12 Plants For a Low Maintenance Garden
Beautify your garden with only minimal effort
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Not everyone has hours of spare time to spend in the garden tending to plants and lawns. However, with careful planning, you can easily achieve a beautiful garden with minimal effort.
In this guide, Hannah Miller has choosen 12 plants that are difficult to kill, require only occasional pruning (if any), don’t need an excessive amount of watering or feed and are generally good at resisting pests and diseases.
A word of warning though; the old saying “great plant, wrong location” should be at the forefront of your mind. Almost all of the plants listed on this page are low-maintenance provided they are grown in an ideal location. Pick a great plant and put it in the wrong place, and you’ll need to spend more time maintaining it.
Below you’ll find a mixture of beautiful flowering plants that bring colour to your garden and a selection of ground-covering weed-suppressors.
1) Hydrangea Macrophylla
Hydrangea Macrophylla is one of the easiest plants to grow and I am currently growing several of them, including in my pots.
My hydrangeas are generally pest-free and require only a once-yearly feed with a slow-release fertiliser or organic material top-up.
I’ve only ever pruned them once a year, and I leave the dead flowers on over winter as they look dazzling when covered in frost.
With little maintenance and care, you can expect dozens of large flowers that’ll last all the way through into autumn.
DO – plant in a spot with light shade, so you don’t need to water them so frequently. Dig in slow-release fertiliser in spring, as it’ll last all through the growing season. Consider buying an “Endless Summer” hydrangea as they are more forgiving of pruning mishaps and produce more blooms.
Don’t – place in a very sunny, dry spot in the garden as you’ll need to water it more frequently, and hydrangeas can be very thirsty. I’ve seen gardeners have issues with hydrangeas due to aggressive pruning so keep it light.
Not sure where to start? Hydrangea Guide is a website that contains everything you need to know about Hydrangea Macrophylla and is a great place to start.
English lavender is a very low-maintenance plant and I have several in my garden. I’ve always found them very easy to maintain, they never need watering, don’t like fertiliser, are pest free and I only prune them once a year.
I have English lavender in my borders and French lavender in my pots and neither has given me issues.
DO – Locate this low-maintenance plant in a very sunny spot in well-drained soil. Elevated positions are perfect for lavender as water won’t pool near the plant. Do add grit to loosen up soils containing heavy organic matter.
DON’T – Fertiliser or excessive amounts of organic matter isn’t needed, and too much can cause the lavender to become woody. Only water lavender during very hot weather; mine cope well with dry soil. I’ve had issues with trying to move lavenders before, as they really don’t like being transplanted once they’re established.
3) Ornamental Grasses
Thousands of varieties of grass can be grown to add texture, movement and structure to any garden, so there’s plenty of choices.
These low-maintenance plants are resistant to most pests and diseases and can be grown in a variety of locations; from shade to part-shade through to a full-sun position. I’ve found that most cope well with drought and are forgiving when it comes to watering and feed.
I previously grown grasses with alliums, check out these beautiful photos.
The BBC’s Gardener’s World website has a practical selection of ornamental grasses for small gardens and is an excellent place to start.
4) Hostas For Shaded Low-Maintenance Gardens
I really enjoyed growing hostas and the huge foliage was a really eye-catching in the dark area of my garden.
If you have a shaded spot, consider growing a hosta but be warned; slugs love them.
While hostas are low-maintenance, you will still need to put a slug control plan in place.
5) Lamb’s Ear
Lamb’s Ear is a perfect low-maintenance plant; it requires very little care and I’ve grown it as ground cover and for its weed suppression abilities
I have also grown it under taller plants such as roses, alliums and ornamental grasses, as well as trees.
Grow in full sun you’ll be rewarded with years of hassle-free growth. The grey/silver fur-like coating is particularly eye-catching.
Lamb’s Ear is a delicacy for slugs but otherwise is pest-free, few diseases affect the plant, and it self-seeds if not pruned.
DO – Grow in full sun and well-draining soil. Locate anywhere in full sun where you need to suppress weeds.
DON’T – Lamb’s Ear doesn’t like overly moist soil or full-shade. There’s no need to fertilise as this low-maintenance plant thrives in poor soils.
Gardening Know How published a quick guide to growing Lamb’s Ear; it’s a good place to start.
We’ve had 14 Dianthus plants in our border for two years, and they’ve been almost maintenance-free. We deadhead every week or two to encourage new blooms, but this isn’t essential as most Dianthus will bloom profusely even with less frequent deadheading.
Slugs and snails have ignored them so far, and there’s been no sign of disease or damage from other pests.
We rarely watered this plant beyond the first few months after planting and have been rewarded with flowers that keep coming all summer and into the autumn.
Dianthus prefers a sunny spot in well-drained soil, so is perfect for raised flowerbeds, containers or rockeries.
Our only gripe is that perennial Dianthus may only last between 3 and 5 years, at which point the plant should be split or propagated from offshoots.
DO – Locate in a sunny spot with at least 6 hours of sunlight to achieve the best results. Grow in well-drained soil and fertilise once or twice per growing season. Split or propagate every few years.
DON’T – I lost a few by being lazy with my watering. Dianthus hates overhead watering as this can lead to diseases spreading into the crown.
7) Skimmia Japonica Combo
Skimmia Japonica is one of my favourite winter plants and even made it onto DIY Gardening’s list of the best plants for winter colour.
A compact and evergreen shrub that produces small white or yellow flowers followed by bright red berries on the female plant, Skimmia Japonicas are perfect low-maintenance garden plants.
In my garden, the berries stay on the branches throughout most of the winter, creating much-needed colour at an often dull time of year.
There is a catch, though; the female plant will only produce berries if planted near a male plant. For this reason, I’ve selected two Japonica Skimmias for your low-maintenance garden.
I think “Rubella” and “Obsession” would be a perfect match and I have both in my garden.
In my garden, the plants are generally free from pests and diseases, and I’ve found them easy to maintain.
You can find more information about this low-maintenance shrub on the RHS website.
Alliums mix well with hundreds of plants, but I think they look best mixed with taller plants such as grasses, lavender and coneflowers or grown over weed-suppressing groundcover plants such as hostas.
The alliums in my garden come back year after year and don’t need much attention.
Next year I will be experimenting with the Alium Globemaster and a selection of 5 or 6 shorter alliums, including the ever-popular “purple sensation”.
Choose a sunny spot sheltered from the wind and with well-drained soil, and you’re good to go. Alliums, once established, are drought-tolerant, low-maintenance plants, and I’ve seen more of them recently in cottage gardens and borders.
Explore our in-depth guide to planting and growing alliums here
I’ve been growing coneflowers for years and have found them really easy to maintain.
I’ve never had problems with pests or diseases and they self-seed and spread with ease.
Each spring I see new coneflowers popping up near the original ones, but they are never invasive or a problem.
Locate coneflowers in a sunny spot with well-draining soil, and they should flower from June through to late September or even October.
This low-maintenance plant is one of my favourites and I’ve previously grown them with dahlias, alliums, grasses and Russian sage.
I prefer the popular purple coneflower, but all look stunning.
You can plant in swatches for dramatic effect in borders or simply grow in pots.
DO – Plant in a sunny, well-drained part of the garden. Add organic matter no more than once a year; coneflowers do just fine in poor to moderately fertile soils.
DON’T – Avoid excessive watering or fertilising, don’t grow in shaded parts of the garden or overcrowd them as they don’t like being crowded.
Catmint is as tough as old boots and is an excellent alternative to lavender and nearly as aromatic too!
I’ve seen this herbaceous perennial flower from spring through to early summer, and sometimes it reblooms in autumn too.
Grow in a sunny spot with well-draining soil and avoid permanently wet ground conditions and deep shade.
I’ve had success growing it in rock gardens, with herb collections and along border edges and paths. I typically use it as a filler plant but it’s so much more.
Expect growth up to 90cm (3feet), and once established; they require only occasional watering beyond natural rainwater. I’ve never used fertiliser as they tolerate poor soil well.
The catmint in my garden has never been affected by pests or diseases.
Gardening With Charlie has published an excellent introductory guide to catmint.
11) Hardy Geranium
Hardy Geraniums (not to be confused with bedding geraniums) produce beautiful saucer-shaped flowers from late spring through to autumn and will grow well in full, partial or dappled sunlight.
These are a staple in my garden as they fill voids quickly, produce lots of foliage and blooms and require very little care.
I’ve never had issues with pests or diseases and each winter, they die back to ground level and then bounce back the following spring.
If had to choose one low-maintenance plant for my garden, it would be a hardy geranium.
12) Coral Bells
Coral Bells are an excellent choice for low-maintenance gardens. They can be grown in partial, dappled or even full sun and perform well in moist, well-draining soil.
Expect growth to reach around 0.5 metres with tubular, bell-like flowers blooming on upright stems in late spring to early summer.
While the flowers are small, they are complemented by the truly unique ground-covering foliage.
Coral Bells go particularly well with Hostas and ornamental grasses, both are low-maintenance plants and make perfect companion plants for Coral Bells grown in shaded gardens.
I have coral bells in two large pots, and they are performing well with little attention from me.
You’ll find lots of images and details about coral bells here.
If you want to achieve a beautiful garden that’s also low maintenance, here are my tips, based on my experience:
- I mulch the soil surface or cover with gravel to keep the soil moist, thus reducing the amount of water I need to put down.
- I group plants by their water and feed requirements, i.e. I don’t plant thirsty plants next to ones that prefer a drier soil.
- If one section of your garden contains thirsty plants, invest in a timed irrigation system, they aren’t expensive.
- I suppress weeds by using bark mulch or increasing the density of the weeds, or both.
- Avoid most annual bedding plants (petunias, pansies, etc.) as they need regular water, feed and attention in general.
- When digging in any plant, first sprinkle Mycorzial Fungi into the hole. The plant will then develop a strong secondary root system that will improve water and nutrient uptake, reducing the amount of watering and feeding you need to do.
- When I’m lazy, I apply a slow-release fertiliser in the spring, this lasts for months and is less time-consuming than applying liquid or powder fertilisers every few weeks.
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Meet The Author: Hannah Miller
Hannah is a former NHS administrator, mother of two and keen qualified gardener who loves growing new plants and experimenting in the garden.
She enjoys gardening as much as she cares about the environment and likes to share her knowledge with others.
This year is all about pollinators, and Hannah has set herself the goal of only buying new plants that attract pollinators; she aims to make the garden as bee and butterfly friendly as possible.
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Hannah Miller has been a gardening enthusiast for over 12 years and has a level 3 qualification in horticulture. She's constantly growing new plants and frequently writes for us.
As accuracy is important, we asked fully qualified horticulturist Elizabeth Smith to review and fact-check this guide.
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