When you find a landscape plant whose beauty shines and whose usefulness is undeniable, you want to shout “Eureka!” to the world—or at least to your friends and neighbors. Too often, the shrubs and hardy perennials that form the basis for a home’s plantings can only be described as basic. Picture the green-colored round or triangular or pole-like shapes drawn in a child’s depiction of a house—that level of excitement is what many homeowners expect will surround their home. We think it’s time to raise the expectations for what your landscape can become.
Elevate your surroundings and embrace exciting design with “landscape superstars.” These plants elevate the concept of the ho-hum foundational planting — and boost curb appeal — by bringing color, texture, structure, durability, and low maintenance to your home’s landscape. And all are water-wise, which is good for the environment and kind to your water bill. Given that a well-landscaped yard can add as much as 12.7% to your home’s value, these landscape superstars are sure to be an instant hit.
Jewel Box™ Distylium
All distyliums could be categorized as landscape workhorses for their low water use and disease and pest resistance. But what makes Jewel Box™ Distylium a superstar is its soft, fine-textured foliage, allowing it to be planted near walkways and play areas. Its lovely cascading evergreen leaves shine year-round with a remarkable blue-green hue that stands apart in the landscape; in the early spring, watch for unique, tiny red confetti flowers. Jewel Box is compact at 2-3’ high, and is suitable for USDA Zones 7a-9b. It creates an impact plant en masse in borders and foundation beds, and works well for those looking for an an alternative to boxwood or holly.
Step away from flat color and into vibrance. Nandinas bring full-on color to a landscape planting, typically in a range of red hues. Southern Living’s collection of nandinas are compact, from the groundcover-worthy Flirt growing just 1-2 ft. tall to Obsession’s peak of about 3 ft. tall. The compact Blush Pink is true to its name with rosy pink new foliage and brilliant red winter color. For something outside of the usual nandina red zone, ‘Lemon Lime’ gives you viridescent hues that positively glow! New leaves emerge a chartreuse color with foliage becoming greener with time. Deer, pest and disease resistance make nandinas superstars as foundational plantings, along with their low-water-use characteristics. And as an evergreen suitable for USDA Zones 6-10, count on nandinas for year-round color.
Agapanthus, sometimes known as Lily of the Nile, is a showstopper in the landscape, from its elegant arching foliage to its dazzling flower heads. If you’ve never grown an agapanthus, you’ll fall in love with its easy charm! Agapanthus’ bold blooms explode into spheres of delicate tubular flowers that dance in the breeze, and our Southern Living agapanthus bloom earlier and continue into summer. Interesting enough to fill a container all on its own, agapanthus also pops in the landscape against brightly colored shrubs like Ligustrum and in entryway gardens. Its superior drought tolerance makes agapanthus the perfect pick for low water landscapes. In colors ranging from brilliant purple to periwinkle blues and crisp whites, there’s an agapanthus for every color palette. Depending on the variety, agapanthus generally thrives in USDA Zones 7a-11b, and can tower to heights over 24”.
Baby Gem Boxwood
Boxwoods imbue a landscape with a classical feel, so if stately structure and elegance are your goals, this iconic plant is a terrific choice. Baby Gem boxwoods are superstars for this application because they are naturally compact, maintaining a rounded form. Perfect for beginning and experienced gardeners alike, Baby Gem boxwoods are deer resistant and salt tolerant, ensuring your tidy evergreen borders make it through a winter (they’re hardy to USDA Zones 5a-9b!). They’ll thrive in summer, too, with excellent heat tolerance and low water use. Plant Baby Gem around a foundation, as a hedge, in mass plantings, in containers… and even as the canvas for your topiary-making skills.
Whether you’re looking for sturdiness and structure or texture and color, these four Southern Living Plant Collection picks are here to shine. They’re landscape superstars after all!