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30 Low-Maintenance Plants for Easy Landscaping

These nearly carefree shrubs, trees, annuals and perennials work hard in your landscape, so you don't have to.

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Photo: Sunset Plant Collection/Kathleen Schmucker

Abelias and Other Easy-Care Landscaping Plants

When it comes to landscaping, you want plants that won't always keep you busy watering, fertilizing and pruning. Trees, shrubs and flowers grow and change, of course, but some take more work than others. The good news: Many low-maintenance plants will meet your needs, whether you're looking for shade, flowers for cutting, a wildlife-friendly garden, a hedge or a screen. Check out our list of our favorite, easy-care landscaping plants.

Abelia 'Kaleidoscope’ (Abelia x grandiflora 'Kaleidoscope') lives up to its name, with small white flowers and leaves that change colors with the season. The evergreen foliage emerges yellow-gold on red stems and becomes orange-red in fall. This compact shrub matures at 2 to 3 feet high and 3 to 4 feet wide, so it makes a great low hedge, border or accent plant. It even works as a groundcover and in containers. Hardy in Zones 6 to 10, ‘Kaleidoscope’ takes full sun to part shade, tolerates drought and resists deer.

Abelias like well-drained, slightly acidic soil and regular watering. Prune in late winter or early spring. Remove long, thin shoots from the roots or branches whenever they appear.

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Photo: Proven

Barberry, Shrub

Barberry (Berberis thunbergii) is deer resistant and deciduous, with thorny stems that make it a good foundation plant if you're concerned about home security. Once established, this nearly carefree, compact shrub is drought tolerant. We like these Sunjoy Tangelo landscaping plants for their bright orange leaves that turn chartreuse on the margins later in the season.

Some barberries are invasive and aren't permitted to grow in some states, so check with your extension service office before you plant. Otherwise, plant barberry in spring in part sun or full sun for the best foliage color, and in moist, well-drained soil. Sunjoy Tangelo grows 3 to 4 feet high and wide and is hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 8. Prune to shape in summer, if desired, and fertilize in spring after the last frost or when new growth appears. In all zones, mulch in fall. In Zones 4 to 5, mulch heavily after the first frost and pull back the mulch in spring.

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Photo: First Editions Shrubs & Trees

Lorolpetalum, Shrub

Plant 'Crimson Fire' fringe flower, a dwarf lorolpetalum, and you can practically forget about it. This dwarf shrub holds its ruby-red leaves year-round and opens clusters of strappy, electric-pink flowers in spring. It stays compact, at 4 feet high and 4 to 5 feet wide. These low-maintenance outdoor plants are ideal to grow in masses, in borders, around foundations or in containers. You can also find lorolpetalums with magenta, cream or reddish-purple flowers.

Lorolpetalums need at least four hours of direct sun each day but like cool morning sun and afternoon shade in areas with hot summers. Grow them in loose, rich, slightly acidic soil that drains easily. Work bagged topsoil into dense or clay-like soil, or compost or peat moss into sandy soil. Lorolpetalums tolerate drought once established but need regular water the first year. Apply an all-purpose slow-release fertilizer in late spring and midsummer. If temperatures drop below 0 degrees, mulch them or protect them with shrub wraps or burlap. Prune after flowering.

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Photo: Proven D. Wood

Buddleia, Shrub

Bring monarchs, swallowtails and other thirsty butterflies to your landscape with butterfly bushes (Buddleia). Some gardeners dislike these shrubs for their sprawling growth habit and invasive tendencies; they spread easily by dropping seeds. But newer, mostly sterile cultivars are available with flower colors like pink, violet, red, white, purple and orange. We like ‘Miss Molly,’ shown here, a noninvasive plant that tops out at 4 to 5 feet tall. It offers a more refined growth habit for a low-maintenance landscape.

Butterfly bushes are hardy in Zones 5 to 9 and need fertile, well-drained soil. Give them full sun and use them in perennial borders, island beds or wherever their loose, arching stems won’t detract from your landscape design. Prune for size anytime, or cut them to the ground in late winter to encourage vigorous growth in spring.

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