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Extremely Hardy Summer Perennials

Updated on April 25, 2018
The Dirt Farmer profile image

Jill volunteers at community gardens and learns about gardening through the MD Master Gardening and Master Naturalist programs.

Hardy summer bloomers that will turn your brown thumb green

Sea holly is a deer-resistant, salt-tolerant, drought-tolerant and low-maintenance perennial.
Sea holly is a deer-resistant, salt-tolerant, drought-tolerant and low-maintenance perennial. | Source

Sea holly, globe thistle, anise hyssop, deadnettle, blue false indigo— not only are these herbaceous perennials deer resistant & drought resistant, but they're also impervious to neglect.

Even stone-cold plant killers will be hard pressed to destroy these tough-as-nails perennials. They're so tough their species' name should be 'Chuck Norris'!

Not only are they resistant to just about everything, but they bloom when most other plants falter in the hot summer sun.

Try one of them or all of them to add interest and color to your summer garden.

Sea Holly (Eryngium)

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Sea Holly

When it comes to gardening with perennials, it doesn't get much easier than Eryngium, commonly called sea holly.

Sea holly thrives under drought conditions in poor, baked soil. Sow it from seed in the hottest, least hospitable part of your garden and watch it grow.

Not only is it deer resistant and drought tolerant, but sea holly is also salt tolerant. And bees and butterflies love it!

If you decide to add sea holly to your garden, the most maintenance you may have is occasionally deadheading, that is, removing spent blooms. Otherwise, your sea holly could self seed too much and become invasive.

Many species of sea holly are readily available online. All have silvery-gray foliage and either white, blue or purple-blue spiky flowers. Most are hardy in USDA Zones 4-10.

Amethyst sea holly (Eryngium amethystinum) is one of the hardiest species, performing well in Zones 2-10. It produces prickly purple-blue blooms.

Because it has tap roots, sea holly doesn't transplant well. It's best to start it from seed, broadcasting it directly outside.

It's probably the prickly texture of sea holly that causes deer to give it a miss.

Globe Thistle (Echinops)

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Globe thistle is a great cutting garden flower, producing big blue blooms with sturdy stems.

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Globe Thistle

Globe thistle has several traits in common with sea holly. It's a deer-resistant, drought-tolerant self seeder that has greyish foliage.

In midsummer, globe thistle produces round blue flowers that contrast beautifully with its silvery green leaves. Want your globe thistle to spread? Allow some of the flowers to dry on the stalk, and the plant will self seed. Globe thistle's flower seed also attracts birds.

How big blue globe thistle flowers are depends upon the species. Echinops bannaticus 'Blue Glow' produces deep blue flowers, while the smaller Echinops ritro's blooms turn bright blue when they're mature.

Ordinarily, species of globe thistle reach heights of one to three feet, with a single plant growing as wide as two feet. 'Blue Glow' is one of the taller species, reaching heights of four feet, while small globe thistle (Echinops ritro) only grows to about one foot in height.

Some species are hardier than others; however, on average, many globe thistle varieties will grow well in Zones 3-10.

Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)

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A fragrant herb in the mint family, anise hyssop attracts bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

Anise Hyssop

Like the other perennials on this list, anise hyssop is deer resistant, drought tolerant and low maintenance.

Unlike the others, anise hyssop is an herb. It tastes and smells like anise, the flavoring in licorice. Anise hyssop may be used fresh or dried in salads, baked goods and teas.

It grows best in full sun but will also perform well in partial sun.


Along with other Master Gardeners, I grow anise hyssop in a public garden that's serviced roughly four times a year.

Along with other Master Gardeners, I grow anise hyssop in a public garden near my home. The garden doesn't have an irrigation system; the plants there grow on rainfall alone. And because it's cared for by volunteers, the beds are maintained only about four times a year.

Despite the heat and neglect, anise hyssop thrives there, displaying tall, purple flower spears throughout the summer and a lovely brown silhouette in the fall and winter months.

While deer avoid anise hyssop, bees and butterflies are drawn to it, as are hummingbirds. In fact, the plant's common name is hummingbird mint.

Although it's a herb in the mint family, anise hyssop is often designated in guidebooks as a North American wildflower. Its leaves look a lot like the leaves of catnip.

Most anise hyssop is hardy in Zones 4-10, reaching heights from one foot up to eight feet, depending on the species and the location.

In both summer and fall, anise hyssop produces small flowers on large flower spikes.

Usually blossoms range in color from light blue to purple, although some varieties produce pink, white or yellow flowers. The flowers of sunset hyssop, for instance, are a blend or orange, red and purple. The flowers of Agastache cana 'Rosita' are pink.

Fresh or dried, anise hyssop flowers retain their odor, making them perfect for arrangements and potpourris.

Summer Flowers

Do you need more hardy summer bloomers in your garden?

See results

Deadnettle (Lamium)

Our purple dragon's head lamium grows in dry shade and looks its best when the summer is at its hottest.
Our purple dragon's head lamium grows in dry shade and looks its best when the summer is at its hottest. | Source

Deadnettle

Deadnettle— what an ugly name for a herbaceous perennial ground cover that's available in some very attractive species these days.

A member of the mint family, deadnettle is tough, tough, tough in Zones 4 to 8. It's deer resistant, drought tolerant and requires little maintenance other than deadheading.

Although lamium doesn't like full sun (it prefers partial sun or shade) it doesn't mind poor soil. Plant it in dry shade and enjoy blooms from late spring through summer. It's ideal for erosion control.

Bees, butterflies and birds are attracted to deadnettle flowers, which may be pink, purple, yellow or white, depending upon the species. The foliage also varies, but it is usually either grey and silver or gold and chartreuse.

Blue False Indigo (Baptisia australis)

Blue false indigo growing wild along the Potomac in Fairfax, VA.
Blue false indigo growing wild along the Potomac in Fairfax, VA. | Source
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Blue False Indigo

A wildflower native to the U.S., blue false indigo is also commonly called blue wild indigo or wild blue indigo.

Hardy in Zones 3 to 8, blue false indigo is deer resistant and drought tolerant. It does well in both full sun and part sun.

False indigo is a tall plant, with some varieties growing as high as eight feet. Most types, however, grow up to three or four feet.

False blue indigo is well loved by the birds and the bees. It blooms in late spring and summer. Depending on the species, the blooms may be violet, blue or white.

Its leaves are either bluish green or greenish yellow. In late fall, the foliage turns a silvery-gray.

Like sea holly, false blue indigo has long tap roots, so it grows best from seed, as it doesn't transplant well.

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© 2014 Jill Spencer

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    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      3 years ago from United States

      Hi Elsie. We have possums here too. They don't do much damage though. One recently got into one of the rain barrels and drowned. So sad! The deer here are very bad. They even eat, at least a little bit, of the plants that are supposed to be "deer resistant"! Thanks for stopping by. --Jill

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 

      3 years ago from New Zealand

      Beautiful flowers. Some of these I don't know. Must check them out for New Zealand climate, or better still that they are possum resistant. There are not many plants left for me to plant now, I think I have one next thing I knew that pesky possum finds out he likes it also.

      Happy gardening.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      3 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Sorry to hear it didn't work. As for germinating, it's warm and sunny with humid temps in the 70s-80s this weekend in Ohio. Better late than never, right?

    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      3 years ago from United States

      Hi Kristen, I did try unlinking but the capsule is unresponsive. As for germinating, I don't know about where you are, but here it's perfect weather for it: warm and wet.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      3 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Good luck Jill. Maybe you can try to unlink it. You're welcome anytime. It's going to be three plants to start out with to germinate this weekend. I'll keep you posted and might come to you, if I need some tips or advice.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      3 years ago from United States

      Hi Kristen. Thanks for your comments. I don't know why the link is there, but it won't come off and it doesn't seem to lead to anything. I've tried editing it out it twice with no results. Maybe the third time will "be the charm." All the best with your container garden, Jill

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      3 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Jill, this is a great hub of helpful tips for your summer garden. I'm planning to start my container summer patio garden, this weekend with my brother. I love the pics of those flowers, too. Why is the In blue in late fall? Typo? Voted up!

    • MyMastiffPuppies profile image

      MyMastiffPuppies 

      3 years ago

      Beautiful!!! Thanks for sharing the info, some interesting and usef ul tips. I am ready for some gardening now. Voted up across the board!

    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      3 years ago from United States

      Thanks for the comments, patricia, vocalcoach & dolores! It's amazing how hardy plants can be, isn't it? I was just thinking that today as I looked over the new life burgeoning in the flowerbeds from old roots that have been covered in snow for a good part of the winter. It's beautiful to see!

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      3 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Hi Dirt Farmer - I have false indigo as well as globe thistle and sea holly in my garden. They are not only beautiful but toughies as well. Your pictures are awesome and make me yearn to get out there and start working in the garden again!

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      3 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      I voted across and up on this excellent hub about perennials. Your photos are beautiful! I'm glad for the introduction to plants I've not heard of before. Big thanks and sharing.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      3 years ago from sunny Florida

      Fortunately I am not known as a murderess ...most of my plants survive due to the green thumb gene my Momma gave me..however, I am always looking for more plants that are hearty and that I can add to the yard.

      Awesome list ...

      shared voted up and pinned to Awesome Hub Pages

    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      4 years ago from United States

      You're welcome, Liz. Thanks for stopping by! --Jill

    • Radcliff profile image

      Liz Davis 

      4 years ago from Hudson, FL

      Hard to kill *and* pretty . . . sounds like these are varieties to look out for. I especially like the idea of keeping bee-friendly plants. Thanks for the useful info as usual, Jill!

    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      4 years ago from United States

      Sorry you lost so many plants this winter. We lost a few, too. Glad you're thinking about trying sea holly. It's so unique.

      Hi Rebecca! I can almost sympathize with those who cut down plain old thistle before it goes to seed. That stuff can spread. But the butterflies and bees sure do love it. Always great to hear from you. Have a great 4th! --Jill

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Gorgeous! We have thistle growing wild here. I think it is so pretty, but people just mow it down along with weeds. I think it looks so pretty growing beside the Queen Anne's lace!

    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      4 years ago from United States

      Deb, I just realized I hadn't responded to your comment. Sorry! Sufficient rain would be okay. Unusually excessive rainfall, however, wouldn't do, especially if the plants are in soil (clay) that doesn't drain well. Take care, Jill

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Claudia Mitchell 

      4 years ago

      Love the blue colors on these flowers and will definitely be trying the sea holly. That would add some real zing to my front flowers. I have some room because I lost a lot of things this harsh harsh winter. Most surprising was all of my echinacea. I had some really pretty varieties. too. Hope something like this will do better. Beautiful hub as always.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      You never fail to disappoint, Jill. Excellent plants for Oklahoma, but what happens if we get sufficient rain for a short period. Will they be all right?

    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      4 years ago from United States

      Sometimes thugs are the best!! lol Thanks for commenting, blueheron. --Jill

    • blueheron profile image

      Sharon Vile 

      4 years ago from Odessa, MO

      Sea holly, aka "Miss Willmott's ghost."

    • blueheron profile image

      Sharon Vile 

      4 years ago from Odessa, MO

      I will have to try the sea holly! I think it would do well in my "thug" bed--the one with the poor soil, reserved for the survivalist type plants.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      4 years ago from United States

      Oh no, MsDora, I didn't mean it like that. (There's probably some man-eating mint plant out there I've never heard of!) It's just that deadnettle is in a different family than stinging nettle. Sorry for the confusion. (:

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      4 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks for your response. Shows much I know about plants. Didn't know that being in the mint family means it would not have a sting. Now I know, and I intend to keep learning from you. Thanks for the lessons.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      4 years ago from United States

      Hi MsDora. Deadnettle does sound like stinging nettle, the prickly & painful plant, but it's actually in the mint family. Thanks for the vote!

      purl3agony, I'm so sorry to hear about your plants! You'll have to plant a few hardier ones from seed this fall or in early, early spring. That's what we do, and if they survive the dog-steps-on-them test, they get to stay in the garden. All the best, Jill

    • purl3agony profile image

      Donna Herron 

      4 years ago from USA

      Hi Jill - all of these flowers are so interesting. I've already killed off some of the flowers we planted this spring :( so I'm definitely looking for some hardy replacements :) Thanks for this perfectly-timed hub! Voted up and pinned!!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      4 years ago from The Caribbean

      What beautiful, rich colors on these perennials! Does the deadnettle have a sting or is it that the sting is dead? All the other names are lovely. Thank you for all this interesting information. Voted Up!

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