDA zone
    • fertility
    • Disease & pests
  • Beauty is secondary to hardiness
    • foliage
    • bloom
    • structure
    • mature size
  • Determine long term maintenance needs
    • Division
    • Mature size
    • Lifespan
    • fertility
  • Select plants before going to nursery

Low maintenance Annuals

  • Some annuals are low maintenance
  • Self-sowing annuals
    • Repopulate in same space
  • E.g. marigold at parents’ house

Links for today’s episode:

this is the aesthetic ecosystems podcast

I’m Ben Hale your virtual design guide

to help you and your family have a

healthy beautiful landscape with less

work what’s up and welcome to episode 19

of the aesthetic ecosystems podcast guys

it is a great day here today I’m so

excited you’re here I hope you’re happy

to be here as well and we’re gonna have

a great episode as usual and I just want

to say you know I

when I’m recording this it is is

absolutely gorgeous outside right now so

I pre record these a lot of these

episodes so you know when I record it’s

a little bit before when you’re

listening to it but man it’s just so

beautiful and I’m sure when this episode

comes out it’s also gonna be beautiful

where ever you are and and that’s just

you know kind of my outlook on life as I

try and find beauty in every day and

some days I’ll be honest it can be

really difficult but I hope you work

hard to find beauty and every day and in

any way you can and to to savor that

beauty you know every day is a gift and

and it’s important for us to to figure

out how to how to make each day a gift

and even when it seems difficult so so I

hope you’re finding today finding beauty

in today’s today and finding beauty in

today and and just you know savoring

those moments that you can experience it

every day

all those little moments really add up

to make a big difference so Before we

jump in today’s episode I wanted to

share a little bit about the previous

episodes where where I was wrong that’s


the you know I don’t claim to be an

absolute expert on anything and you know

sometimes I question whether I’m an

expert on anything but um some of the

information I share you know it’s based

on my best knowledge and I’m trying to

help everybody each one of you in any

way I can and and so today I wanted to

share that that I shared some

information in one of the lawn care

episodes that

now I’ve come to realize is not accurate

so I mentioned about watering and how

it’s what time the day is best to

watering and usually it’s recommended

the earlier in the morning you water the

better before the day goes you know the

Sun comes up high in the sky

it gets really bright really hot and

active photosynthesis going on and then

it’s generally not recommended to water

in the middle of the day and same in the

evening but the middle of days was

previously considered kind of the worst

time and because part of that reason is

when droplets of water get on the leaves

it can burn the leaves your foliage of

your plants and actually you know leave

burn spots on your leaves well as it

turns out recent data has come out and

you know this was guidance even that the

the British Royal Horticultural Society

recommended but now I’m there’s some

recent studies that have come out from

some folks in Europe that conducted a

study and couldn’t find any difference

in leaf kill between plants that were

watered during peak sunlight hours and

so it’s well it’s still not great to

water during that time it’s not gonna

hurt your leaves apparently or at least

there’s no data to showing that there

that it will and going on the contrary

it actually you know it might not be bad

for your plants the only downside is

that you have a lot higher evaporation

rate during the hot hours of the day of

course so something to consider there

anyway I wanted to share that tidbit my

goal is to give you the best information

possible based on the information that I

know and and of course yes sometimes I

might say something that isn’t accurate

or is dead wrong and in this case you

know it’s it’s some new findings that

have come out in recent years that I

wasn’t aware of and and while it’s still

not you know definitely not ideal to

water in the middle of the day you’re

not gonna apparently you’re not gonna be

killing your plants like previously

thought anyway let’s get into the meat

of the show today today’s show is about

annuals and perennials for your yard you

may hear a lot about annuals and

perennials you might not even know what

the difference between them are to be

you know there are two very similar

terms and they refer to different growth

habits of plants and life cycles of

plants and sometimes it’s to remember

hard to remember which is which so we’re

gonna get into that today

and we’re gonna try and understand what

is the best for your yard when you’re

looking to design a beautiful and

low-maintenance landscape so you’re

looking to save time in your yard right

that’s why we’re here is is to save time

that’s my goal with this podcast to help

you to save time in your yard and so you

can have more time to do more valuable

things with your life so what are

annuals and perennials and what do they

mean to you that’s really what we’re

gonna try and talk about today I’m gonna

try and cover that broad question or

those two questions and to really help

you understand what it means for you in

your landscape and also I want to help

you learn how to use either annuals or

perennials to save time and maximize

beauty so first what about annuals what

are annuals so annuals are plants that

last for one growing season so this is

something in northern latitudes or

middle latitudes like the Midwest here

usually you have plants that once the

frost kind of falls out and you you

start to warm up a lot of plants will

start growing you know that’s the

beginning of the growing season and then

throughout the summer throughout the

warmer months they’ll grow they’ll

flower they’ll go to seed and they

complete their life cycle all on that

one growing season and then so by the

the frost or by the colder months

they’re finished they’re done and and

that’s it and then the next year it’s

the next generation of that species that

comes up and grows so that’s kind of the

life cycle of an annual plant when

you’re talking about annuals in your

garden these are plants that you need to

replant them each year because of that

so let’s take for example a zinnia very

beautiful flower you can get it as a

start or start it from seed in your own

garden but um you plant it it’s it

provides you a lot of beauty

but then by the end of the season it’s

done and you’re going to need

replanted again so so that’s an example

of an annual and and while they can

provide a lot of beauty they they also

are potentially more work because you

have to plant them at the same time so

the thing with annuals is you you can

actually generally get more beauty so

the summer annuals are very beautiful

they’ve been cultivated to to provide a

lot of beauty in a short amount of time

with their their life cycle but they’re

also at the same time more work so you

get more Beauty a more of a pop more of

an accent but they’re also more work

because you have to plant them each year

into potentially either grow them from

seed or access them from some sort of

new nursery stock okay so that’s the

short story on annuals so basically

again just a quick recap you get it for

a short period of time you can get a lot

buta Beauty out of them it provides you

a lot of versatility from year to year

if you like that you know change in

style factor but the trade-off is it’s a

lot of work to to plan to plant and to

maintain so each time you plant them you

have to make sure you’re establishing

them properly to make sure they get off

on the right foot or the right route and

sorry that was like a really bad dad pun

I guess but hey I’m a dad and I’m really

working hard on I’m getting some good

ones anyway alright so at your expense

let’s move on to perennials so

perennials are your plants that last for

multiple years so some perennials are

short-lived perennials a lot of your

herbaceous flowers our short-lived

perennials and some of them are very

long-lived perennials can last for many

many many years and so example of

short-lived perennial is actually a very

popular echinacea purpurea is your

purple coneflower and that generally

we’re actually we have some that are a

couple years old right now in our front

garden or what’s left of our front

garden and and they’re kind of fizzling

out this year so they really need to be

a lot of those types of plants they do

every few years and they need some work

to be divided and once you divide the

roots a lot of times they’ll they’ll pop

back the following year so usually you

do that when the end of the season

the end of the growing season when

they’re starting to become doormen is

the best time to divide most plants but

you know that’s a general recommendation

it’s important to whatever plant you

have to just check what the best time to

propagate it is and to how to take care

of it so anyway I’m a little too much

detailed us so perennials are the plants

that last multiple years

and the short story for perennials is

that they need less planting and less

establishment because you’re only

establishing them once or maybe every

couple years and that’s it

and so while I’m you know trying to give

this a an unbiased perspective about

these plants I think it’s pretty obvious

which my favorites are and so let’s just

talk a little bit more about perennials

so for perennials you’ve got less work

overall that’s the real message here is

from a design standpoint from planting

from establishment weeding and removal

so for the design phase you know you’re

talking about one time you plan how or

what perennials you want to have in what

space how big they’re gonna grow how

often you might have to divide them and

how far ever spread they’re gonna make

if they’re a spreading type of plant if

they’re a clumping plant plant you just

plan how many do you need how often do

you do you need to divide it if it just

needs division every couple years or how

often you might need to replant it with

the same plant from planting and

establishment I think that speaks for


you have to do it less often right the

weeding piece and removal piece once

your plants are better established you

have less weeding because you have less

disturbance of your soil and you also

have less takes less exposed soil over

long term so so it actually leads to

fewer weeds which is really awesome and

you know there’s a piece a lot of people

overlook with perennial plantings so

it’s something to consider there for

sure and of course with the annuals you

have to remove the dead material and

actually sometimes dig it out of the

ground or whatever which is I guess a

bit more rare but perennials you know

you kind of just kind of pull back the

dead material quickly and leave the

roots for the next growing season and

that’s it so here’s some tips for using

perennials so if it’s not obvious

already my

preferences perennials because there are

a lot less work so in our landscape we

have primarily perennial plants I mean

in my design principles I use primarily

perennial plants now there are a few

exceptions which we’ll get into later

but for now let’s just focus on some

perennials and how to use them

appropriately because if you do not use

your perennials appropriately they can

be a lot of work and that’s not what we

want here so first you want to select

plants that are Hardy and well adapted

to your region so if you don’t select

plants that are well adapted to your

specific location and to your region

you’re gonna be dealing with a lot of

work through amendments and taking care

of them over the long term and that’s

not what we want what we want here is

something that we can establish get on a

good footing pretty quickly hopefully

and once it’s going it’s kind of leave

it on its own and and take care of it

every once in a while not have to deal

with disease issues or feeding issues

fertility issues or any sort of plant

weaknesses that might need work or

irrigation so we want to avoid as much

of that as possible and and so there’s a

lot of several factors to consider I’m

going to point out a few here and and of

course the other piece with that too is

that we want to get a moat the most

beauty out of that as possible you know

here we’re not talking about just kind

of leaving your landscape go to to

natural scrub land or whatever or to be

invaded with you know your your local

palette of invasive exotics here we’re

talking about getting a lot of beauty

but also reducing work as much as

possible and so how do we do that with

our perennials well with your hearty and

well adapted plants what we’re talking

about here is you want to look at the

specific area you’re planting or you’re

planning for and you want to understand

what’s the Sun requirements for that

area and match that to the plant what

what type of sunlight the plant can


same with moisture so what’s the

available moisture in that area you know

you might have some high spots and low

spots and those are going to be very

different in their moisture

over time and and also what’s the the

general climatic moisture in your area

so do you have very very dry summers for

example and you also want to understand

your soil so I’ve recommended many times

to get a soil test and this is another

great reason to point out why it’s

helpful to have a soil test from your

local County Extension Office your local

University Extension or there’s several

other kind of private soil testing labs

as well you can find and and sow a soil

test will tell you what type of soil you

have how much organic matter you have

what’s your fertility what type of

mineral availability you have and those

sorts of things what’s your pH these are

all very important for understanding

what plants to put in that specific area

so next you want to understand and this

is these aren’t in any specific order

that I probably should have mentioned

this first is what’s your USDA zone

that’s kind of like one of the basic

things to understand about your space

when you’re thinking about plants is

what’s your USDA zone and what that is

if you’re not familiar with it is is the

United States is divided up kind of

almost with horizontal lines going

across latitudes but there’s there’s

changes of course with the mountainous

regions in the West and various weather

changes throughout the United States

that affects this but but in general as

you go up north across the United States

you you go you go down in number for you

your USDA zone and this basically is

rated on the low temperature of the

areas the average low temperature over a

general time period and these numbers

basically tell you what plants can grow

in that condition so if you grow a plant

that’s adapted to let’s say an avocado

tree right something a lot of people are

familiar with you can’t grow avocados in

southeastern Ohio outdoors because they

can’t survive the winter so the roots

will actually die because the soil gets

too cold in vice versa a lot of apples

for example they’re not native to you

know North America but but apples can’t

actually grow

in the southern climates because there’s

not enough cold for for the plants to go

through their lifecycle as there’s

they’re adapted to and so there’s kind

of trade-offs both ways and of course

with these climatic changes as well you

have differences and a moisture

availability and evaporation rates and

all sorts of other things and so it’s

important to make sure that you’re

planting a plant that is adapted to your

USDA zone okay so the other piece is

fertility I kind of touched upon it with

the soil piece but if you have very low

fertility this is something you can

adjust over time it’s not something you

can kind of just flip a switch but but

if you’re establishing in garden bed or

whatever you can really do a lot to help

boost the fertility with addition of

amendments specifically compost and

topsoil and something may have to manage

over the short term if you really want a

higher fertility space but there are

also plants that are adapted to low

fertility conditions so understanding

what your fertility is in your space and

what you’re willing to do to maybe nurse

the plant in the short term if it needs

a higher fertility or to select plants

that are really well adapted to your

your lower fertility conditions the next

is disease and pests of course

so what plants are disease resistant so

understanding what what susceptibilities

the plants you’re considering have and

and if there’s alternatives that that

may be closely related or may just have

similar structure and form or color that

you’re looking for and that you could

trade off to obtain the the desired

outcome with with more resilience so

those are kind of some tips for

selecting Hardy plants for your region

and also your specific space and the

next point I want to make is that beauty

is secondary to hardiness so you may

really really want like your your

awesome I don’t know an orchid right you

may you may want an orchid garden in

your front yard right so just to kind of

pick an extreme example well

orchids aren’t exactly a

did to most people’s front yards and so

it’s actually a pretty extreme condition

for something like an orchid to grow and

so you can’t just have you know that’s

why you don’t partly why you don’t see

orchid gardens in people’s front yards

right as it’s a lot of work to maintain

the conditions necessary for that plant

to thrive and to do it in a way where

it’s going to provide beautiful being

blooms on a consistent basis frequently

enough free to enjoy it so that’s just

an example of first you want to select

for hardiness and adaptability to your

space and secondly then you look for

beauty okay so so what plants are

adapted to my space and then what of

those types of plants provide the beauty

I’m looking for or similar types of

beauty that I’m looking for for my space

so that’s kind of so a way to think

about it and so when you’re talking

about that of course you want to think

about your foliage so the kind of the

texture of your foliage or the color the

bloom the same thing so your your size

of blooms your colors of blooms the

timing of your blooms the structure of

your plants so how does it look is it a

loose structure it is a very dense

structure does it provide like a

columnar form or an upright form or is

it kind of a spreading thing those are

all important things and then of course

the mature size as well so if you’re

talking about a grunt ground cover

it’s a spreading ground cover how wide

will it spread is it indefinite how over

what timeframe or if it’s a clumping

type perennial how why does the clump

grow how tall is it growth it’s you know

next to your front window you don’t want

it to completely cover your front window

after two years or by the end of the

growing season you know you know if you

plant a bunch of sunflowers right in

front of your front window they’re gonna

be covering up your front window by the

end of the summer same with trees or

shrubs this is very very important

because those are generally even longer

term plants so it’s really important to

consider those so after we consider all

those kind of design and beauty aspects

we also want to understand our long-term

maintenance need for perennials so do

you need to divide them

every few years so this goes back to

what I said earlier in the episode about

some perennials they’re actually

short-lived perennials but you can

extend their lifespan by dividing them

so they kind of get in renewed vigor by

you know you’re actually stressing the

plant but what it does is it is it kind

of forces the plant to put out new roots

and almost kind of like turns it into

the younger plant again and and then you

have two plants because you’re dividing

it right so do you need to divide them

every few years do you do you understand

the mature size of the plant just to

echo that again because it’s really


what’s the lifespan of your plant so is

it a two year perennial so a biennial

right or is this a 20-year plant or does

it kind of fade off after about four or

five years and you should consider a

replanting schedule so these are all

things you want to figure out and

determine what are your interests to

maintain that and whether it fits into

your lifestyle and last of course long

term maintenance needs we want to

understand what’s the fertility needs of

this plant so this is anything from your

lawn to your gardens to your trees that

you have in your landscape what are the

long-term fertility needs and does that

match what you have available on your

site or does it match the amount of work

you’re willing to invest to maintain

that fertility and and that’s really

important because if your plant doesn’t

have the right amount of fertility it

doesn’t have the right amount of health

it’s going to be going to be susceptible

to disease and stress issues and you’re

going to deal with a lot of problems

then and it’s going to be a lot more

work so you kind of see how this all

fits together okay and of course the

last thing I want to point out here with

your perennials is you want to do this

whole selection process before you go to

the nursery because once you have the

nursery you’re going to be overwhelmed

by all the choices in front of you and

it’s a poor display of information

you’re looking at the plant itself as

opposed to trying to understand all

these elements to determine what’s the

right fit for you and here’s the reality

nurseries don’t always supply the

low-maintenance plants that are best for

your landscape

they’re going to supply what creates

sales for them so what what makes the

nursery money and if people are going to

buy it then they’re going to try and

provide it for you and so that doesn’t

mean that everything at your local

nursery is going to be the best plant

for your landscape that’s kind of up to

you or your designer to decide if you if

you’re trying to work with a designer

here but make sure again as I’ve said in

previous episodes that your designer

understands your intent for a

low-maintenance landscape because a lot

of designers design for beauty and so

you want to make it abundantly clear

that you’re looking for a landscape that

has beauty and less work and and so

that’s just an aside there to make sure

that if you’re working with somebody

else on this that you really make it

clear to them that that your intent is

to reduce the amount of time you have to

spend a unplanned you know you want to

be able to be in your landscape when you

want to not when your plants want to I

guess that’s what I’m trying to

articulate here so so yeah make it on

your terms right maybe you do want to be

in your landscape you don’t have to be

working in your landscape you want to be

enjoying it right so make sure that’s

abundantly clear to both yourself or the

person who’s designing your landscape

okay so yeah select your plants before

you go to the nursery that’s that’s a

very very common mistake and it gets us

into a lot of trouble I’ve been there

I’ve done it I probably do it again

someday and I will kick myself for it so

just make sure you’re aware of that

because it will help you plan things

appropriately as opposed to make

mistakes that are going to make you have

to go back to the nursery again for

something better for your space okay so

the last piece I want to say here after

we’ve so we’ve kind of wrapped up what I

wanted to say about perennials okay now

I want to step back to annuals once more

just very briefly and to point out that

some are low maintenance and you know

you you’re probably thinking hold on a

minute you just said annuals are more

work because you have to plant them

every week every year

well that’s true for the most part

however there are some annuals that are

self reseeding okay so that basically

means once they can

their growth cycle they’ve flowered

they’ve gone to seed and then they

actually dropped their seed okay so

those seeds some some annuals are

vigorous enough where those seeds will

self Rieger Minh eight the next year and

you’ll get a space or an area that that

is very abundantly reproduced with the

same annuals year to year now you may

have to manage it somewhat to reseed it

on occasion or to kind of you know pull

out the ones that are are spreading to a

space you don’t want but in general you

can get some annuals that give you the

effect of a perennial essentially where

you don’t have to be out there actively

maintaining the space and you get the

beauty want out of the manual

so essentially what they’re doing is

they’re new plants repopulating in the

same space so they’re filling the space

that was left by its parent the previous

year so a great example of this is a

little small grouping of marigolds in my

parents front yard so when I was pretty

young I planted some marigold seeds in

my mom’s front garden I’m sure it was

with her permission and these marigolds

have essentially come back every year

for many many years and I you know to be

honest I haven’t popped my head out

there to see if if they’re there this

year or not but but these these

marigolds are an annual generally

speaking at least in our climate this

type of marigold is an annual and and

however though the the seeds have

dropped each year in that same space and

we get a couple marigold plants that

come back up every year in the same

space since it’s a nice little pop of

beauty of deep orange and yellow and a

little bit of red that we get each year

in late summer so it’s pretty fun so

that’s an example of a very

low-maintenance annual that’s just kind

of taking care of itself for many years

on end so that’s essentially what I have

for today guys this is a relatively

short episode compared to some of them

but I hope you’ve gotten a lot of value

out of this and I hope this has given

you clarity on

the difference between annuals and

perennials and also understanding what

that means for your landscape so that’s

really important is to understand what

what translates to less work but still

getting a lot of beauty out of your

landscape that’s why we’re here is we

want to take away the work from our

landscape that’s required for ongoing

maintenance and we want to give that

work back to something more important

and we’re going to give that time back

to something more important so something

more important for your life that you

can follow your passions spend time with

your family have more time to just relax


all those things are very important and

and we don’t need to be spending it on

just maintaining our landscape and so

that’s what these episodes are all about

and I hope you’ve enjoyed them so far so

one thing I want to say before we go is

that I have a low maintenance plants

giveaway where there’s a short list of

some examples of low maintenance plants

that are most likely going to work well

in your landscape now I will put the

caveat in that you know I’m best at

understanding what works for the eastern

United States and so a lot of these

plants are specific to the eastern

United States now that said there are a

lot of similar species that are on this

list that are also adapted to the

mountainous regions or the western US so

across the Rockies over ready you folks

over in California and such so it’s

still worth checking out and it’s a good

reference just to understand a few

examples of plants a lot of these are

actually native plants too which is

really cool so you get a lot of beauty

but you also know that you’re you’re

kind of helping the native environment

at the same time so it’s pretty cool so

go check it out I have a link in the

show notes here for you so you just go

click on that link you can get your low

maintenance plants giveaway and with

that too if if this is something where

you’d like a little bit of help on I do

offer consultation so if you want to

check out my consultation options you

can go over again check a link in the

show notes or go over to aesthetic

ecosystems comm slash consulting and you

can see the options right there with

that guys you know I want to say ask a

question on the podcast page aesthetic

ecosystems calm

/ pod and they’re right in front you’ll

see a button to click and ask a question

you can get an answer directly for me if

you like if you have any questions about

your landscape and of course all these

links are going to be in the show notes

so with that go out get in your

landscape make positive difference in

your life thanks for tuning in and make

sure you live with passion and make

tomorrow better than today