By Erik J. Martin, CTW Features
Tired of having to constantly water extra-thirsty plants? Sick of those sun-sensitive flowers that seem to wilt swiftly on sweltering days? Want to expend less energy gardening and more time relaxing in your garden?
Maybe it’s time to replace those weak, fussy, and susceptible species of foliage with-easier plants and flowers, say the experts.
“ Low-maintenance plans are always a good idea for those who are starting out in their plant adventures, but it’s also wise for anyone who wants to have an attractive outdoor space without constantly dedicating time to upkeep,” says Margaret McCoy, an agronomist with True Organic Products in Yakima, Washington.
Camille Cimino, a landscape designer with The Nature of Things in Los Angeles, concurs.
“The less time you have to spend maintaining your yard, the more time you have to enjoy it,” she says.
Cimino considers any flora that doesn’t need a ton of watering, weeding, pruning, or nurturing to be “low-maintenance.”
McCoy also categorizes flowers and plants that are self-seeding or perennials as “low-maintenance.”“Higher maintenance includes the traditional golf course style lawn, which takes a ton of water, weekly mowing, and annual fertilizing. One great way to create a space to spend time in that’s low-maintenance is to replace some or all of your lawn with gravel or mulch. When surrounding the gravel or mulch area with greenery, it can become like the walls of a cozy room, only outdoors,” says Cimino.
Cimino is also partial to bunch grasses, such as Carex pansa, which are easy to care for and incredibly versatile.“
They can be a container plant or, if planted over a large area, can substitute for a lawn–and they sway beautifully in the breeze.
”In the flower realm, tulips, daffodils, crocuses, snowdrops, irises, lilies, day lilies, and any tuber or bulb-based flowers are great options if you seek less upkeep, “since these species can bring color to your space in the early portion of the year while you wait for the rest of the flower world to wake up in spring and summer,” notes McCoy. “Also, sunflowers are good choices. I like to grow sunflower varieties with large seed heads that can feed the birds and provide shade or privacy around my seating areas.”
Aloes, agaves, or phormium tenax come in various colors and have striking shapes without the need for pruning, recommends Cimino.
“Sweet Annie is another favorite of mine that has a sweet, spicy smell. And I love Iceland, oriental, common, or California poppies; they are great at reseeding themselves once they establish, and some varieties do better in cooler climates or are considered more drought-tolerant, which means there are options for most growing regions,” McCoy explains.
Other highly recommended low-upkeep plants include Rosemary, thyme, oregano, lavender, and other hardy herbs; yarrow, a multitasker that can help aerate and gather nutrients from the soil and produce lovely flowers; and roses that, once established, can be cared for relatively easily.“
Simply snip the rose blooms for inside enjoyment or leave them on the bush. Some rose varieties can also serve as an effective hedge to keep wandering animals and prying eyes at bay,” McCoy continues.
Tim Sheppard, the founder of Soil Shepherds, says plants to avoid if you want to reduce your work load include those in the mint family, like bee balm.
“Also avoid plants that require staking, like peonies, and use varieties that are easily contained like swamp milkweed instead of common milkweed, which spreads via aggressive rhizomes and by seed,” he says.
Remember that every plant involves some maintenance sooner or later.
“Caring for any type of plant will include addressing their basic needs: They’ll still require food via fertilizer, water, shelter by finding a good spot in your landscaping, and personal hygiene via cutting back, pruning, or mowing down,” McCoy notes.