sun loving midwest mcm plants

We all see those mid century modern homes out in West with those drought tolerant plants that have become the iconic look for mid century modern landscaping. When thinking about the overall aesthetic present in those homes, and not getting caught up in the plants themselves, it is easy to replicate the look for those of us living in the Midwest.

Keep these things in mind when looking to update your mid century modern home’s landscape design.

Choose plants that won’t take away from the architecture of the home itself. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be super minimal but the plants should compliment the outside. If your exterior has an amazing feature wall or roof line, keep that area of the landscaping more minimal while just softening the ground. If your home is the star of the show, why draw attention away from it?!

Choose plants that have a graphic or sculptural shape. There are many shrubs that keep their natural shape and don’t require much maintenance, some of my favs are below. When planting these, keep them in groups of 3s, 5s… odd numbers are your best friend!

When it comes to flowering plants, I prefer flowers with minimal blooms and flowers with a graphical or sphere bloom that offers just a pop of color.

Here’s my round-up of favorites! Side note: Perennials will come back every year, annuals you will have to replant every year. I will make note of annuals, otherwise assume these are all perennials!

please excuse the iPhone photos mixed with the pro pics…


Yuccas are one of those dramatic, almost architectural plants that do well in my area!  They come in many varieties, with blooms in varying colors, leaves in different shapes.  I love my Adam’s Needle Yucca that has great sizes leaves and grows a white bloom… to keep that minimal vibe.

beyond blue / boulder blue / elijah blue

These blue grasses like full – part sun, with a slender silvery blue blade, they compliment any warm colored exterior. Keep in mind that varieties like Elijah Blue can get a sort of tan plume, which I don’t particularly care for and will trim off.


Just because we live in the Midwest, doesn’t mean you can’t have succulents in your gardens! There are many varieties of cold hardy, succulent perennials to achieve that sort of look! Look for Hens and Chicks, Lemon Coral Sedum, Sunsparkler Firecracker, Dragon Blood and all the varieties of Sedum!

rio grande purslane

Rio Grande Purslane is an annual that has succulent leaves and blooms in a variety of colors. I love these in rock gardens as they spread fairly fast. In container pots, they have a tendency to take over so keep your pots minimal when planting with room for these ladies to grow! I personally love the orange, yellow and scarlet varieties but they also can be found with multiple color blooms.

king / prince tut

In areas where the temperature drops below 35 degrees, these guys are annuals. I love these grasses for their whimsical, muppet like pom! They work in part sun to full sun. The King Tut can get rather tall, up to 48″, while the Prince Tut can get up to 30″. These are a lot of fun, add great height without a ton of spread. Beware, they can sometimes get so tall that they collapse but they grow so easily, that it’s not a huge loss.

fire chief globe arborvitae

I love these shrubs for their gradient color, going from a bright green to a vibrant orange tip… hence the name! These guys don’t require any trimming to maintain their globe shape, so they fit right in with a low maintenance landscape!

blue spruce juniper

If you’re looking for an evergreen with that same sort of cool, silvery blue as the above mentioned blue grass, keep your eyes open for Blue Spruce Juniper! These come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, from globe shrubs, to low horizontal rugs to tree like globes. We plan on adding some of the Blue Arrow Junipers to our backyard to act as a privacy hedge while interesting color. Picture it paired with a few of the above Fire Chief Globe Arborvitae!

sea thrift

If you’re looking for a shorty to put in the front of your beds, look for Armeria Maritima Rubrifolia aka Sea Thrift. They have a burgandy evergreen foilage along with a dainty tight bloom during the spring. I love these in rock gardens, paired with Lemon Coral Sedum.


i’ve talked about a lot of sun, part sun plants… here are my fav shady plants!



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