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How to Grow a Low-Maintenance Garden

Trouble-Free Planting

If you are used to cutting your lawn every week and shearing your shrubs once a month, you may be relieved to know that there are easier ways to keep your yard looking nice. Low-maintenance gardening begins with choosing plants ideally suited for your yard's conditions so they won't need coaxing to stay alive. Another low-maintenance but beautiful option is container gardening. Just choose your favorite annuals or perennials, and grow them in groups of containers -- no yard required!

No matter what your approach, there are many ways to keep gardening more fun than it is challenging. Let's start by taking a look at what types of plants to put in your garden -- and which to avoid -- for easy care.

Compact Shrubs
Following are some great options for low-maintenance compact shrubs.
  • Dwarf balsam fir
  • Compact azaleas
  • Compact barberries
  • Compact boxwood
  • Heather
  • Compact false cypress
  • Cotoneasters
  • Daphne
  • Deutzia
  • Fothergilla
  • Hydrangea, French and oakleaf
  • Hypericum
  • Compact hollies
  • Compact junipers
  • Leucothoe
  • Mahonia
  • Dwarf Korean lilac
  • Dwarf spruce
  • Japanese andromeda
  • Mugo and other small pines
  • Potentilla
  • Pyracantha
  • Roses
  • Spirea
  • Stephanandra
  • Compact viburnums

Some plants are naturally easier to keep, requiring little but suitable soil and proper exposure to grow and prosper. You can plant them and let them be without worrying about pests and diseases or extensive pruning, watering, fertilizing, or staking. Spending a little time finding these easy-care plants will prevent hours of maintenance in coming years.

  • Choose dwarf and slow-growing plants to eliminate the need for pruning and pinching. Tall shrubs just keep growing, and growing, and growing . . . sometimes getting too big for their place in the landscape.

    Lilacs, for example, commonly grow to 12 feet high. If planted by the house, they could cut off the view from the window. The only solution is regular trimming or replacement. A better option is to grow dwarf shrubs or special compact varieties that will only grow 2 to 4 feet high. They may never need pruning and won't have to
    be sheared into artificial globes.

    Tall flowers and vegetables may not be able to support the weight of their flowers and fruit. They might need staking, caging, or support with a wire grid to keep them from falling flat on their faces.

    Flowers such as delphiniums, asters, and Shasta daisies are now available in compact sizes that are self-supporting. And shorter types of daylilies are less likely to become floppy in light shade than taller types. Compact peas and tomatoes, while not entirely self-
    supporting, can be allowed to grow loosely on their
    own, or they may need only small cages or supports to be held securely.

  • Avoid fast-spreading and aggressive perennials such
    as yarrow, plume poppy, 'Silver King' artemisia, and
    bee balm. Although these plants are lovely, they have creeping stems that can spread through the garden, conquering more and more space and arising in the middle of neighboring plants. Keeping them contained
    in their own place requires dividing -- digging up the plants and splitting them into smaller pieces for replanting. This may need to be done as often as once a year. It's better to just avoid them.

  • Avoid delicate plants such as delphiniums, garden phlox, and hollyhocks, which need extra care and staking. Although spectacular in bloom, these prima donnas require constant protection from pests and diseases, plus pampered, rich, moist soil and, often, staking to keep them from falling over. If you simply have to try one, look for compact and/or disease-resistant cultivars, which are easier to care for.

  • Turn a low, moist spot into a bog garden for plants that need extra moisture. You can even excavate down a little to create a natural pond. Plant the moist banks with variegated cattails, sagittaria, bog primroses, marsh marigolds, and other moisture-loving plants.

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