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10 low-maintenance perennials for your garden

By: Garden Gate staff
Beginner and expert gardeners both need some low-maintenance perennials to make gardening chores easier. Here are 10 of the best!

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.

Check out our list of container plants that don't need deadheading

What are low-maintenance perennials?

You hear about low-maintenance gardening all the time. But just what does that mean? Probably different things to different people. Your neighbor dreads deadheading daylilies, but you find it relaxing. You find staking tedious. But to your friend, placing stakes and winding string has become an art form. Not everyone enjoys getting their hands in the soil to divide their perennials. But you see it as a way to create more plants for your garden and share the extras with friends.

Add some low-maintenance perennials in your beds and borders

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. Here are 10 low-maintenance perennials that can take care of themselves once they’re established.

See also: 6 dependable perennials for any garden

’Coronation Gold’ yarrow (Achillea hybrid)

Some yarrows are aggressive spreaders, and they need constant dividing to keep them under control. But ‘Coronation Gold’ will stay in a tidy clump. The flowers are long-lasting in the garden and in a vase. They even hold their rich color when they’re dried for winter bouquets. Leave some standing in the garden because the brown flower heads of this yarrow add some winter interest. Make sure ‘Coronation Gold’ is in a sunny and dry location. Shade and rich, moist soil tend to make the stems weak and floppy.

Blooms Flat clusters of bright gold flowers in midsummer Light Full sun Soil Well-drained Size 30 to 36 in.tall, 18 to 24 in. wide Hardiness Cold-hardy in USDA zones 3 to 8

Common ladybells (Adenophora confusa)

The blue spikes of this hardy perennial bloom for 3 to 4 weeks and last well as cut flowers, too. If you try to move an established clump, you’ll discover the roots are deep and fleshy. Common ladybells can be slow to recover, so find a good spot, plant a clump and leave it alone. Deer will do the same — this is a perennial they rarely eat.

Blooms Spikes of deep blue bells in early summer Light Full sun to part shade Soil Well-drained Size 30 to 36 in. tall, 18 to 24 in. wide Hardiness Cold-hardy USDA zones 3 to 8

’Snowbank’ boltonia (Boltonia asteroides)

If you’ve grown fall asters (Asters spp. and hybrids) and fi nd them to be fl oppy, give boltonia a try. Providing it’s planted in full sun and lean soil, the stiff stems remain standing. Boltonia spreads by shallow rhizomes but won’t get out of hand. If you want to divide a clump, do it in spring so it’ll have time to recover and form late summer buds. If boltonia has one problem, it’s that the foliage can develop powdery mildew. But since the leaves are small, the gray fungus is barely noticeable and won’t affect the blooming.

Type Perennial Blooms White daisies in fall Light Full sun Soil Moist, well-drained Size 3 to 4 ft. tall, 2 to 3 ft. wide Hardiness Cold-hardy in USDA zones 4 to 9

Amsonia (Amsonia tabernaemontana)

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, disease 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 frosts. About the only maintenance you need to do is cut the spent stems down sometime before new ones sprout next spring.

Blooms Clusters of blue stars in late spring to early summer Light Full sun to part shade Soil Well-drained Size 2 to 3 ft. tall and wide Hardiness Cold-hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9

Starry false Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum stellatum)

Pair this woodland plant with ferns for good foliage contrast. Each stem has a 1- to 4-inch-long spike of white star-shaped flowers clustered at the top. They’re followed by purple-to black-striped green berries that eventually turn red in summer.

Plant one starry false Solomon’s seal and give it some time. It’ll spread by stout under-ground rhizomes to form a small colony. If you’re in a hurry, purchase and plant several in a group, spacing them a foot apart.

Type Perennial Blooms Spikes of tiny white stars in late spring Light Part shade to full sun Soil Moist, well-drained Size 12 to 24 in. tall, 10 to 18 in. wide Hardiness Cold-hardy in USDA zones 3 to 7

Turtlehead (Chelone lyonii)

Unlike other perennials, turtlehead 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 turtlehead moist. This is a good perennial for a rain garden or low spot where water collects. A 3- to 4-inch layer of organic mulch spread over the area will also keep the roots moist.

Blooms Spikes of pink in late summer Light Full sun to part shade Soil Moist Size 2 to 3 ft. tall, 1 to 2 ft. wide Hardiness Cold-hardy USDA zones 3 to 9

Canadian wild ginger (Asarum canadense)

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. In early spring pull them back and you’ll find a small maroon flower at soil level, where these leaves meet.

Type Perennial Blooms Small maroon flowers in early spring Light Part to full shade Soil Moist, well-drained, alkaline Size 6 to 12 in. tall, 12 to 24 in. wide Hardiness Cold-hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9

’Innocence’ evening primrose (Oenothera pallida)

Find a spot with dry, even sandy, soil for ‘Innocence’ or it will grow more foliage than flowers and the stems will be floppy. Purchase a packet of seeds and in spring sow them directly in the garden. Just press the seeds into the surface — they need light to germinate. Some may bloom the first year, but most will wait until the following summer.

Blooms White cups open all summer, turning pale pink as they fade Light Full sun to part shade Soil Well-drained to dry Size 15 to 20 in. tall and wide Hardiness Cold-hardy USDA zones 4 to 9

Carolina lupine (Thermopsis villosa)

This is a perennial that can stay in the same spot for years. In fact, the deep taproot makes it tough to dig and divide. And you rarely need to stake it. Carolina lupine is at home in cultivated beds and borders, as well as wildflower meadows. Looking similar to true lupines, this North American native is much more heat- and drought-tolerant. Give it a spot in full sun and well-drained soil. In the South, or other areas with extremely hot summer temperatures, a little afternoon shade will keep the foliage from scorching.

Blooms Spikes of bright yellow in summer Light Full sun Soil Well-drained to dry Size 3 to 5 ft. tall, 2 to 3 ft. wide Hardiness Cold-hardy in USDA zones 3 to 8

Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica)

While it’s young, before it forms a colony, you may want to mark the location of this perennial. A few weeks after the blooms fade, Virginia bluebells goes dormant until the following spring, and you don’t want to accidentally dig out the roots.

This North American native spreads by seed and underground rhizomes. If you want to share it with friends, gather seeds in spring, just as the foliage yellows and is dying down. The seeds don’t store well, so sow them in the garden immediately. Seedlings take a couple of years to reach blooming size. You’ll get flowers faster if you dig roots from a friend’s garden in summer or fall when the plant is dormant. Replant them right away in moist, humus-enriched soil.

Type Perennial Blooms Pink buds open sky blue in early spring Light Part to full shade Soil Moist, well-drained Size 12 to 18 in. tall, 6 to 12 in. wide Hardiness Cold-hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9

’Coronation Gold’ yarrow (Achillea hybrid)

Some yarrows are aggressive spreaders, and they need constant dividing to keep them under control. But ‘Coronation Gold’ will stay in a tidy clump. The flowers are long-lasting in the garden and in a vase. They even hold their rich color when they’re dried for winter bouquets. Leave some standing in the garden because the brown flower heads of this yarrow add some winter interest. Make sure ‘Coronation Gold’ is in a sunny and dry location. Shade and rich, moist soil tend to make the stems weak and floppy.

Blooms Flat clusters of bright gold flowers in midsummer Light Full sun Soil Well-drained Size 30 to 36 in.tall, 18 to 24 in. wide Hardiness Cold-hardy in USDA zones 3 to 8

Turtlehead (Chelone lyonii)

Unlike other perennials, turtlehead 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 turtlehead moist. This is a good perennial for a rain garden or low spot where water collects. A 3- to 4-inch layer of organic mulch spread over the area will also keep the roots moist.

Blooms Spikes of pink in late summer Light Full sun to part shade Soil Moist Size 2 to 3 ft. tall, 1 to 2 ft. wide Hardiness Cold-hardy USDA zones 3 to 9

Common ladybells (Adenophora confusa)

The blue spikes of this hardy perennial bloom for 3 to 4 weeks and last well as cut flowers, too. If you try to move an established clump, you’ll discover the roots are deep and fleshy. Common ladybells can be slow to recover, so find a good spot, plant a clump and leave it alone. Deer will do the same — this is a perennial they rarely eat.

Blooms Spikes of deep blue bells in early summer Light Full sun to part shade Soil Well-drained Size 30 to 36 in. tall, 18 to 24 in. wide Hardiness Cold-hardy USDA zones 3 to 8

Canadian wild ginger (Asarum canadense)

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. In early spring pull them back and you’ll find a small maroon flower at soil level, where these leaves meet.

Type Perennial Blooms Small maroon flowers in early spring Light Part to full shade Soil Moist, well-drained, alkaline Size 6 to 12 in. tall, 12 to 24 in. wide Hardiness Cold-hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9

’Snowbank’ boltonia (Boltonia asteroides)

If you’ve grown fall asters (Asters spp. and hybrids) and fi nd them to be fl oppy, give boltonia a try. Providing it’s planted in full sun and lean soil, the stiff stems remain standing. Boltonia spreads by shallow rhizomes but won’t get out of hand. If you want to divide a clump, do it in spring so it’ll have time to recover and form late summer buds. If boltonia has one problem, it’s that the foliage can develop powdery mildew. But since the leaves are small, the gray fungus is barely noticeable and won’t affect the blooming.

Type Perennial Blooms White daisies in fall Light Full sun Soil Moist, well-drained Size 3 to 4 ft. tall, 2 to 3 ft. wide Hardiness Cold-hardy in USDA zones 4 to 9

’Innocence’ evening primrose (Oenothera pallida)

Find a spot with dry, even sandy, soil for ‘Innocence’ or it will grow more foliage than flowers and the stems will be floppy. Purchase a packet of seeds and in spring sow them directly in the garden. Just press the seeds into the surface — they need light to germinate. Some may bloom the first year, but most will wait until the following summer.

Blooms White cups open all summer, turning pale pink as they fade Light Full sun to part shade Soil Well-drained to dry Size 15 to 20 in. tall and wide Hardiness Cold-hardy USDA zones 4 to 9

Amsonia (Amsonia tabernaemontana)

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, disease 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 frosts. About the only maintenance you need to do is cut the spent stems down sometime before new ones sprout next spring.

Blooms Clusters of blue stars in late spring to early summer Light Full sun to part shade Soil Well-drained Size 2 to 3 ft. tall and wide Hardiness Cold-hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9

Carolina lupine (Thermopsis villosa)

This is a perennial that can stay in the same spot for years. In fact, the deep taproot makes it tough to dig and divide. And you rarely need to stake it. Carolina lupine is at home in cultivated beds and borders, as well as wildflower meadows. Looking similar to true lupines, this North American native is much more heat- and drought-tolerant. Give it a spot in full sun and well-drained soil. In the South, or other areas with extremely hot summer temperatures, a little afternoon shade will keep the foliage from scorching.

Blooms Spikes of bright yellow in summer Light Full sun Soil Well-drained to dry Size 3 to 5 ft. tall, 2 to 3 ft. wide Hardiness Cold-hardy in USDA zones 3 to 8

Starry false Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum stellatum)

Pair this woodland plant with ferns for good foliage contrast. Each stem has a 1- to 4-inch-long spike of white star-shaped flowers clustered at the top. They’re followed by purple-to black-striped green berries that eventually turn red in summer.

Plant one starry false Solomon’s seal and give it some time. It’ll spread by stout under-ground rhizomes to form a small colony. If you’re in a hurry, purchase and plant several in a group, spacing them a foot apart.

Type Perennial Blooms Spikes of tiny white stars in late spring Light Part shade to full sun Soil Moist, well-drained Size 12 to 24 in. tall, 10 to 18 in. wide Hardiness Cold-hardy in USDA zones 3 to 7

Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica)

While it’s young, before it forms a colony, you may want to mark the location of this perennial. A few weeks after the blooms fade, Virginia bluebells goes dormant until the following spring, and you don’t want to accidentally dig out the roots.

This North American native spreads by seed and underground rhizomes. If you want to share it with friends, gather seeds in spring, just as the foliage yellows and is dying down. The seeds don’t store well, so sow them in the garden immediately. Seedlings take a couple of years to reach blooming size. You’ll get flowers faster if you dig roots from a friend’s garden in summer or fall when the plant is dormant. Replant them right away in moist, humus-enriched soil.

Type Perennial Blooms Pink buds open sky blue in early spring Light Part to full shade Soil Moist, well-drained Size 12 to 18 in. tall, 6 to 12 in. wide Hardiness Cold-hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9

Published: May 28, 2019
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