Problem-proof plants
Amateur Gardening|August 21, 2021
Are you fed up with slugs feasting on your hostas and aphids attacking your roses? Hazel Silver has tips and advice on how to grow plants that resist pests and diseases
Hazel Silver
THE four-letter-word moments of gardening tend to come from time and money spent on plants that are ruined by pests or diseases. Waking up to find seedlings gobbled by slugs or discovering the young leaves of perennials eaten by rabbits is miserable, as is seeing a climber caked in aphids or a hedge dusted with white powdery mildew.

Thankfully, there are plenty of stress-free plants that are rarely plagued by pests and diseases. If slugs are your nemesis, grow woolly-leaved stachys and pulmonaria, tough-leaved eryngium and crocosmia, and poisonous aconitum and foxgloves. Slugs also slide past ferns, grasses and roses, and seem to dislike several aromatics (including lavender). But every garden is different, and for the standard advice given – such as rudbeckia being slug-proof – there will be gardeners who widen their eyes and shake their heads, being unable to grow rudbeckia in wet summers when some of the slugs reach 4in (10cm).

Those who successfully grow the plants they love have their own trusted arsenal. Some go to the trouble of concocting a garlic brew that they spray on their hostas or placing beer traps among their dahlias every evening. Others provide nest boxes for slughungry hedgehogs. Nursery owner Claire Austin lets her silkie hens roam the garden to hunt slugs.

Create a healthy soil

Whatever your enemies – from rabbits to footballs – there are plants to foil them. Aphids dislike the aromatic leaves of nepeta and marigolds, so these can be dotted through borders, and both attract hoverflies whose larvae eat aphids. Ceasing to use chemicals will increase the amount of other aphid predators, such as ladybirds, as well as creating a healthy soil that will help to stave off disease.

Today, many roses are bred specifically for health, which prevents the need to spray, and there is a huge range of plants that resist disease well. Aquilegia, geranium, lychnis, nepeta, phlomis and oregano are just a few of the perennials that are – by and large – carefree. Favouring these over more troublesome plants makes gardening all the more enjoyable.

9 tough plants

3 Slug-proof

Verbascum ‘Southern Charm’

Tall stalks of pale-pink, mauve and peach flowers rise from a rosette of large, furry, silver leaves throughout summer. Grow in well-drained neutral to alkaline soil in full sun. H: 4ft (1.2m).

Knautia macedonica

Bees and butterflies love the magenta pincushion blooms of the Macedonian scabious, which bloom on thin stems. Deadhead to prolong flowering. Well-drained soil in sun. H: 21⁄2ft (75cm).

Potentilla ‘Gibson’s Scarlet’ AGM

Brilliant-scarlet single flowers on long stems are produced by this cinquefoil all summer at the front of the border. An essential plant, if you love red. Well-drained soil in sun. H: 11⁄2ft (45cm).

3 Rabbit-resistant

Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ AGM

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