We sometimes forget that plants actually want to grow, and that it’s up to us as gardeners not to get in the way. Of course there are some that are reluctant to thrive. We’ve all grown them – or tried to – and persevered endlessly, reproaching ourselves for our lack of growing skills and inability to keep them alive.
While it’s good to be challenged, sometimes, it’s also essential that we have enough plants in our gardens that are indestructible. These are plants that, regardless of the occasional oversight when it comes to watering, pruning or feeding, will grow in spite of us rather than because of us.
Even these plants need food, water and light – they’re living organisms. But, given a little care early on, while establishing their roots and given the conditions they prefer – sun or shade; heavy, wet soil or light, free-draining soil – they will get on with life and cause you little heartache.
Plants you can’t kill are typically robust in stature and constitution, often labelled as ‘vigorous’, ‘trouble free’ and ‘disease resistant’ in the garden centre. By watering and feeding them, you’ll encourage any plant to thrive, and you’ll be able to see from its general habit when it has got its roots down and is growing well. It’s only once plants are growing strongly that they can be safely left to fend for themselves.
Browse Alan Titchmarsh’s list of plants you can’t kill, below.
Cranesbill geraniums are copper-bottomed ground-cover plants with bright summer flowers that will cope with many inhospitable situations in sun or shade. They die down in winter but spring up afresh each year.
Height x spread: 40cm-120cm x 40cm-120cm
The two evergreen shrubs ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’ and ‘Emerald Gaiety’ will bring variegated brightness and will even climb up a wall if they are planted alongside brickwork and stonework.
H x S: 60cm-100cm x 90cm-1.5m
We used to call it Senecio ‘Sunshine’ and its bright-yellow daisy flowers carried on the greeny-grey evergreen leaves keep going sporadically into autumn. As an alternative you can also clip it into domes.
H x S: 1.5m x 1.5m
Penstemons bear tall spires of foxglove-like flowers on slender stems are much tougher than they appear. A herbaceous perennial that should be replaced every two or three years from easy-to-root cuttings.
H x S: 50cm-100cm x 30cm-60cm
Hattie’s pincushion used to be thought of as a herbaceous filler, but with lots of new cultivars that have deep-crimson flowers or flowers with long petals, it has become a great choice for damp soils.
H x S: 60-90cm x 30-40cm
The Mexican orange blossom is a vigorous evergreen shrub that responds well to clipping. I have used it as a replacement for box, making a waist-high rolling sea of leaves and scented white blossom in May.
H x S: 2.5m x 2.5m
Choose the clump-forming bamboos such as those with black or golden yellow stems and they shouldn’t get out of hand. Avoid the spreaders that will take over your garden.
H x S: 5m-8m x 3m-10m
Foot-high mounds of mitre-shaped leaves follow the yellow, pink or white spring flowers. Known as Bishop’s hat, it’s brilliant ground cover for shady spots, where it will spread happily but not problematically.
H x S: 25cm-50cm x 30cm-75cm
The Christmas box is a compact evergreen shrub with glossy, light reflecting leaves and whiskery white flowers that have a powerful fragrance when they open in winter.
H x S: 1.5m-2m x 1m-2m
Who would be without these little beauties? Primroses love sun or shade and will seed themselves about the garden without ever becoming a nuisance. Harbingers of spring and all the more welcome for that.
H x S: 20cm x 35cm