Top 10 Sustainable Plants
You may already know that smart plant selection is the single most important way to create a low-maintenance, high-enjoyment garden.
Phipps offers a list of Top 10 Sustainable Plants, selected for their non-invasive habits, as well as their resistance to disease and insects. Once established, they require minimal watering and fertilization. Many of these plants are on display in the Outdoor Garden at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. Also, look for the Project Green Heart tag at local nurseries.
For a complete list of sustainable plants recommended by Phipps staff members, click here.
Top 10 Sustainable Plants for 2008
Cornelian Cherry Dogwood
Small tree with arching branches that can reach 20-25' tall. Known for its frothy display of yellow flowers presented on bare twigs in early spring, and bright red cherry-like drupes in summer. Attractive, flaky bark.
Find the Cornelian Cherry Dogwood at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
Small tree with a wide spreading habit that typically grows 12-20' tall. Spring-blooming, fragrant flowers feature airy clusters (4-6" long) of fringe-like, creamy white petals. The blue-black fruit attracts birds. Prefers moist, well-drained soil and full sun.
Find the Fringetree at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
Japanese White Pine
Evergreen conifer with bluish-green needles that typically grows 30-50' tall. Trees are pyramidal when young, but with age develop a more spreading habit and flatter top. Requires good drainage and full sun.
Find the Japanese White Pine at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
Slow-growing conifer which typically reaches 30-50' in height. Over time, its exfoliating bark reveals a patchwork of white, olive, light purple and silver. Initially pyramid-shaped, it becomes more open and flat-topped with maturity. Prefers well-drained soil and full sun. Tolerant of high pH.
Find the Lacebark Pine at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
Native deciduous shrub growing 3-5' tall and wide. It blooms in early spring producing fragrant, white bottlebrush flowers. The blue-green foliage turns flaming orange to burgundy in the fall. Prefers full sun to partial shade and acid soil.
Find the Dwarf Fothergilla at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
Ilex verticillata 'Red Sprite' and 'Jim Dandy'
'Red Sprite' is a 3-4' tall deciduous shrub that is ideal for a smaller landscape. A female selection, this variety produces bright red berries in fall that remain on the plant through winter. Fruit set requires the male, 'Jim Dandy', for pollination. Prefers moist, acid soil.
Find the Winterberry Holly at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
Winter Gem Boxwood
Buxus microphylla 'Winter Gem'
A very cold-hardy and densely branched, broadleaved evergreen that shears well and retains its green foliage through winter, making it an attractive landscape choice. A moderate grower reaching 2-3' tall and wide. Full sun to part shade.
Find the Winter Gem Boxwood at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
Blue Star Flower
Easy-to-grow, clump-forming 2-3' high plant with star-shaped blue blossoms in spring. Attracts butterflies. Happy in full sun to partial shade. In fall, the willow-shaped leaves turn bright yellow.
Find the Blue Star Flower at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
Baptisia australis and cultivars
Upright plant with lupine-like, bright flowers that can reach 3' in height. The flower stalks rise a foot above plants and bloom in early summer. Makes a dense, shrub-like clump of very attractive blue-green foliage that stands up to heat. Large enough to use as a single specimen. Prefers full sun and room to spread.
Find the False Indigo at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
Big, bold daisies that add oomph to any garden. Plants produce a 30" flowering clump that blooms from midsummer to early autumn. Attracts bees and butterflies. After flowering, the blooms make attractive seed heads which can be left over winter to feed the birds. Prefers full sun and well-drained soil.
Find the Coneflower at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
Top 10 Sustainable Plants for 2009
Slowly spreading, clump forming perennial has heart shaped foliage that is evergreen in some varieties. Dainty flowers in shades of pink, yellow, purple or white, depending on variety. Grow in fertile, moist, humus-rich, well-drained soil; partial shade. Does well in dry shade once established.
Find the Barrenwort at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
Exceptional widespreading, suckering, shrub reaching 8–12' in height and 8–15' in width. Medium to dark green summer foliage turns yellow-green in fall. Outstanding white, upright, 8–12" flower panicles bloom in late June to July. Plant this native in moist, well-drained soil enriched with organic matter in full sun to shade. Especially nice for massing.
Find the Bottlebrush Buckeye at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
Syringa meyeri 'Palibin'
This small, compact lilac, reaching just 4–5' in height and 5–7' in width, is useful in small gardens. It blooms heavily, starting at a young age, with reddish purple buds opening to whitish pink, very fragrant flowers. And, unlike most lilacs, it is extremely resistant to mildew! Plant in full sun (it will tolerate very light shade) in average well drained soil.
Find the Palibin Lilac at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
An attractive perennial for shade to semi-shade, lungwort is grown for its attractive, low-growing, clumping foliage which is often spotted. Early spring flowers appear in shades of pink and blue or a combination. Grow in moist to average welldrained soil that is rich in organic matter. Excellent for shade garden and as a shady groundcover. Many excellent and beautiful cultivars available.
Find the Lungwort at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
Helenium autunmale ‘Mardi Gras’
This deer and rabbit resistant, butterfly attracting perennial features daisy-like flowers with yellow petals edged in bright orange-red, surrounding a deep brown center cone; blooms for 6 to 8 weeks in mid to late summer and grows 36–40" high by 24–36" wide. Grow in moist, well-drained soil in full sun. Cut back in early spring to promote branching. Nice cut flower.
Find the Sneezeweed at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
This slow growing tree with upright-oval form gets up to 20–30' in height. Beautiful exfoliating bark, cinnamon to red-brown in color, starts to develop on second year wood. Dark green summer leaves change to russet red, bronze or red combinations in fall. Plant in moist, well-drained soil in full sun. Nice specimen or accent plant.
Find the Paperbark Maple at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
Attractive, deeply cut green foliage is topped with beautiful, large blue flowers from early summer to frost on this easy, carefree spreading herbaceous perennial. Foliage turns reddish-brown in fall. Plant in moist, welldrained soil in full sun to part shade. Disease and pest free and deer resistant.
2008 Perennial Plant of the Year
Find the Rozanne™ Cranesbill at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
Hamamelis x intermedia
Large multi-stemmed shrub or small tree, (10–20' in height), excellent for early bloom and fall color; long lasting, spider-like, fragrant flowers in shades from yellow to red, depending on variety, generally appear in March, opening and closing with the weather. Nice gray green foliage turns to shades of yellow to yelloworange in the fall. Plant in moist, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade.
Find the Witchhazel at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
Chamaecyparis obtusa cultivars
Beautiful evergreen with shiny dark green foliage, arranged in fan-shaped sprays. Although the species becomes a very large tree, there are numerous excellent cultivars for landscape use from rock garden size to those reaching over 10' in height. Grow in most, well-drained soil in full sun to very light shade.
Find the Hinoki Falsecypress at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
Dense, multi-branched, broadleaved evergreen shrub with lustrous, dark green foliage year round. Medium fine texture with ½ to 1" leaves. Grows best in moist, well drained, slightly acidic soil in sun or part shade. Withstands severe pruning, but pruning not generally needed. Drought tolerant once established. Numerous slow growing cultivars are available in a variety of sizes and forms.
Find the Japanese Holly at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
Top 10 Sustainable Plants for 2010
Autumn Joy Stonecrop
Hylotelephium telephium (Sedum) 'Herbstfreude'
This 2 to 3 foot garden perennial is easy to grow and boasts broad, rounded clusters of star-shaped, pale pink flowers that appear in late summer to fall above waxy green leaves. It is very attractive to bees and butterflies. Plant in average, well-drained soil in full sun.
Find the Autumn Joy Stonecrop at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
This multi-stemmed large shrub or small tree (15 to 25 feet in height), is beautiful throughout the seasons. Fragrant clusters of snowy white flowers appear in spring, followed by edible violet-red berries. In the fall, colors change from yellow to orange to red, and the bark is smooth and streaked with gray. Plant in average, well-drained soil in part to full sun.
Find the Common Serviceberry at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
This fast-growing, deciduous conifer can reach 50 feet after 15 to 20 years, and eventually reaches a height of 70 to
100 feet. The redwood has a uniform, conical shape, reddish-brown exfoliating bark and bright green needles which change to brownish-orange in fall. Grows best in deep, moist, well-drained soils and full sun.
Find the Dawn Redwood at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
A perennial with wide, heart-shaped leaves, the foam flower spreads rapidly to form a carpeting ground cover. Leaves are green with burgundy-stained veins, and the foliage turns bronze-red in fall. In spring, pyramidal panicles of starry, creamy white flowers emerge. Plant in moist, humus-rich soil, in part to full shade.
Find the Foam Flower at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
Rhus aromatica 'Gro-Low'
A dwarf selection of fragrant sumac, this dense, low-growing deciduous shrub has aromatic leaves and twigs. The fragrant sumac typically grows 1 to 2 feet tall, and can spread to 8 feet wide. Tiny yellow flowers bloom in early spring. In late summer, male flowers give way to yellowish female flowers called catkins, which precede small clusters of hairy, red berries. Green leaves turn orange and red in fall. Tolerant of a wide range of soils, the fragrant sumac grows best in average, well-drained soil and full sun to part shade.
Find the Fragrant Sumac at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Gold Mop'
This slow-growing, hardy evergreen conifer has golden-yellow, scale-like leaves and cascading branchlets which form low, lacy mounds. Medium in texture, it grows 3 to 5 feet high and thrives in light shade, and moist, humus-rich, well-drained soil.
Find the Japanese Falsecypress at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
This perennial ground cover has light-green, velvety leaves and greenish-yellow, star-shaped flowers which appear in clusters above the foliage. Leaves are particularly attractive after a rain, as they appear to sparkle with collected water droplets. The lady's mantle grows best in average to moist well-drained soil and full sun to part shade.
Find the Lady's Mantle at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
Hydrangea paniculata 'Chantilly Lace'
The 'Chantilly Lace' panicle hydrangea is a beautiful, fast-growing hydrangea with a smaller, more upright habit than other panicle hydrangeas. Grows 5 to 7 feet tall, with a 4 to 6 foot spread. Large ivory pyramidal flower clusters bloom in mid to late summer, and age to a soft pink. Flowers are long-lasting, and also great for arrangements. This hydrangea grows best in part to full shade, and average, humus-rich, well-drained soil.
Find the Panicle Hydrangea at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
This large, ornamental grass grows up to
5 feet in neat clumps. Green blades are narrow and densely packed; they can turn yellow or reddish orange in fall, and tan in winter. In mid-summer, the grass flowers in red to purple large airy plumes, giving a soft appearance. This tough plant will withstand a range of well-drained soils, and is reasonably drought tolerant once established. Plant in full sun. A number of exceptional cultivars are available.
Find the Switchgrass at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
With many bright, golden yellow daisies during summer, this perennial attracts butterflies and other pollinators. If pruned occasionally, flowers will bloom into the fall. The threadleaf tickseed has a very fine texture, with thread-like green foliage, and its fall color makes a great addition to the garden. Clump forming and slow spreading, it will grow 8 to 12 inches high, and 18 to 32 inches wide. This perennial is easy to grow, and loves full sun. Plant in average, well-drained soil.
Find the Threadleaf Tickseed at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
Top 10 Sustainable Plants for 2011
Red Hot Poker
A striking member of the lily family, sporting bright orange-red flower spikes on tall stems from late spring to early summer; attracts bees and butterflies. Green grassy, semi-evergreen arching foliage. Will form dense clumps, and grow to a height of 2–4' and 1–2' wide. Grows best in well-drained, average soil and part to full sun.
Find the Red Hot Poker at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
Reliably beautiful, drought tolerant and tough perennial that attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. Stiff, sword-like leaves form upright clumps. In summer, orange flowers with red and yellow markings appear, followed by clusters of small, glossy black fruits reminiscent of blackberries. Plant in well-drained, average soil and part to full sun. To avoid self-sowing, remove seed heads.
Find the Blackberry Lily at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
A hardy, early blooming shade perennial known for its winter interest. Can grow to 18–24" tall, and 24–30" wide, slowly spreading. White to pink, cup-shaped flowers bloom in winter and early spring. Thick, smooth leaves are evergreen and deer resistant. Grows best in rich, moist, well-drained soil, in part to full shade.
Find the Lenten Rose at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
Polygonatum odoratum ‘Variegatum’
A hardy herbaceous perennial for part to full shade. In spring, arched stems support elegant medium-green leaves with streaked white edges. Bell-like white flowers bloom in May and June, followed by spherical black fruits and yellow foliage in fall. Clumps will slowly spread. Plant in fertile, moist, well-drained soil.
Find the Variegated Fragrant
Solomon’s Seal at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
Little Bunny Fountaingrass
This perennial grass forms neat, compact mounds of pale to medium green blades, which reach a height and width of 12–18". Large feathery, ivory-colored flower spikes in summer. Leaves and flowers turn a wheat color in fall, and last through winter. Looks best when planted in masses, and will attract birds. Drought tolerant, grows best in average, well-drained soil, and full sun.
Find the Little Bunny Fountaingrass at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
A giant of the ornamental grasses, gray-green, arching leaves form tall dense mounds, up to 5' tall, and 4–6' wide. Large feathery blooms of silver-purple flowers rise to an impressive 8–12' tall in late summer, and once dry persist through winter. Attracts birds. Grows best in moist, well-drained soil and full sun.
Find the Plume Grass at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
A hardy shrub with a bushy habit, reaching 3–10' tall and 3–8' wide. Arching branches hold bright green, glossy leaves, which turn dark red and burgundy in the fall lasting partly into winter. Creamy white, drooping, fragrant panicles bloom late spring to early summer and attract butterflies. Grows well in full sun to full shade, and thrives in average to wet soil.
Find the Virginia Sweetspire at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
This large deciduous shrub (3–10' tall and wide) has an upright habit. Oak-shaped leaves are deep green, and turn crimson and bronze-purple in fall. Huge papery, white flower panicles bloom in summer, dry to rose-pink to tan and provide interest throughout the winter, along with exfoliating, copper-brown bark. Plant in moist soil, and full sun to part shade.
Find the Oakleaf Hydrangea at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
A beautiful deciduous, rounded tree, reaching 30–50' in height with low, spreading branches. Bright green leaves become a brilliant yellow in fall. Smooth, sandy brown bark grays with age. In late spring, showy, fragrant, long pendulous, white flower clusters bloom on each branch tip, usually on alternate years, but worth the wait! Grows best in fertile, well-drained soil and full sun.
Find the American Yellowwood at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
A fast-growing native that is resistant to insects and diseases, this tree can reach 40'–70' in height. Often multi-stemmed, with beautiful, peeling bark in mixed shades of white, rust-orange, gray and brown. Elongated catkins appear in spring, and medium-green leaves change to a dark yellow in fall. An excellent tree for wet areas, but can also grow in drier soils. Plant in full sun to part shade.
Find the River Birch at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
Top 10 Sustainable Plants for 2012
Symphyotrichum oblongifolium 'October Skies'
(previously Aster oblongifolius)
This compact, late summer to fall blooming perennial features aromatic foliage and showy, dark sky blue, daisy-like flowers that are reminiscent of an October sky—all on a plant that stays under 1 1/2 to 2' tall. Plant in full sun in average soil. Tolerates poor soils and drought. Attracts butterflies.
Find the Aromatic Aster at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
Sweet woodruff is a terrific deciduous, perennial groundcover for shade or part shade. It forms a thick mat of bright green foliage in tiered whorls about 4" tall, topped by dainty white flowers in late May and early June. This plant makes a great groundcover around trees and shrubs. Deer resistant.
Find the Sweet Woodruff at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
Perovskia atriplicifolia 'Little Spire'
This semi-woody, upright perennial grows to be around 2' tall and has pungent gray-green leaves. Spikes of persistent light purple-blue flowers start blooming in mid- to late summer. Plant in full sun in well-drained soil. Deer resistant.
Find the Russian Sage at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
Clethra alnifolia 'Sixteen Candles'
This improved selection of the popular Hummingbird cultivar has 6" upright fragrant white flowers that cover the plant in July and August. Excellent small, compact shrub for summer bloom; works well as a shrub border; and is a good plant for heavy shade and wet areas. Glossy, dark green foliage turns yellow in the fall. Attracts butterflies. Deer resistant.
Find the Sweet Pepperbush at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
This narrow, upright shrub reaches 6 to 8' in height. Foliage turns brilliant yellow to orange and red in the fall and dainty, creamy white, bell-shaped flowers with red veins form in clusters in the spring. Grows best in full sun to part shade in well-drained, acid soil. Deer resistant.
Find the Redvein Enkianthus at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
This arching, fountain-like shrub has blue-green summer foliage and outstanding rosy-purple flowers in late summer, making it a show stopper! Very easy to grow. Thrives in full sun and well-drained soil. Cut back to 6" in late winter before new growth appears. Deer resistant.
Find the Bush Clover at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
Stephanandra incisa 'Crispa'
Graceful shrub with dense, fine- to medium-textured foliage, and wide-spreading and arching slender branches that form a mound. Produces a small, yellowish white flower. Plant in full sun to partial shade; prefers moist, acid and well-drained soil. This species could be used for low hedges, massing, screens, or in a shrub border. Deer resistant.
Find the Cutleaf Stephanandra at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
This native tree, often multi-stemmed, reaches 20 to 30' in height. Reddish-purple flowers bloom along the stems, starting at a young age. Performs well in full sun to light shade in average garden soil.
Find the Eastern Redbud at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
Fragrant, lemony-scented, creamy white flowers adorn this beautiful 10 to 20' native tree in May and June, with occasional blooms throughout the summer. Grows well in average to wet soils in full sun to shade.
Find the Sweetbay Magnolia at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
Interesting small, native tree with a short trunk and spreading branches that form a dense pyramid or round topped head; nice for naturalizing or placement along the water's edge; and a good host plant for zebra swallowtail butterflies. Purplish flowers are followed by edible brownish-black fruit which tastes similar to bananas and is high in vitamins A and C. Plant in full sun and moist, fertile, deep, and slightly- acidic soils. Deer resistant.
Find the Pawpaw at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
Top 10 Sustainable Plants for 2013
Japanese Forest Grass
This perennial spreads slowly to form 12 – 18-inch mounds of arching, linear leaves. Great for use as groundcover, on hillsides or in containers, this grass, of which there are many cultivars, thrives in part shade to sun and moist, well-drained soil.
Find Japanese Forest Grass at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
This beautiful 12 – 18-inch-tall summer-blooming native perennial features frilly blue, daisy-like flowers that can be removed when spent to encourage repeat blooms. Attractive to butterflies, it grows best in full sun to part shade and moist, well-drained soil.
Find the Stokes’ Aster at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
Eastern Red Cedar
Juniperus virginiana ‘Emerald Sentinel™ (Corcorcor)’
This 15 – 20-foot-tall and 4 – 6-foot-wide pyramidal evergreen with dark-green foliage features vivid blue, berry-like cones in the fall and into winter. Deer resistant and tolerant of poor soil, salt, wind and drought once established, it thrives in full sun.
Find the Eastern Red Cedar at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
Japanese Pagoda Tree
(Formerly Sophora japonica)
This 40 – 75-foot-tall deciduous tree features a broadly rounded crown; 6 – 12-inch-clusters of creamy-white, mildly fragrant flowers in late July – mid-August; and compound, finely textured leaves that cast light shade. Ideal for city conditions, it thrives in full sun.
Find the Japanese Pagoda Tree at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
This upright 2 – 4-foot-tall native perennial for part shade to sun and moist to wet soil features scarlet flower spikes in mid-/late summer. Attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies, and resistant to deer and rabbits, it is available in other colors, too.
Find the Cardinal Flower at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
This small 15 – 30-foot-tall-and-wide flowering deciduous tree has horizontal branching habits and clusters of dainty, mildly fragrant, bell-shaped white blooms that appear in late May/early June. It thrives in full sun to part shade and in moist, well-drained soil.
Find the Japanese Snowbell at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
In April/May, this 3 – 5-foot-tall deciduous shrub with deeply divided, medium-green foliage features 6 – 8-inch-wide blooms available in many colors, and single, semi-double and double forms. Deer and rabbit resistant, it thrives in part shade to full sun.
Find the Tree Peony at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
This striking, slow-spreading 1 – 3-foot-tall perennial for part to full shade thrives in moist, well-drained soil rich in organic matter. In August – September, it features lily-like white flowers with red-purple spots and yellow throats to be best enjoyed up close.
Find the Toad Lily at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo®’
This upright 5 – 10-foot-high-and-wide spreading deciduous shrub features red-purple leaves and small white-to-pink flowers in late spring/early summer. Providing season-long interest, it can be grown in full sun to part shade in a variety of soils.
Find Ninebark at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries
Weeping Alaska Cedar
Xanthocyparis nootkatensis ‘Pendula’ (Formerly Chamaecyparis nootkatensis pendula)
This graceful weeping evergreen conifer, an ideal sculptural specimen plant, is particularly valued for the year-round interest it provides. It grows best in moist, well-drained soil in full sun, and may reach 20 feet or more in height and 8 – 12 feet in width.
Find the Weeping Alaska Cedar at one of Phipps' Recommended Local Nurseries