hardy fuchsia blooms

The sun is finally out so it must be summer! Time to break out the hammock and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

But if you’re like me, you can’t seem to relax as you look around the yard. There’s always more to be done; an empty spot just begging for some color, or an established plant in need of a little pruning. You deserve break. Why not put your yard on auto-pilot with a few smart choices in landscape plants?

According to Digger Magazine, there’s a trend of businesses and home gardeners in Oregon who are shifting their landscapes to a new aesthetic that calls for low-maintenance, drought-tolerant plants. “Literally every single project, every single landscape I walk into these days, the homeowner tells me that low-maintenance is the main objective,” Lisa Annand, owner and designer at Verdant Garden Northwest tells Digger.

Not only is Daphne beautiful, but it is easy to care for in the Northwest

Plan it out

A little planning goes a long way. Consider what is already thriving in your yard and your neighbor’s yard with little to no care. According to Oregon State Master Gardener Signe Danler, the main key to having a low-maintenance and drought tolerant landscape is to group plants according to their watering needs and cultural requirements, and to emphasize those plants whose needs are minimal.

Planning appropriate spacing of the plants ahead of time can keep you on your hammock longer throughout the summer. According to the National Garden Bureau, for most herbaceous perennials, annuals, grasses, and sedges, the closer you plant them, the better. As the close-knit plants shade out weeds they also shade the soil, which conserves moisture. This is what is called green mulch, or plants as living mulch.

For shrubs, it's important to think about your yard in the long-term. Start reading the labels of the shrubs - not only will you find water and sun requirements, but you will find the size of the plant listed in what is known as the "10 year growth rate". Plot out your plant spacing in terms of this size and you can sit back and watch your hedge grow into the right sized spaces without having to fight it back in too small of an area.

Picking Your Plants

There are so many great plant options for a low-maintenance yard. From trees, shrubs and perennials that give you blooms and texture, it will be tough to pick just a few. Here are some of the best and easiest plants to choose from:

Nepeta adds wonderful pops of color to your landscape

Trees and Shrubs:

  • Physocarpus - Ninebark
  • Weigela
  • Spirea
  • Daphne
  • Mahonia – Oregon Grape
  • Hydrangea
  • Sambucus – Elderberry
  • Chamaecyparis – Hinoki varieties
  • Nandina – Heavenly Bamboo
  • Acer – Maples ‘Armstrong’, ‘October Glory’, ‘Red Sunset’
  • Fargesia – Clumping Bamboo
  • Mexican Orange
  • Juniper Blue Star


A Little Work in the Yard is A Good Thing

Low maintenance is one thing, but let’s not take it too far! If you want an excuse to get out into the garden, you can keep busy by giving your landscape perennials some extra attention.

The good news is that perennials in the landscape have a low need for fertilizer. When you do fertilize, slow release is better than water soluble fertilizers. Use Al’s Slow Release in late May. If trimming back plants like the Nepeta and hardy Geranium, a dose of fertilizer is appropriate then too. Al’s Transplant Fertilizer is perfect when planting fresh perennials in your landscape.

In the fall, trim back perennial foliage that is unsightly and leave foliage that has fall color or winter interest. If you need to cut them back, leave 3-6 inches of foliage. This will mark where the plants are located plus help to divert rain from pounding on the crowns of the plants.

Depending on your shrub of choice, it’s important to use a fertilizer that cares for that plant’s specific need. Al’s carries a variety of Espoma brand fertilizers for your Azaleas or whatever you include in your lovely lazy landscape.