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Plants for a low maintenance garden

The surest way of creating a low maintenance garden 

Is to get rid of the lawn and borders and hard landscape the lot.

A mix of paving, pebbles, decorative gravel or slate and wood, if properly designed and constructed, can be attractive, interesting and practical and above all low maintenance. 

Not for you?


Not for me either! I like both plants and low maintenance. So let's look at a few low maintenance garden plants, shrubs, trees  that will add interest and colour to a garden and at the same time are not too needy.

paved garden

Instead of getting rid of the lawn try letting it go wild instead. It will save lots of time, no more mowing, no more watering and no more chemicals. If you are a "green lawn man" you won't like it so don't click on this link Wild lawn

Having easy to reach flower beds, maybe around the edge of a patio or along side pathways, planted with slow growing ground-cover plants, selected for colour over the four seasons will keep weeding to a minimum and provide colour throughout the year. 

If you include drought-resistant plants and shrubs like holly, pine, rosemary and lavender the need for watering during long dry spells will be minimal.

How to select low-maintenance easy care plants

There are many plants that will thrive in your garden needing just the very minimum of care and maintenance as long as they are planted in an environment that suits them, this explains which plants will suit the conditions in your garden. 

  • Shade tolerant plants for shady areas. These are mostly woodland and hedgerow plants that may not be very colourful, but often have interesting and attractive foliage. Plants that will grow in shade  Caution though, not all are low care. 
  • Plants that like full sun and sandy soil, like the drought-loving Mediterranean herbs Sage, Rosemary and Thyme.  List of plants that will tolerate sandy soil 
  • Plants for a dry garden. If your garden is mostly dry these are the best low maintenance plants: Lavenders, Rosemary, Artemisia, Sea hollies, Irises and Sedums.
  • Low maintenance plants for clay based soilPlants that grow in clay. 
  • Select trees and shrubs according to the size of your garden. Large quick growing trees like leylandii planted in a small space will be very high maintenance and quickly shade out other plants. Slow growing shrubs are well behaved and won't want  to take over the garden.
  • Choose plants that are not too needy, most plants need a little help in their first year, but after that they will thrive without to much care, food or additional water.
  • Select plants that don't need to much make-up, ones that naturally looks good all year round.
  • Flowerpots and containers spread around the garden are high-maintenance as they dry out quickly and need regular watering, so group them together to make watering easier and plant with nicotiana, osteospermum, geraniums, petunias and nasturtiums which can tolerate a bit of neglect.
  • Avoid the "needy greedy" high maintenance types of plants I have listed toward the bottom of this page.

low-maintenance plants I grow in my garden

 These are low maintenance plants that will thrive and look good with minimum input from you. Providing they are planted in an environment that suits them. Bear in mind Shade, Full sun, Drought tolerant, Needy or not.

These grasses are  low maintenance.  You'll only have to attend to them when you cut them down to the ground in spring. Most common forms of Miscanthus, Stipa and Molinia are easy to grow.

Once you've planted them nothing much more needs doing, daffodils  are better planted among shrubs to hide the leaves once flowering is over:  Daffodils Scillas, Alliums, Camassias, snowdrops and cyclamens are all very low maintenance coming up year after year.

Old fashioned and low maintenance. Oregon grape will give winter colour and spring flowers. The strawberry tree is evergreen, slow growing with strawberry-like fruit in winter. Silver bush is an evergreen low-growing silver-leaved shrub with white summer flowers.

The following evergreen plants look after themselves.

Black grass This low-growing member of the lily family will slowly spread to cover an area.
 Slow growing, box will be happy in sun or shade. Its most common cause of death is lack of water.

Bamboo Stick to Phyllostachys and you can pretty much leave the plant alone once it's settled.
Mind-your-own-business. It will try to spread, but will neatly fill any gaps in the paving.
Olive. In sheltered sunny spots olive trees are perfect year-round performers. Slow growing, they can quite happily survive a summer drought.

Caring for and preparing your soil will mean less time spent caring for your plants. Digging in plenty of organic matter such as well rotted manure, homemade compost or leaf mold when preparing your beds for planting will increase its fertility, aeration and water-retaining ability.

Six types of "needy greedy" plants to avoid in a low maintenance garden.

  1. Avoid most Bedding plants and other annuals that have a short flowering life. Modern hybrids and double flowers offer wildlife nothing at all anyway.
  2. Thirsty plants that wilt at the first sign of sunshine, you will be forever watering them. 
  3. Plants that are loved by slugs and snails like Delphiniums and Hosta unless you want to spend most evenings and early morning fighting them off. 
  4. Avoid perennials if you are obsessively tidy. They look great and attract bees and butterflies, but will require staking up, dead heading and dividing.  Sedums and Hollyhocks need less maintenance and most perennials don't necessarily have to be cut back in autumn anyway as the seed heads on agapanthus, poppies, sedums and many grasses will add interest and colour to your garden over winter, especially on frosty mornings. 
  5. Rapidly spreading plants like some Mint and Bamboo, although great for ground cover some of these plants are very invasive therefore high  maintenance, quickly spread into other areas of your garden. They are best restricted by installing barriers around the root and base of the plant or grown in containers. 
  6. Shade or full sun loving plants. If your garden is mostly shady, sun loving plants won't thrive and adversely shady plants won't tolerate full sun.