What to Plant in High- and Low-Maintenance Gardens

Choose plants for a garden design that will suit your lifestyle.
Lilium Regale Bulbs Planted in Spring

Lilium Regale Bulbs Planted in Spring

Lilium Regale bulbs should be planted in spring for a late summer and fall blooming.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

When planning a garden, be realistic about how much time you can afford to keep it looking its best.

Gardens for Plant Lovers

These high-maintenance gardens tend to be stocked with a wide range of choice plants, which need their specific growing requirements matched in order to grow well. Careful placing of plants and constant manipulation of growing conditions by gardeners will keep these gardens looking their best, and regular attention will be required to keep plants from outgrowing their space.

Dense Planting

Filling a garden with plants may reduce weeding, but competition for light and water causes problems. High-maintenance plants include dahlias, which may need planting and lifting each year, annuals grown from seed, plants with specific watering, feeding, or pruning needs, and those prone to pests and diseases. A lawn also needs weekly mowing to keep it looking good.

High-Maintenance Planting Suggestions:

  • Aster (some)
  • Astrantia
  • Buxus (if kept clipped)
  • Canna
  • Clematis (some)
  • Cornus sanguinea ‘Winter Beauty’
  • Dahlia
  • Dicksonia antarctica
  • Echinacea purpurea
  • Erysimum
  • Helenium
  • Hosta
  • Lavandula (lavender)
  • Lilies
  • Melianthus major
  • Roses (some)
  • Sambucus racemosa ‘Plumosa Aurea’
  • Tulips

Easy-Care Gardens

These low-maintenance gardens are a good choice for people who have little spare time but still want an attractive outdoor space. Lawns can be replaced with patios or decks, and the soil covered with a special membrane to cut down on weeding, and topped with bark or cobbles after planting. Irrigation systems can be installed, and plants chosen that do not need much attention.

Undemanding Planting

This can provide year-round interest and yet needs little attention. Large specimen plants provide immediate impact. Evergreen shrubs and trees are good because most need little pruning and do not drop leaves in fall. Minimal use of herbaceous plants lessens end-of-season work, and using well-spaced larger plants reduces watering and trimming. 

Low-Maintenance Planting Suggestions:

  • Acer
  • Arbutus unedo
  • Aucuba japonica
  • Choisya ternata Sundance
  • Cotoneaster horizontalis
  • Fatsia japonica
  • Hemerocallis (day lily)
  • Ilex aquifolium ‘Silver Queen’
  • Jasminum nudiflorum
  • Mahonia
  • Nandina domestica
  • Phormium
  • Photinia x fraseri ‘Red Robin’
  • Phyllostachys nigra
  • Stipa tenuissima
  • Trachelospermum asiaticum
  • Vinca (periwinkle) 
Keep Reading

Next Up

How to Plant in Gardening Containers

To ensure that plants in gardening containers grow and perform as well as possible, you need to plant them properly.

Family Planting: Tropical Garden

A tropical border is one of the most exciting plantings, filled with bold, colorful plants and reminiscent of a child’s fantasy jungle.

Tips for Planting a Rock Garden

Creating an optimal environment and choosing the right plants are essential to creating a rock garden.

Family Planting: Butterfly Garden

If you have a sunny, sheltered border, you have the makings of a butterfly garden. Here's what you need to get started.

Family Planting: The Giant Garden

Large plants that dwarf little people can be a wonderful addition to a children’s garden.

When to Plant Garden Mums

Want your garden mums to survive winter? Learn tips for planting fall garden mums to help them return next spring.

Garden Plants and Flowers

Learn how to discover which plants underscore and help define a specific garden design style.