Most of us are busy people without the money to hire a landscape artist or a gardener for maintenance. We want a place of beauty for relaxation and hosting guests, a low maintenance landscape design that will still look great after being neglected for weeks or more. Since most physical elements, from arbours to outdoor furniture, are made to withstand weather exposure, we can focus on the living features of the landscape.
High Maintenance Versus Low Maintenance Plants
A great place to start assessing possible plants for a low maintenance landscape design is to consider what is meant by the term. High maintenance plants can be intolerant of drought, require yearly division or regular pruning, or need a scheduled fertilizer. The hibiscus is a good example, requiring regular watering and fertilizing with micro-nutrients, as well as pruning at exact times in the growth cycle.
Low maintenance plants require little attention to remain beautiful and healthy. While running and clumping varieties of bamboo can rightly be considered high-maintenance in a small environment, Japanese Sacred Bamboo produces creamy white flowers with autumn leaves that turn a beautiful scarlet to orange colour. This bamboo, also known as Nandina domestica, will retain a dense, rounded shape of 50cm for both height and width.
Sedum varieties make a natural choice for low maintenance outdoor plants. There are more than 300 varieties featuring flowers in any hue, and they are butterfly magnets. Yarrow is another butterfly standard, attracting a variety of species with 60cm flowering stems and feathery foliage low to the ground. Since every region hosts different butterfly species, it’s a good idea to visit a local nursery and find out which varieties are best for attracting your area’s most beautiful pollinators.
Low Maintenance Pot Plants?
It sounds like an oxymoron and that is usually the truth. Many location offer little soil to work with, so growing in containers may be your only option. Even with the room, some people will desire to show off that Sicilian Bay with its corkscrew trunk, even at the cost of moving it indoors during the winter. Whether you want a decorative shrubbery surrounding the outdoor living room or desire a stand of stately lilies, smart use of containers can mean a minimum of fuss.
Few plants can withstand having their roots baked. Containers receiving direct, summer sun should be some colour besides black; lighter colours mean cooler roots. The potting medium should be well drained, yet able to retain some moisture. This can be achieved by filling the bottom few centimetres of the pot with gravel or pottery shards and using a soil mix with a high content of organic matter, like peat or compost. Shading the pot and using a good soil mix will reduce watering needs for any pot plant dramatically.
Great flower choices for low maintenance pot plants are lantanas, which bloom until frost and attract butterflies, and Asiatic lilies, like the magnificent Star-gazer. For extra drought tolerance, trailing Rosemary and Globe Thistle will add fragrance and long-lasting visual appeal with minimal care. In the shadiest locations, the Hosta, Foam Flower, and Coral Bells makes good choices. Foam flower in particular is extremely low maintenance and will keep its foliage throughout the winter.
Ground covers for Low Maintenance Landscape Design
Finally, no low maintenance design is complete without thinking about what to do with bare soil. Dense plantings and mulch will stop many weeds, but ground cover can cut out weeding altogether. Subterranean clover will not compete with larger plants and can even help bring nutrients to the surface, removing the need for fertilizer. Spreading covers, like Roman Chamomile and Mother of Thyme, may enjoy foot traffic and will release their scents when bruised.
Planning a low maintenance landscape design doesn’t mean limitations, just a different set of considerations. Many of the plants commonly considered high maintenance can be good choices in the right setting.