Both beginner and expert gardeners need some low-maintenance perennials to make gardening chores easier. No matter how much you love being out in the garden, it’s nice not to spend all your time on chores like deadheading, staking, and dividing. Growing even just a few low-maintenance perennials will help cut back on the work you do.
Add Beauty to Your Garden
Even if these tasks are enjoyable, odds are you don’t want a garden full of prima donnas that require constant care to perform well. No matter how much you like to fiddle with your plants, it’s good to have at least a few in your beds and borders that are nearly self-sufficient. Beautiful and reliable plants don't have to be a gamble. These low-maintenance perennials will save you money on watering and add beauty to your garden.
Yarrow - botanically known as achillea millefolium - grows to be a couple of feet tall with fern-like foliage. The summer blooms (June to September) can be white, yellow, pink, and red. Yarrow is tolerant to drought, so you’ll have gorgeous flowers even during dry summers (or when you’ve forgotten to water). However, they do have a tendency to flop in windy conditions or when planted in shady locations, and wet soils can cause the yarrow to develop various root rots and leaf spots. The right location is key to a care-free yarrow plant.
You rarely have to worry about whether this low maintenance will come back each year. One of the most reliable growers around, it offers delightful color well into fall. The star-shaped blooms are a treat for butterflies, and fall-blooming varieties offer fuel to monarchs and other late fliers on their journey south. It’s one of the first low-maintenance perennials to emerge in spring, and then it offers interesting foliage until it begins blooming from late summer through the end of fall.
Unlike other perennials, turtlehead, or chelone, doesn’t need to be divided frequently in order to keep blooming. Plant a small clump and let it slowly spread to form a colony. If this perennial runs too far, just use a spade to dig out the edges. Keep the soil around the turtlehead moist. This is a good perennial for a rain garden or low spot where water collects.
This drought-tolerant perennial often gets forgotten, but it’s the perfect addition to any wildlife habitat, with flowers that attract hummingbirds and butterflies all summer long. Late in the season, the seed heads provide food for birds. You can choose just about any flower color you want, with cultivars offering orange, pink, red, purple, and blue blooms.
These late spring to early summer blooms feature muted pinks and reds. Growing from 1 to 4 feet tall, astilbes are a good fit in a shady space. Add them for delicate blooms and beautiful colors with little to no maintenance required. Traditionally a shade plant, newer astilbe hybrids will now tolerate more sun.
Though you can also find this bloom as an easy annual to grow from seed, make sure you pick up the perennial version, too. It loves the sun and thrives in dry conditions. New varieties offer pretty alternatives to the traditional yellow blooms, and the orange, pink and bright-red -varieties add a color twist to this favorite.
Canadian Wild Ginger
The wild ginger plant, or asarum canadense, grows at higher altitudes and stays green. They grow from six to ten inches tall. This low plant makes a dense ground cover for moist, shaded spots. It’ll even tolerate clay, or periodic standing water, such as in a rain garden. Plant small clumps a foot or so apart. In a few years, it’ll grow together into a mass so thick weeds won’t be able to come up through it. Each plant has just two satiny, heart-shaped leaves.
Another great flower among the low-maintenance perennials is False Indigo, also known as baptisia. For a refined flower with the look and maintenance level of a wildflower, use false indigo to fill spaces in the garden. Whites, yellows, blues, and purples on tall, 2- to 4- foot spikes bring lots of colors. Plant in full sun to light shade for early spring blooms.
With its gray-green foliage and beautiful purple flowers, Russian Sage, or salvia yangii, is a favorite among full sun perennials. These low-maintenance perennials are deer resistant, drought-tolerant, and they attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. It also requires absolutely no maintenance. It doesn’t need fertilizing, deadheading or dividing.
Don’t like to stake your plants? You’ll never have to support the stiff stems of Amsonia. In fact, it almost looks more like a small woody shrub than a perennial. Clusters of steel-blue flowers start opening in early June in most areas and continue for a month or more. For the rest of the summer, Amsonia is covered with attractive glossy green leaves that are rarely bothered by insects, diseases, or critters, such as deer or rabbits. By fall, the leaves begin to change to yellow. While a clump is slow to mature, this is one of the best perennials for fall color. It continues to get brighter gold until it’s stopped by several hard touches of frosts. Just about the only maintenance you need to do is cut the spent stems down sometime before new ones sprout next spring.