When you plant a single variety of plants in multiples, it can bring focus and drama to your garden landscape. The eye perceives more color and texture when waves of the same plant provide a continuous bridge from one part of the garden to the next.
It’s also an easy way to plant and to fill in a large area—and easier to maintain than the same spot filled with individual specimens that require different care and have different bloom times. When planting in multiples, plant odd numbers of plants (3, 5, 7 etc.) together or amass larger numbers in drifts or waves.
Dutch designer, Piet Oudolf used multiple planting as the designer of the ‘blooming blue ‘river’ of Salvia in the Lurie Garden at Millennium Park in Chicago. (To learn more, visit www.luriegarden.org or a watch a video of Piet Oudolf, himself, at http://vimeo.com.) The hard-working perennials, below, have been included in successful gardens for years and will be sure to please for many years to come.
Classic Plants for sun/part sun:
Salvia ‘May Night’ (Meadow sage): A drought-hardy plant with lance-shaped, green leaves and spikes of small purple-blue flowers that bloom in spring—reaching 18”-24” in height. Salvia thrives in a sunny area with well-drained soil. After its first bloom, cut back each spent bloom at the base and flowers will bloom again within a month.
Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’ (Coneflower or Black-eyed Susan): Plant drifts of this hardy plant with golden-yellow flowers and a brown/black eye. It is pest-resistant and native to North America—blooming from mid-summer to fall. Bring inside as cut flowers, too.
Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ (Stonecrop): An adaptable and dependable plant with succulent-like leaves and flowers that bloom from August to November in deep pink to copper tones. They look wonderful with fall grasses as a background. Butterflies are also attracted to their flowers. Sedum love a sunny location with moist soil but are adaptable to a drier soil.
Sedum spectabile ‘Brilliant’ (Stonecrop): An old-fashioned perennial with cabbage-like, succulent leaves. Clusters of starry, hot pink flowers bloom in late summer through autumn. This compact plant prefers a sunny location with well-drained soil but can endure clay soil. It is extremely heat tolerant and butterflies are attracted to its flower.
Hemerocallis ‘Stella de Oro’ (Dwarf daylily): Here’s a perennial that can live through all sorts of abuse. This perky daylily has buttercup-yellow flowers that will bloom all summer once it gets started. Its small stature is perfect for containers, around a pool, patio or in the front of the border. They thrive in full to sun to partial shade and mature to a height of 18” to 24” tall. Deer tend to dislike them.
Coreopsis (Tickseed): Choose from many old-fashioned varieties of Coreopsis with daisy-like flowers that range from light-yellow to gold with red markings. They bloom throughout the summer and butterflies love them yet the deer do not.
Classic Plants for partial sun/shade:
Hosta sieboldiana ‘Elegans’ (Plantain Lily): ‘Elegans’ has a classic, blue-gray-green hosta with 12” rounded leaves. This hardy shade plant matures to 30” tall over time. White flowers bloom in July through August on 40” stems. This workhorse of a plant even tolerates dry shade.
Hosta ‘Francee’ (Plantain Lily): This hosta is an old favorite because it is so easy to grow. ‘Francee’ has dark green, heart-shaped leaves with white margins. The plant matures to a size of 2’ tall and 3’ wide. Lavender flowers bloom in early summer. It prefers moist, well-drained soil and is a very tolerant plant.
Astilbe x arendsii ‘Fanal’: Astilbe is a showy perennial for full to partially shady locations. This astilbe has garnet-red, feathery blooms and bronze-green foliage. It looks its best in mass plantings—blooming from mid-spring to summer in a consistently, moist soil. Matures to 2’ tall. Attracts butterflies and is deer resistant.
Astilbe x arendsii ‘Deutschland’: The flowers of this astilbe become feathery, white plumes and are real showstoppers in full to partial shade. The plants looks their best when planted in multitudes. They’ll bloom for weeks in summer with consistently moist soil. Matures to 1’ tall and 3’ wide. Attracts butterflies, yet is deer resistant. Perfect for borders, containers, very wet areas or even water gardens.
Sedum Sod: Talk about planting in multiples! This new product comes as a flat of densely-planted, low-growing sedum plants such as golden Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina,’ the brilliant-red Dragon’s Blood and a variety of other very textural, sedum groundcovers. It is perfect for planting on a sunny patio between brick, flagstones or bluestone or for making an instant trough container.
For more gardening advice and maintenance tips, visit our website's Expert Advice section.