15 Easy Plants That Give You More Bang for Your Buck

We polled our go-to garden experts for their hardy and inexpensive favorites.

easy garden plants to grow
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What makes a plant a good buy? It's not purchase price alone. Value is best measured by how a plant performs once it's in the ground. "A bargain doesn't need lots of attention, isn't prone to disease or insect problems, and spreads on its own," says Lexington, Kentucky-based landscape designer Jon Carloftis. And while there's no question that annuals deliver the most bang for the buck in a single season, perennials, shrubs, and trees provide long-lasting structure and color to the landscape.

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Annuals: Queen Anne's Lace

Genus: Daucus carota 'Queen Anne's Lace,' 'Wild Carrot'

Zones: 1 to 10

Cost: From $3

Expert Says: "This is one of the most useful and productive filler pants that you can grow from seed. I plant hundreds of them every year." —Erin Benzakein, author of

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Perennials: Peonies

Genus: Paeonia

Zones: 3 to 8

Cost: From $5

Expert Says: "In addition to being hugely popular, peonies are very easy to grow. Plants are easy to obtain, thrive in nearly every climate, and can live for over 100 years if cared for properly." —Erin Benzakein, author of

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lavender
Gap Photos/Carole Drake
Perennials: Lavender

Genus: Lavandula spp.

Zones: 5 to 9

Cost: $6 to $10

Expert Says: "Lavender's practically indestructible, genuinely deer-resistant, and comes in beautiful hues." —Robert Kourik, garden designer, Sebastopol, California

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snapdragon
Gap Photos/Visions
Annuals: Snapdragon

Genus: Antirrhinum majus 'Snap Daddy'

Zones: All Zones

Cost: $6

Expert says: "This long-blooming snapdragon has bright flowers and variegated foliage—and flourishes in cool and hot temperatures." —Dennis Schrader, nursery owner, Mattituck, New York

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cleome
Roy and Dolores Kelley Photographs
Annuals: Cleome

Genus: C. hassleriana 'White Queen'

Zones: All Zones

Cost: $1 to $4

Expert says: "To make a big splash in a sunny area, plant cleome. From late June to frost, you'll have four- to five-inch spiderlike blooms." —Jon Carloftis, landscape designer, Lexington, Kentucky

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caladium
Derek St Romaine
Annuals: Caladium

Genus: C. varieties

Zones: All Zones

Cost: From $8

Expert says: "Caladium brings color to a shady garden in the heat of summer. And some newer varieties can even take a little more sun." —John Dromgoole, nursery owner, Austin

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black eyed susan
Janzig Flora/Alamy
Perennials: Black-Eyed Susan

Genus: Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii

Zones: 3 to 9

Cost: From $8

Expert says: "The showiest of my self-seeding perennials, these golden daisies bloom from mid-July through mid-September and beyond." —Patricia Hill, garden designer, Elgin, Illinois

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maiden grass
Gap Photos/Adrian Bloom
Perennials: Maiden Grass

Genus: Miscanthus sinensis 'Adagio'

Zones: 5 to 9

Cost: $9 to $12

Expert says: "This grass forms a light, airy four-foot-tall mound and grows really well in otherwise tough and dry sites." —David McMullin, garden designer, Atlanta

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daylily
Gap Photos/Charles Hawes
Perennials: Daylily

Genus: Hemerocallis varieties

Zones: 3 to 9

Cost: From $4

Expert says: "Daylilies are gorgeous and easy to divide. You can build a fine collection of colors and shapes by acquiring a few plants each year." —Barbara Damrosch, farmer and author, Harborside, Maine

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yaupon holly
Ken Cheeks
Shrubs: Yaupon Holly

Genus: Ilex vomitoria

Zones: 7 to 10

Cost: $12 to $30

Expert says: "This drought-tolerant Texas native can grow to 15 feet or taller. In winter, its attractive red berries feed birds." —John Dromgoole

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spiraea
Andrew Lawson/The Garden Collection
Shrubs: Spiraea

Genus: S. nipponica 'Snowmound'

Zones: 3 to 8

Cost: $7 to $40

Expert says: "The tiny cascading summer blossoms are spectacular. But the wild waterfall-like shape of the stems gives great 'fill' to landscapes year-round." —Rebecca Cole, garden designer, New York City

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clethra
Saxon Holt/Photobotanic
Shrubs: Clethra

Genus: C. alnifolia varieties

Zones: 3 to 9

Cost: $10 to $25

Expert says: "One plant will perfume a whole yard in August, so I have what my father jokingly called 'a plethora of clethora' next to the porch." —Barbara Damrosch

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sourwood
Gap Photos/Fiona Lea
Trees: Sourwood

Genus: Oxydendrum arboreum

Zones: 5 to 9

Cost: $15 to $75

Expert says: "The sourwood offers four seasons of interest: late-spring blooms, glossy summer foliage, amazing fall color, and winter seedpods." —Jon Carloftis

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apple tree
Masterfile
Trees: Apple

Genus: Malus domestica

Zones: 4 to 8

Cost: $10 to $20

Expert says: "Apple trees produce lovely, fragrant pink blooms followed by fruit. Plus, they can be trained on a wall, as espaliers, or bent over arches." —Judy Murphy, landscape architect, Lakeville, Connecticut

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swamp white oak
Franklin E Dinsmore
Trees: Swamp White Oak

Genus: Quercus bicolor

Zones: 3 to 8

Cost: $25

Expert says: "On a dollar-per-square-foot basis, oaks are an incredible bargain. They may grow 60 feet or more and live for 300 years." —Steve Castorani, nursery owner, Landenberg, Pennsylvania

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