The Best Plants & Trees for a St. Louis Home

We’ve all seen a The best plants feature long bloom times, unique features, and are considered to be low maintenance. Want to know what to plant in your garden for maximum curb appeal? Let’s dive into it! 

Years ago “keeping up with the Joneses” meant a nice home and a plain grass yard, the more green lawn space the better! While you can still find plenty of plain jane yards all over St. Louis, we are finding that more people want individuality, functionality and creativity with their landscapes. That means more flowering shrubs, more unique trees, longer bloom-times, and more diversity in your collection of outdoor plants. Showcase your style with a sleek, minimalist backyard or a more 

Goodbye boring yard; hello outdoor living room, butterfly garden or outdoor oasis to enjoy! 

Plant selection is often guided by likes and dislikes. Throughout our years as professional landscape designers, we’ve found that at the end of the day, most people want the same things. These are some of the best plants and trees that require little to no maintenance, feature long bloom times, and provide interest over more than one season (sorry Surprise Lily). This is our most up-to-date selection of top performing plants that will grow well in most St. Louis yards. 

  • Coneflowers (Echinacea) 

At the top of our list is a what-should-be iconic flowering plant in Missouri that makes it into lots of our landscape designs. Blooming between June and October in St. Louis, Coneflowers boast bright blossoms and are available in a variety of colors and sizes. Many varieties including several Missouri native plants are usually available at plant nurseries. Coneflowers are hardy perennials and need at least partial sun to thrive. Keep them out of your shade garden, but they will grow just fine in a semi-shaded patio space or front entrance. Flowers can be dead-headed to promote new flowers, and we recommend leaving spent blooms alone after fall, for birds to enjoy the seedheads. 

Purple coneflowers and hydrangeas

Coneflowers add a pop of color to existing garden beds, or can be used in a summer container garden display then planted into the ground in fall. If we could add coneflowers to every yard in St. Louis, we would. They are beautiful and beneficial to our fragile local ecosystem of wildlife. 

  • Garden Phlox / Creeping Phlox / Sand Phlox (native) 

Phlox is another must-have plant, serving a gorgeous burst of color that grows well both as a groundcover or wall creeper. Try Sand phlox for a Grow Native themed garden, or go bold with other hot pink & purple phlox types like the plants in the photos below. You can see the difference a few years makes in the size and spread of phlox. Get them in the ground early so you can watch them fill-in and bloom a few years, then divide and add to other parts of your yard. Or, you can gift divided plants to others or giveaway at plant swaps. 

phlox planted in garden st louis landscaping
Established Creeping Phlox Plant

Newly planted Phlox plant, starting to fill-in.

  •  Little Bluestem

Think beyond basic turf grass by adding some interesting ornamental grasses to your yard! Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) offers seasonally-changing beauty including winter garden interest. Grass has a unique blue tint in spring and summer, followed by purple-bronze flowers and foliage in fall that lasts into winter.

Little Bluestem is commonly used in rain garden designs or to provide low-maintenance interest to sunny areas. 

Best of all, this ornamental grass only has to be cut back once per year, in winter or early spring!

  • Green Giant Arborvitae

These evergreen trees aren’t native to Missouri, but they are popular and highly functional. Green Giants provide excellent winter interest and is our go-to for natural privacy and wind screening. It’s narrow enough to fit into most yard spaces that need a larger tree that won’t lose all of it’s leaves in winter. Perfect to use between yard spaces, patio or pool areas to provide privacy between neighbors. Grows well in most soil conditions. 

  • Aster

Asters are one of the last wildflowers to bloom in St. Louis, making them a “keystone” perennial plant. They are an excellent choice to bring vibrant interest to gardens, with vivid blooms appearing in late fall that last well into winter. They provide stunning contrast to fall foliage with their bright purple and blue flowers. Aromatic Asters are native to Missouri and brighten up any garden with their vivid flowers. Grows well in partially sunny, full sun outdoor spaces. A pollinator favorite and important late-season wildlife resource available in several varieties. 

Asters featured in a mixed perennial border.
  • Coral Bell aka Alumroot (Heuchera) 

Like Coneflowers, Coral Bell is a versatile plant that comes in a multitude of varietals and colors. Heuchera americana is the Missouri native plant and you can find other popular varieties in purple, red, green, pink and more. Grows best in areas with plenty of sun to partial shade. A great low-maintenance plant with showy foliage. 

  • Spicebush

Spicebush is a lovely shrub that provides stunning fall foliage and small red fruit that birds love. This native plant is critical to the Swallowtail butterfly, whos larva (caterpillar) feeds on the leaves. Spicebush is excellent when planted along a border or in a large garden bed. Spicebush is always at the top of our list when a client request native plants that are beneficial to butterflies! Semi-shade to full sun. 

  • Butterfly Bush 

If you love butterflies, moths, and showy purple flowers, this is the plant for you! This is a pretty flowering shrub to use as a focal point in your larger garden beds or in a border garden design. Spent flowers can be clipped for added weeks of bloom-time, and to help pollinators throughout the changing seasons – especially the end of summer when Monarch butterflies migrate through our region. 

Visit any local plant nursery or gardening center and you’ll find a vast selection of plants and trees available. Above are some of our favorite low-maintenance and stunning plants we use in landscape designs frequently, but there are so many other great options to choose from. New nativar, hybrid, and specialty plants are debuted every year, or you can contact places like Missouri Wildflower Nursery to get true native seeds, small plants and shrubs. Tip: They are one of the best places to find native hydrangeas and coneflowers in our area. 

Native Hydrangea

Some other amazing plants for St. Louis include: 

  • American beautyberry
  • Red buckeye
  • Eastern redbud
  • Pawpaw
  • Milkweed (several varieties available, all important to pollinators especially the Monarch butterflies!)
  • Heliopsis

The list of best plants for growing in St. Louis doesn’t stop here. Soil and sun conditions have a big impact on a plants performance. Most plants look best planted in mass or grouped together with other plants like the photo above. Select plants based on color, bloom time, aesthetic or benefits to wildlife to create an outdoor oasis you’ll enjoy spending time in. Need advice on what to plant where? Ask a designer! You can get a custom landscape design for your own home starting at just $200. A design will guide the way towards a yard that impresses the neighbors and gets more beautiful with time. If your yard isn’t becoming more beautiful year after year, all it takes is a plan, planting and patience to have your very own at-home botanical garden.