Home & Garden Garden The 20 Best Low-Maintenance Plants to Grow in Zone 6 These are our favorite plants that can flourish in a Zone 6 garden. By David M. Kuchta David M. Kuchta Writer Wesleyan University, University of California, Berkeley David Kuchta, Ph.D. has 10 years of experience in gardening and has read widely in environmental history and the energy transition. An environmental activist since the 1970s, he is also a historian, author, gardener, and educator. Learn about our editorial process Published November 22, 2021 AlpamayoPhoto / Getty Images Share Twitter Pinterest Email Home & Garden Planting Guides Indoor Gardening Urban Farms Insects On the United States Department of Agriculture's Plant Hardiness Zone Map, Zone 6 is a band stretching in latitude from eastern Massachusetts to northern Virginia, spanning much of the nation's midsection until it crosses the Rockies and heads north to the interior of Oregon and Washington. Zone 6 has an average annual minimum temperature of -5 to 10 degrees F, so plants need to be able to withstand a solid freeze. Zone 6 locations are shaded darker green. Image is in the public domain. North American native flowering plants are vital sources of food for native pollinators in Zone 6 locations. Don't be surprised to find monarch butterflies competing with honey bees for a spot on an anise hyssop or purple coneflower. Just be sure to plant enough for everyone. Below is a mix of 20 sun, shade, and partial-shade perennials native to North America that can flourish in a Zone 6 garden. 1 of 20 Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) Willowpix / Getty Images Anise hyssop is neither anise nor hyssop. It's a member of the mint family. Its licorice-or basil-smelling flowers can be used in salads or jellies. Anise hyssop can form clumps that self-sow and also self-propagate by spreading underground roots. Its nearly foot-long spikes bloom from June to September, attracting hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees. Dry out the flowers to add to potpourris, or use the cut flowers in arrangements. Height: 2 to 4 feetSun Exposure: Full sun or very light shadeSoil Needs: Well-draining soil 2 of 20 Columbine (Aquilegia spp.) Iva Vagnerova / Getty Images Columbine produce graceful flowers on slender stems early in spring, which makes them welcome food sources for pollinators still awaiting the full flourish of summer. Their long-blooming flowers come in a wide range of colors, from light blues to dark chocolates. Some are even bicolored. With deep taproots, columbines do not transplant well, but they will readily self-seed in unexpected places, which more than makes up for their short-lived nature. Height: 1 ½ to 3 feet, though some varieties are tallerSun Exposure: Full sun or part shadeSoil Needs: Rich, evenly moist, slightly acidic, well-draining soil 3 of 20 Goat’s Beard (Aruncus dioicus) Mikhail Kolomiets / Getty Images Aruncus is in the rose family and produces show-stopping clusters of creamy white flowers. Despite their name, Aruncus dioicus are not truly dioecious, which means having male and female reproductive organs on separate plants. Rather, some of the plants will produce “perfect” flowers with both male and female organs. The plants are also spread by underground rhizomes, which can be divided in spring, but buy multiple plants if you want them to self-sow by seed. Height: 3 to 6 feetSun Exposure: Partial or dappled shadeSoil Needs: Rich, evenly moist soil 4 of 20 Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense) Cynthia Shirk / Getty Images About 70 species of wild ginger make up the Asarum genus. Asarum canadense is the most common North American native. Low-growing with heart-shaped leaves, wild ginger looks and smells like but is unrelated to commercial ginger, Zingiber officinalis. Wild ginger is grown more for its leaves than its dark-colored flowers, which are insignificant, blooming barely noticed under the leaves, close to the soil, and pollinated by ants. Still, the plants quickly make an excellent ground cover in shady spots. Height: 6 to 12 inchesSun Exposure: Full shadeSoil Needs: Rich, evenly moist soil 5 of 20 Milkweed (Asclepias spp.) MiaZeus / Getty Images The Asclepius genus contains over 100 species native to the Americas, but Butterfly weed (Asclepius tuberosa) is the best known as an important source of food for monarch butterfly larvae. Adult monarchs will feed on all Asclepius species. Milkweed species are tough, drought-tolerant plants with deep taproots, but those roots don't transplant well, so it is better to grow milkweeds from seed. Be patient: They can take 2-3 years to flower. Once established, they will slowly form clumps by self-seeding. Height: 1 to 3 feetSun Exposure: Full sunSoil Needs: Well-draining soil 6 of 20 New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) David Lamb / 500px / Getty Images New England Asters are a butterfly's and gardner's favorite, a late-season bloomer when most other flowers have stopped producing nectar. Their daisy-shaped flowers range from purple to white and sit atop tall stems that rarely need staking, though they will lose their stiffness as the fall season progresses. They easily spread and need little to no care. Height: 2 to 6 feetSun Exposure: Full sunSoil Needs: Rich, evenly moist, well-draining soil 7 of 20 Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris) Nature, wildlife & Landscape images / Getty Images Marsh marigolds also go by the name of cowslips. Their clusters of golden yellow, cup-shaped flowers make it easy to tell that they are members of the buttercup family. As their name suggests, they are a moisture-loving plant, appreciating boggy soil or a low spot along a stream or pond. Blooming in early spring, marsh marigolds will feed hungry butterflies, hummingbirds, and other early birds of the season. Height: 1 to 1 ½ feetSun Exposure: Full sunSoil Needs: Constantly moist soil 8 of 20 Coreopsis (Coreopsis spp.) wellsie82 / Getty Images Sometimes called tickseed, coreopsis are as low-maintenance as you can get. Drought-tolerant and heat-loving, coreopsis do best in full sun but will tolerate partial shade. Birds will feed on their seeds, while pollinators are attracted to their long-blooming flowers. Coreopsis come in a variety of colors, usually yellow or reddish-orange. Dead-head the flowers to stimulate a second bloom, but allow some to go to seed so that they self-sow. You can divide them every few years to keep them thriving. Height: 2 to 4 feetSun Exposure: Full sunSoil Needs: Rich, moist, well-draining soil 9 of 20 Purple Coneflower (Echinacea Purpurea) db_beyer / Getty Images Purple coneflowers are a sight common in prairies and gardens alike. Their daisy-shaped purple (or sometimes white) flowers have distinctive pincushion-shaped centers. Echinacea is also a name familiar to herbalists, as the herb has long been used by Native Americans for a variety of infections, wounds, and maladies. Coneflowers attract butterflies and bees with their nectar. Let them overwinter to allow birds to forage for seeds they've missed in the summer. What the birds miss will self-sow. Height: 2 to 5 feetSun Exposure: Full sunSoil Needs: Well-draining soil of any type 10 of 20 Joe-Pye Weed (Eutrochium spp.) igaguri_1 / Getty Images Joe-Pye Weed was long classified in the Eupatorium genus but in 2000 graduated to the genus Eutrochium. Over 40 species are native to North America, while dwarf cultivars are available in garden centers. Cultivars should be propagated by cuttings or division, but uncultivated species will self-sow. Blooming in early fall, after most other bloomers have given up for the year, their showy, fuzzy flowers are like a late-night snack for pollinators before they, too, retire for the year. Height: 4 to 6 feetSun Exposure: Full sun to partial shadeSoil Needs: Average, well-draining soil 11 of 20 Blanket Flower (Gaillardia X grandiflora) Georg Zazvorka / EyeEm / Getty Images Gaillardia X grandiflora is the most popular of the 30 species in the Gaillardia genus. It's a short-lived perennial, but well worth it, given its daisy-like flowers in dazzling reds, yellows, and oranges. They will spread in clumps and bloom in their first year throughout the length of the summer. They need little care, are drought-tolerant, and are easy to grow from seed. Height: 2 to 3 feetSun Exposure: Full sunSoil Needs: Rich, well-draining soil 12 of 20 Cranesbill (Geranium maculatum) Mikhail Martirosyan / Getty Images Cranesbills are wild members of the Geranium genus, unlike the popular ivy geraniums grown as annuals, which are of the Pelargonium genus. Wild or “true” geraniums are perennial woodland ground covers with distinctive foliage and saucer-shaped, pink or magenta-colored flowers. They bloom early in the season (April to May), though some cultivars can bloom most of the summer. While geraniums will self-sow or spread through runners, they are easily propagated by dividing the clumps in spring. Height: 1 ½ to 2 feetSun Exposure: Full sun to part shadeSoil Needs: Rich, evenly moist, well-draining soil 13 of 20 Virginia Bluebell (Mertensia virginica) Martin J Calabrese / Getty Images Virginia bluebells brighten up a shady area with pink buds opening into clusters of bell-shaped flowers. Bluebells self-sow and can be moved in spring, but once established, their deep taproots make them difficult to transplant. An early native bloomer, you might notice the season's first bees gathering around them. They can keep blooming into the start of summer. Keep them moist, especially in sunnier areas, as they are more accustomed to thriving in woodlands. Height: 2 feetSun Exposure: Part to full shadeSoil Needs: Rich, moist, well-draining soil 14 of 20 Bee Balm (Monarda didyma) Jacky Parker Photography / Getty Images Bee balm, or bergamot, is a cottage garden favorite, with unique spiky flower heads growing in clusters. In the mint family, it will readily spread by underground rhizomes, so divide the colonies to keep them in check if they are crowding out other species. The long-blooming flowers are popular with hummingbirds, butterflies, as well as, of course, bees. The edible, scented flowers are also used in herbal remedies. Height: 4 feetSun Exposure: Full sun to part shadeSoil Needs: Moist, average, well-draining soil 15 of 20 Cinnamon Fern (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum) Irwin Barrett / Design Pics / Getty Images The familiar fiddleheads of a cinnamon fern emerge in early spring, then unfurl into 2-3-foot long, spore-bearing fronds. The plant is named for the fact that its fronds turn from green to cinnamon brown once their spores are dispersed, finally turning yellow in autumn. cinnamon fern can be found naturally along bogs and streams, so it prefers shady areas that are constantly moist, where it will easily naturalize. Height: 2 to 3 feetSun Exposure: Part shade to heavy shadeSoil Needs: Rich, moist to wet soil 16 of 20 Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata) Asergieiev / Getty Images Unlike the tall phlox (also a garden favorite native to North America), creeping phlox keeps a low profile. It's a show-stopper from mid-spring to early summer, however, when it provides a profuse mat of nearly iridescent pink, white, or blue flowers cascading over a stone wall or spreading through a rock garden. Pollinator-friendly and easily spreading, creeping phlox acts as an excellent ground cover, as its foliage will remain green and vibrant until winter sets in. Height: 6 inchesSun Exposure: Full sunSoil Needs: Well-draining, slightly alkaline soil 17 of 20 Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum spp.) Robert Knapp / Getty Images Plants in the Polygonatum genus go by various incarnations of “Solomon's Seal,” from “Great” to “Dwarf” and “Fragrant.” Each produces greenish-white tubular flowers hanging from arching stems that bear ovate leaves. The flowers bloom in late spring to early summer, then give way to blackish berries. The plants are slow-growing from seed, but are easily propagated by division and transplanting. Height: 2 to 7 feet tallSun Exposure: Part shade to full shadeSoil Needs: Moist, well-draining soil 18 of 20 Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) Ed Reschke / Getty Images Christmas fern is so-called because its fronds can hold their shape and evergreen color into winter, which gives the plant four-season interest. It grows naturally in wide clumps along riverbanks and wooded slopes, making it an excellent ground cover. It can tolerate both dry and moist soils, though its crown will rot in poorly draining soil. Height: 1 to 2 feetSun Exposure: Part shade to full shadeSoil Needs: Moist, well-draining soil 19 of 20 Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia spp.) Pauline Lewis / Getty Images A familiar sight in many gardens, black-eyed Susans are but one of 20 or so species in the Rudbeckia genus, of which the best-known is Rudbeckia hirta. Fast-growing and freely self-sowing, black-eyed Susans are one of the easiest perennials to grow, tolerating drought and neglect. Leave its “eyes” to overwinter for birds to forage once the petals have dropped. Height: 1 to 3 feetSun Exposure: Full sun to light shadeSoil Needs: Average soil 20 of 20 Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia) AlpamayoPhoto / Getty Images Foamflower offers the welcome distinction of blooming in shade in spring. Easy to maintain, foamflower acts as a groundcover, as its leaves form dense mounds that can remain green through the winter and last for years in the garden. Constantly wet soil will be fatal to them, but they otherwise tolerate a wide variety of soil types. Height: 1 to 2 feetSun Exposure: Part to full shadeSoil Needs: Rich, moist, well-draining soil To check if a plant is considered invasive in your area, go to the National Invasive Species Information Center or speak with your regional extension office or local gardening center.