Carol Klein’s fail-safe plants

Carol Klein's failsafe plants

Torrential rain, freezing cold, record-breaking heat and little or no rainfall – all can put stress on plants and at worst kill them.

New plants will always be the most vulnerable to stress from extreme weather. If you don’t have lots of time to garden, you need to grow plants that can fend for themselves. Fortunately, herbaceous perennials are generally quite a forgiving group and good for this task.

Let your garden choose your plants. If you have damp, heavy soil, avoid perennials that thrive on light, sandy soils – achillea, echinacea and sedum, for example. Sometimes you will see a plant described as a short-lived perennial, such as cultivars of Verbascum chaixii – these plants may last three or four years but cannot be relied on to grace the garden for longer than that, no matter what the conditions. Most perennials, though, have longevity, and because they can be split and increased and moved easily, they are more versatile than shrubs and trees.

October is the perfect time to plant new perennials and divide any existing perennials to give them a boost. Do this in autumn and you’ll enjoy a spectacular display next year, whatever next year’s weather throws at us and our gardens.

More on choosing the right plants:

Discover five fail-safe plants, below.


Symphyotrichum ‘Little Carlow’

Symphyotrichum 'Little Carlow'
Symphyotrichum ‘Little Carlow’

This aster (Michaelmas daisy) has handsome foliage all summer and in September clouds of brilliant blue flowers, which attract butterflies. It tolerates light shade and doesn’t need staking.

Flowers: August-October
Height x spread: 90cm x 45cm


Euphorbia x martini

Euphorbia x martini
Euphorbia x martini with poppies and geraniums

Euphorbia x martini is a cross between two species – a sunbather and a shade lover – and will tolerate a wide range of conditions. Its deep red stems bear large vivid green flowers with crimson eyes.

F: March-July
H x S: 75cm x 75cm


Selinum wallichianum

Selinum wallichianum with Geranium 'Orion'
Selinum wallichianum with Geranium ‘Orion’

Early in the year this plant’s lacy leaves make rosettes like huge green doilies nestling on the ground. By late summer its towering stems push through with umbels of white flowers. Each year it gains in stature.

F: July to September
H x S: 1.8m x 60cm


Gillenia trifoliata

Gillenia trifoliata
Gillenia trifoliata flowers

Bowman’s root lifts dense planting and brings an airiness and grace to any combination. It’s easy to grow in an open border or dappled shade. It’s long-lived, too, and in full growth has luscious autumn colour.

F: June
H x S:
1m x 60cm


Geranium ‘Rozanne’

Geranium 'Rozanne'
Geranium ‘Rozanne’

Geranium ‘Rozanne’ has a cascading habit that makes it ideal in a container. Its flowers are like large chalices, blue with a white centre.

F: May-November
H x S:
60cm x 80cm

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