Plant low maintenance perennials to create an uncluttered garden

White TurtleheadSpring is a great time to work in your yard before the temperatures get really hot. If you’re looking to create an uncluttered garden this year, here are some perennials that are easy to care for and very low maintenance (via About.com):

  • Armeria (Sea Thrift)
  • Chelone lyonii (Turtlehead — pictured)
  • Echinops ritro (Globe Thistle)
  • Hosta
  • Iris siberica (Siberian Iris)
  • Liatris spicata (Blazing Star)
  • Paeonia (Peony)
  • Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian Sage)
  • Thalictrum aquilegifolium (Meadow Rue)
  • Tiarella cordifolia (Allegheny Foam flower)

Now, if you are an experienced gardener, you may like to plant flowers that require more care. My black thumb, however, is a bit of an impediment to a more time-consuming flower garden.

Do you know of other, low-maintenance perennial flowers? Please let us know about them in the comments.

40 Comments for “Plant low maintenance perennials to create an uncluttered garden”

  1. posted by Tracy on

    Sedum! They’re full sun plants, mostly, and don’t need a lot of water or care. They grow ANYWHERE.

    Some varieties of daisies are also fairly low-maintenance, but they do tend to spread. If you love daisies, though, this is OK because you’ll soon have a garden full of them at very low cost. Plus you’ll have cut flowers all summer!

    Stella d’Oro are also easy to grow and can be divided later for maximum benefit. The flowers are showy and last most of the summer, and the foliage is pretty on its own.

  2. posted by Springpeeper on

    Hosta is the working gardener’s best friend: it’s perennial, it grows in the shade and it dies down to the ground in the fall and is easily raked up. It requires very little maintenance (apart from dividing it when it gets too large) and one plant fills a large area. It has beautiful foliage, fragrant blossoms and comes in many colours and sizes. It can be grown as a border along a path or walkway or used as an accent here and there.

    If you don’t have hosta in your garden, what are you waiting for?!

  3. posted by Springpeeper on

    Other low maintenance perennials: lily of the valley, pulmonaria, day lilies.

  4. posted by Harris on

    Vinca is a beautiful annual that grows in full sun, comes in lots of colors and lasts until frost. They do well in pots or in the ground. Even though they don’t last year to year, they’re worth it because they bloom continually all summer.

  5. posted by ChzPlz on

    Vinca (at least Vinca minor – aka Myrtle) is a perennial in zones 4-9. Might not overwinter in a pot, but they certainly do in the ground.

  6. posted by ChzPlz on

    Oh – wait – Harris’s “Vinca” is probably Vinca Rosea aka Madagascar Periwinkle aka Catharanthus roseus

    It is an annual. And, as a bonus, it can be hallucinogenic when eaten. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. posted by Brian on

    Canna lillies are great for rough areas of ground that need cover. Same goes for Rose of Sharon, which can be grown from cuttings and will thrive even in really crummy soil.

    Hostas, as mentioned before. Astilbes. Forsythia can be let grow untrimmed, then cut back every few years, or can be cut into hedges. If you have a fence or lattice you need covered, you can use any of several varieties of honeysuckle, though you have to keep it in check a bit.

    What a great post/thread. I’m in the process of building new planting beds — building being the operative word. Our house sit on hardpan, so creating planting beds requires stripping off the top 8 inches or so of compacted clay and putting in topsoil. I’m all about low-maintenance plants.

  8. posted by martha in mobile on

    The best idea would be to go to your local nursery (NOT Lowe’s or Walmart — they sell whatever they are shipped, which might not be low-maintenance for your area) and ask for ideas for plants that suit your yard.

  9. posted by Brian on

    Almost forgot: Butterfly bush and butterfly weed. Mockingbirds love our pyracantha bushes, but those aren’t kid friendly, and need pruning.

  10. posted by Michele on

    A lot of herbs are perennials and black-thumb-proof.

    Also, when it comes to gardening, decorative flowers seem like “unitaskers” to me — I’d rather grow something that can serve two uses: decoration and food!

  11. posted by tazistanjen on

    Lilacs are awesome, though they need full sun. But they come back every year, need only desultory pruning, don’t need much water or good soil. I know this because we have some in my back yard. ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. posted by robin on

    Bleeding hearts and lily of the valley put on a better show every year, without my ever touching them.

  13. posted by Sarah on

    I’ve had fantastic success with lavender, daylilies and rosemary.

  14. posted by Lori on

    Like Tracy, I’m a huge fan of sedum and daisies. I love hosta, too, but the new house backs up onto a ravine that is overrun with deer, and hosta = deer salad bar, so no hosta for me here.

    A word of caution about rose of sharon: it spreads like crazy and can quickly get out of control. Unless you want it to take over, I’d avoid it if you don’t have time to cut off the seed pods before they burst or pick thousands of seedlings out of the surrounding garden and lawn every spring.

    And I’ll second the recommendation of visiting your local nursery and asking for advice on what does well in your area.

  15. posted by Renee on

    I’ve found in my zone 4 yard that purple coneflower (echinacea purpurea) and black-eyed susans (rudbeckia fulgida)produce a lot of bloom with virtually no care and no watering. And I second Robin’s comment about bleeding hearts and lily of the valley.

  16. posted by susteph on

    heartily agree with renee; black-eyed susans (rudbeckia) are great. watch out for the more exotic varieties of this, however (like teddy bear and irish eyes), as they are not reliably hardy in zones 5 and lower (don’t know your zone? go to http://www.garden.org/zipzone/ and enter your zip code).

    also, for those of you in deer country, deer LOVE hosta. just sayin’. and martha in mobile is absolutely right; get advice on what to grow from your local garden center or nursery. they know best what grows in your local area.

  17. posted by Anne on

    I was so overwhelmed…thank you for advice to local nursery!
    moved from high desert to fertlie sac valley….and everything grows and GROWS here…uncluttered plants…you guys are hitting on all cylinders! thank you

  18. posted by Nancy on

    And don’t forget the ferns! Many of the items mentioned above I have in my garden and got for free from when neighbors were dividing or divesting: daylily, ferns, iris, echinacea, rudbeckia, ferns, sedum, lily of the valley, hosta, ferns, mayapple (great in shade!), chives & garlic chives, bee balm, lemon balm, and… um… ferns. Extra-frugal gardening! And less & less grass to mow every year.

    I have spent money on and am thrilled by my forsythia, dogwood, and 3 big and 9 dwarf lilacs. Well worth the relatively low cost, since I planted them 8 years ago and plan to stay a while longer.

  19. posted by rich on

    I’m a big fan of epimedium…it takes well in dry shade (a challenge in the PacNW), has nice spring flowers, and is very hard to kill, without taking over.

  20. posted by Susan on

    As Martha_in_Mobile said above, your local nursery is the place to start. And if you have the chance, go to a nursery that specializes in plants native to your area. Here in the northwest I have azaleas, rhododendrons, ferns and native wildflowers. My yard requires very low water input and virtually no fertilizer because the plants are happy in the local soil. Bug spray? No thank you. I buy a pint of ladybugs every spring — when they finish feasting on my aphids, they spread out into the neighborhood.

  21. posted by jon on

    I agree with day lilies, try for a variety because, as the name implies, each flower only lasts one day. But different varieties come into flower at different weeks, so you get a good range across the summer.

    I also agree with Vinca. Look for Vinca Minor if your garden is small, Vinca major if big and Vinca variagated for a change.

    Hostas are okay, but they are very susceptable to slugs and snail damage. if you already have lots of the buggers, then your Hostas won’t make it above ground in year 2.

    Be careful with herbs, they will spread and some sucker, meaning they pop up all over. Be careful with annual seedlings, especially things like poppies and cornflower, extremely invasive. But I do recommend wallflowers, calendula, nasturtium (which is edible) and er siberian wallflower, can’t think of its true name.

    But do go for perennial poppies, again great bloomers, they die down in winter, very easy to care for.

    I suggest lambs tongue (your local name may vary), lovely soft silvery leaves, nice flower spikes, indestrucatble and will root anyway. Once it’s got going, just dig a bit up, shove it in some where else, splash with water and it takes!

    Try honeysuckle, especially if you can get 2 or 3 different ones, Fantastic climbers, wonderful scent, great for insects. Clematis are great climbers too, but they can be fussy in their first years and need lots of water to thrive.

    Fotinia Fraserii Red Robin is a wonderful shrub, needs no work and sprouts dark red leaves every year, which then turn to green.

  22. posted by Kris on

    I’m in the Pacific Northwest, and my go-to low-maintenance plants are lavender, rosemary, some hebes, specie tulips (if you don’t mind the foliage which lasts longer than the flowers do), lilacs, chives and some other herbs, silverbush, hydrangeas (though I haven’t had good luck with them in this garden), California lilac, hostas as mentioned above, various grasses (I just got a fabulous New Zealand flax that is going to be utterly stunning), hollyhocks, heather, and of course rhododendrons and azaleas.

    Be careful with butterfly bush! It’s an invasive weed in the Pacific Northwest and is on the “Noxious Weed” list for Washington.

  23. posted by kim on

    I second the daylily recommendation. They thrive on neglect.

  24. posted by Sheryl on

    Lori mentioned that Rose of Sharon are pretty spready, and indeed they are, unless you get a sterile variety. There are a few of them…one is a variety called ‘Diana’, but I can’t remember the others, offhand. I just love mine.

    I second the daylily suggestion. Over the past couple of years we’ve been seriously downsizing our gardens and only keeping the lowest-maintenance plants. Several daylilies are among the few that made the cut. Also, I love my ornamental grasses (non-invasive ones.) And lilacs, especially the smaller varieties like ‘Miss Kim’.

  25. posted by Sheryl on

    Just thought of another great one – Baptisia Australis, or False Indigo. Just plant it in a sunny spot, and ignore it! They don’t like to be divided, so you don’t even have to do that. And they thrive in poor soil.

  26. posted by Sarah on

    Daylilies are great, no maintenance. Kangaroo Paws – genus Anigozanthos – thrive on neglect. But watch out for wandering jew–it will grow anywhere, anytime, sprouting from shreds of leaves or stems and is impossible to eradicate.

  27. posted by Sasha on

    My perennial herbs are low maintenance. Also I find tulips pretty easy. Pansies and violets grow and reseed themselves. So do poppies. Irish moss just grows and grows. Hardy cyclamen grows over and over.

    I’m a container gardener limited to my porch, which can get complicated, as can indoor plants. A good cure for black thumbs (doesn’t that almost always mean we over or under water all the time?) are self watering containers. I came across some great ones today: http://www.gardeners.com/Self-.....lt,sc.html and http://www.gardeners.com/Self-.....lt,sc.html

    There are also doo-dads which can “self water” the plants and can be added to planters you already have.

    And you can make your own self watering container. Here’s a groovy page on this, http://www.homegrownevolution......iners.html and if you google the subject you can find even more.

  28. posted by Sasha on

    Oh yes don’t snapdragons reseed themselves as well?

    Sometimes you can just scatter the seeds in loose-ish soil, mix the surface of the soil a bit, and then forget about them–most plants are already evolved to know how to take care of the rest.

  29. posted by Merry on

    I just wanted to say ‘Thanks!’ to Kris in PNW. I just bought a house in Portland and have /no/ idea what to do with the (mostly shady) backyard. I appreciate these suggestions!

  30. posted by RA on

    We live in NJ and have had success with these plants:for a sunny spot Blanket flower (Gaillardia aristata) can be a good choice. I like Lavender, Liatris and Coreopsis ( careful with it’s spreading habit).

    Enjoyed reading this timely post and all the comments.

  31. posted by ashley on

    If you live in Texas, Rosemary and Lantana are excellent choices.

  32. posted by Monique on

    In addition to the great advice to talk to and shop at your local nursery I would recommend that you also obtain a list of what plants to avoid from either the nursery or your local agricultural extension office. Many “lovely” plants that work in one part of the country become invasive and threaten native species when planted in other parts of the country. Where we live you can be fined for not controlling or for planting certain plants. These plants are even illegal to sell here but through “plant-sharing” are still being planted and continue to threaten native species and wildlife habitats.

  33. posted by Dee on

    False sunflowers are my pick for another care free and low maintenance plant that blooms all summer ๐Ÿ™‚

  34. posted by Ketzl Brame on

    There are a few fruit trees/bushes and perennial vegetables that almost anyone can grow, require no pesticides or fertilizers and are beautifully ornamental. If you’re going to the trouble of gardening why not be rewarded for your efforts with tasty, healthy fruits and vegetables? In zone 7/8 I’ve had great success with blueberry bushes, fig trees, pineapple guava and asparagus. Easy as blueberry pie!

  35. posted by eternalvoyageur on

    For me, low-maintenance free gardening is a whole approach to gardening, not just choosing plants that you think don’t need much care. You must choose the plants carefully according to your doil type, wetness, temperature zone, etc. And remember that each garden has different microclimates in different areas.
    I recommend reading about PERMACULTURE. They have many techniques of planting stuff in a way that it takes care of itself. For eg. planting nitrogen fixers that will fertilise other plants, planting ground-cover crops that protect the ground from drying out, weeds, and even more; and also COMPANION PLANTING: planting certain types of planrs together: like garlic near roses to protect them from aphids.

  36. posted by Sara on

    We’re having great luck with gaura. We thought most of our gaura was dead (planted late last summer), but now we’ve got growth on all of them, from the rhizomes. This is with no water and a terrible winter. Of course, this also makes them risky if you don’t want them to spread…

  37. posted by Mari on

    I live in the Northern Rockies Zone 3 and so finding perennials that are low maintenence is a challenge.
    I have found oriental poppies are wonderful, and very few grass will grow with them. They like part sun and part shade. I also have some Giant Bearded Iris and it is very low maintenence with no grass or weeds growing with them either. But for both of these plants I mulch and put bark over them during the winter and fresh mulch in the spring. It helps to keep out bugs too. We tend to get grasshappers! Finally, Columbine is one of my favorites. It grows anywhere, between rocks, crevises and flowers will last all season when watered. Columbine likes part shade and part sun.

  38. posted by Beth on

    All of the ornamental salvias are very low maintenance and beautiful too. I am fond of planting annuals that reseed for me so that they do the sowing for me Sunflowers, cosmos, feverfew, cleomes, pansies, sweet alyssum larkspur are all wonderful reseeders. It makes for a little more relaxed look, more cottage like than ultra organized, but I like abundance in the garden and this is an easy way to get it.

    I also like the newer low maintenance shrub roses. Knock-out and its variations are the most famous, but there are lots of these shrubby types that require no work really. Check with a local nursery for different types.

  39. posted by Mary Rex on

    The main thing is still to keep it simple. Perennials, (even low-maintenance ones) still require some work every year. Start small with a good design, (local garden centers will often do these for free) and add beds and plants as your abilities allow. I am removing beds and plants(free ‘Low-Maintenance’ perennials!!!)to simplify my life.

  40. posted by cher on

    wow..all great ideas. I have a sunny backyard in northern IL stocked with great perennials that are deer & bunny resistant. One that is fabulous is the double knock out rose. It does not need deadheading and the reds are neon vibrant!! I also like Angelina sedum for its bright lime green contrast as a ground cover and around my roses I have hardy cranesbill/hardy geranium for ground cover. This year’s fav is Rozanne with large leaves and large blooms… And no one has mentioned tickseed/thread leaf coreopsis. I like Moonbeam and creme brulee esp. I also added money plant seeds in among my daffodils and as a bienniel, it should not pose a prob. For the butterfly bushes, I have dwarf ones which are not invasive. Did someone mention the garden’s most beautiful bully, BeeBalm or Monarda? It spreads so easily & you need to spray it occasionally with milk to avoid fungus/mold on it (as well as not water it late in the day) but some varieties actually are resistant to the powdery mildew. I also have cardinal flower/lobelia and blue vicgtoria salvia which the bunnies do not like. The dianthus I planted a few years ago continues to return every year so that might be a thought in your garden as well. No bunnies or deer there either.

    good luck

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