What makes a perennial low maintenance?  And what are the best low maintenance perennials?

African Daisy by Midwest Gardening.jpg

Nearly every plant needs at least a little care from a gardener.  There are exceptions of course, many many native plants exist beautifully with no more than Mother Nature to provide care.  And I would encourage you to investigate native plants from your region, which are typically low to no maintenance.  They can easily be incorporated into your perennial beds or you can start a native garden that will thrive quite well without you in all but the most extreme conditions.  But we will discuss native plants another time.

Most of us love to plant cultivated perennials or hybrids, and foliage plants.  But we all need to have some low maintenance plants so we can devote more time to pampering a few garden divas or to enjoy something else entirely.  So just what does it take to qualify as low maintenance?  That might depend on your perspective, but we will try to focus on those that require only the most basic of care.

Even a low maintenance plant absolutely must be planted in its preferred environment, otherwise it will need special attention to thrive in what it considers to be adverse conditions.  If you plant low maintenance Sweet Woodruff in dry soil you now have a high maintenance plant.  You will be constantly watering it to keep it alive much less thriving.  So pay attention to the what the plant needs to make it low maintenance and be sure you select the right planting site.

So what are the characteristics of a low maintenance plant?

  • Strong stems that do not require support or staking
  • Does not require deadheading.  Removing spent blooms to encourage more blooming can be time consuming.
  • Does not require frequent division to keep them healthy and blooming.
  • Requires little or no fertilizing.
  • Self seeding can go either way, so decide which way it will go for your planting site.  Self seeding plants will multiply and spread, that can be a good thing for a contained planting site.  Or will it cause you to constantly be removing seedlings?  
  • Plants that spread by underground rhizomes can also be good or bad.  Evaluate your planting site and be very careful to avoid those that can be invasive.
  • Disease and insect resistant.  Find out which insects or diseases are rampant in your region.
  • Tolerant of summer and winter weather extremes typical of your region.
  • And if we haven’t already asked enough of a plant, it would be nice if it is pretty all time, even when it is not blooming.

Believe it or not, there are quite a few plants that fit the description of low maintenance and are also quite lovely additions to the garden.  Of course not every low maintenance plant can meet every characteristic on our wish list, each gardener needs to decide which maintenance items are most acceptable.