Lawns and gardens give us outdoor spaces to enjoy and play in, but they also take a lot of hard work to maintain. Not everyone wants to spend evenings and weekends mowing, watering, weeding, and so on.
The good news is that there are many ways you can make your outdoor space attractive and functional without needing a lot of maintenance. That way, you can spend more time enjoying your yard and less time tending to it!
Here are 15 low maintenance landscaping ideas that will help you turn your lawn or garden space into a relaxing and care-free area.
Install a Patio
Hardscaping is one of the easiest ways to create a low maintenance yard. Having a patio installed gives you an outdoor living area that you can enjoy with friends and family and cuts down on lawn that needs mowed.
The key to making your patio low to no maintenance is to use quality materials and have someone who knows what they’re doing do the work. A well-built patio can last many years with minimal maintenance.
Patios are a great way to extend your living space and cut down on yard work. They can be as elaborate or simple as you want them to be. Investing in high quality materials upfront will help ensure your hardscape lasts for years to come.
There are lots of decorative stone, brick, and paver options that are both durable and good-looking.
With the wide array of options now available, you’ve got a lot of choice when it comes to designing your patio the way you want it. You can choose colors that complement the outdoor furniture you have and lay out pavers, stone, etc. in a unique design.
The possibilities are endless, and you’ll be able to enjoy your low maintenance landscape while sitting on your patio!
Plant Lots of Perennials
If you want a flower garden that’s not labor intensive, one of the best low maintenance landscaping ideas is to plant mostly perennials.
Perennials come back year after year, so after you invest time and work planting them, you’ll get many years of enjoyment with little effort. There are tons of options for every yard size, sun and shade gardens, and every color scheme.
Coneflowers are a popular low maintenance perennial. Easy to grow, coneflowers are drought tolerant, deer and pest resistant, and require little care beyond dividing them every few years.
Of course, not all perennials are created equal. You’ll want to choose ones that fit the growing conditions where you live and are resistant to pests (including the larger pests- deer).
There’s a long list of low maintenance perennial plants to choose from. Some of the more popular and versatile ones include coneflowers, lavender, black-eyed Susans, catmint, salvias, and daffodils.
If you’re not sure which ones to pick, see what’s growing well in your neighbor’s yard or ask some questions at your local garden center.
Make Good Use of Mulch
Mulch is a landscaping staple and with good reason. It covers bare spots, helps keep moisture in the soil so you don’t have to water as much, and helps keep weeds down.
Rather than leaving patches of grass around your plants, shrubs, and trees, you can make use of mulch to cut your maintenance considerably. Nothing has been invented that will suppress weeds completely, but a thick layer of mulch can help to save your back.
There are lots of mulch choices depending on what look you’re going for and just how low maintenance you want to go.
There are many different types of mulch out there to suit all types of gardens. Applying a thick layer helps to suppress weeds and can cut down on the amount of grass you have to mow.
Mulches from organic materials like shredded bark or compost will break down over time. This is good for your soil, but it does mean you have to reapply every year or two.
Inorganic materials like stones, gravel, and pebbles are also an option. They may be more expensive and take more initial work but will last much longer. You can also try a rubber mulch that will last for years. Many are made of recycled materials, which is great, but there is some debate about how good they are for the environment, since they don’t break down.
Embrace Native Plants
If you really want to go low maintenance, get to know the plants native to your region. Native plants are often overlooked because they aren’t all as showy as the annuals and non-native perennials that fill many garden centers.
However, when it comes to ease of care, natives are the absolute best option.
If you think about it, native plants have been thriving on their own without any human care for centuries. Most of them won’t need any fertilizer or watering and rarely have pest problems.
Milkweed is a very underrated plant that’s native to the U.S. There are several different varieties of milkweed, each coming from a different U.S. region, that will fit into any garden.
You can also cheat a little bit by researching plants whose native habitat is very similar to the growing conditions where you live. For example, if you live in a desert area, look for plants that come from a similarly dry region.
If you aren’t sure what options are out there, do a quick Internet search for plants native to your region or look for a native plant nursery nearby.
Get Into Ground Covers
Ground covers are sort of like a living mulch. They cover bare areas, help keep down weeds, provide shade for the roots of other plants, and can even help with erosion control.
You won’t get exactly the same coverage you would if you applied mulch, but ground covers provide more green and growing interest in your landscape. They often grow in areas where other plants won’t, like under trees, and need little care.
Many ground covers simply have attractive foliage, but you can also go with something like carpet phlox that grows quickly, has evergreen leaves, and blooms with lots of color.
The key to picking a low maintenance ground cover is to choose one that fits the light requirements of the area you want to cover.
For example, if you want to fill in under a tree, choose a ground cover for shade. If you want to cover a dry, bare area, choose something like sedum that doesn’t need much water.
Add a Water Feature (or Two)
Water features add interest to the landscape without needing to be fertilized, trimmed, mowed, etc. They not only have a decorative appearance but can also add soothing sounds to your yard space.
The trick is choosing the right kind of water feature. Ponds might look nice and take up space, but the standing water attracts bugs (like mosquitoes) and needs regular maintenance.
Adding a small water feature to your garden or yard provides a design element that doesn’t need much maintenance. It also adds soothing background noise.
The best choices are small fountains or pondless waterfalls. Both have moving water that won’t bring in pests, and the water gets recycled and pumped back through all on its own. Plus, the sound of trickling water is incredibly relaxing.
Keep in mind that you will have to clean any type of water feature occasionally, so choosing a smaller sized fountain is probably the best option.
Choose Alternative Grasses
An immaculate lawn has come to represent a perfectly maintained home, but keeping your grass looking that good takes a lot of work. Grass needs mowed, fertilized, weeded and starts turning brown in hot, dry weather.
If you like the look of grass but are tired of all the maintenance, try using an alternative grass that’s better adapted to your climate.
If you want to cut down on lawn maintenance, look into options for an alternative grass choice. There are many different types of grass that can be used to create a lawn area while cutting down on your workload.
Most of us just make do with the grass we get stuck with, but there are actually many other options out there. For example, fescue is a drought-tolerant grass that needs mowed less often. Grass mixes have been developed that mimic the grass you’re used to.
Look up which grasses do best in the region you live in. If you pick the right one, you’ll find that this is one of the best low maintenance landscaping ideas for cutting down on lawn care.
Consider Going Artificial
If your lawn often gets torn up (maybe from pets or children), installing artificial turf is one way to go practically no maintenance. It holds up better to lots of traffic and requires zero mowing.
You might be thinking of turf as something that belongs on football fields, but there are several options that have been developed to look and feel more like the grass you’re used to.
Artificial grass is a durable option if you want to go with something that’s zero maintenance. You don’t have to worry about your yard looking like a football or soccer field, since there are many options designed for yards.
Most fake grass options are made of nylon, polyethylene, or polypropylene. The best quality options have been UV stabilized to make sure that the green color doesn’t fade over time. TrafficMASTER, RealGrass, and Pregra are all good choices.
Keep in mind that turf grass can be pricey, so you might want to save it for certain locations where you need it the most.
Adding stone elements into your landscaping is one of the best low maintenance tricks. Similar to hardscapes, stone doesn’t need any maintenance and can be used in lots of ways.
You can use gravel, pebbles, or crushed stone to make pathways and to mulch beds. Flagstones provide a weed-free place to set planters, lawn chairs, statues, and other garden decorations.
Stone makes a low maintenance addition to any garden. It can be used in many ways all while reducing lawn maintenance and keeping weeds down.
If you have a patio installed, you can use similar stone pieces to tie your patio design into the rest of your garden. Placed strategically, stone can be a design element as well as doing something practical like keeping weeds down or providing a footpath.
To really add some interest, use different sized stone pavers to create a patchwork or spiral design. Use this space to create a seating area or a container garden.
Evergreens are a great low maintenance plant option that provide color and structure to your garden year-round. They also make great privacy barriers because of their evergreen foliage.
There are many options that rarely need pruned and will stand up through tough conditions like drought or cold weather.
Golden euonymus is an example of a low maintenance evergreen that provides year-round interest without requiring much work on your part.
Choose dwarf varieties for small spaces and to plant around your home. Tall and columnar varieties are good to create privacy, and there are also low-growing options that function as evergreen ground covers.
Golden euonymus, bearberry, winter heath, and Blue Star juniper are all great choices as low maintenance evergreens. Certain varieties of holly also work well in most gardens.
One of the most time-consuming tasks in areas that get hot and/or dry summers is watering. It can also be expensive if you’re using public water for your plants.
Adding an irrigation system will save you a lot of work. If done the right way, it can also conserve water by delivering the right amount to your plants at the right time.
One of the most familiar irrigation systems is a sprinkler system. You can use one of these on a timer to keep your grass looking green, but it’s definitely not the best option for water conservation.
Watering by hand, or even with a hose, can be quite a chore, something a sprinkler system would save you from. You should also consider a drip irrigation system, which will save you both on time and on water usage.
Another choice that works well for vegetable gardens and ornamental plantings is a drip irrigation system. You simply wind drip hoses around the plants you want to water and set everything up to run automatically. This kind of irrigation delivers water right to plant roots, which makes it very efficient and cost-effective.
A more low-tech irrigation option is to add a few rain barrels to your garden or yard to collect rainwater. You’ll still have to do the work of watering, but it will save you on your water bill.
Create an Herb Garden
Creating a garden might seem like the opposite of low maintenance, but herbs are actually a great choice for fuss-free, edible gardening.
Most herbs don’t need the same level of care that a vegetable or fruit garden would need. The biggest chore is going out to harvest them when you want some fresh herbs, and that’s really not so bad!
Creating an herb garden is one of the best low maintenance landscaping ideas if you want an edible element to your yard. They take less care than fruits and vegetables, and some like oregano and thyme are hardy perennials that grow well even with neglect.
Herb choice does matter in order for your garden to be low maintenance. Mediterranean herbs like oregano and thyme are good choices because they are adapted to hot, dry weather and won’t need watered, fertilized, etc.
Herbs also tend to be pest-free because most of them have a strong smell that repels invaders. Look for options that will grow well in your climate to really have a hands-off garden.
You can also grow herbs in pots, which keeps them convenient to your kitchen. Just remember that containers will need to be watered in dry weather.
Learn About Xeriscaping
Xeriscaping is a fairly new term, but it’s one of the best low maintenance landscaping ideas if you live in a desert region or anywhere that’s prone to long periods of drought.
A xeriscape refers to a landscape that needs little to no irrigation. Native and drought tolerant plants are frequently used to cut down on watering needs, and methods like collecting rainwater and using targeted drip irrigation are also implemented.
Sedum plants are often a top choice for xeriscaping because they look attractive yet require little to no water. ‘Autumn Joy’ is a popular cultivar that blooms with bright pink blossoms at the end of summer when most plants are fading.
Even if you don’t live in a dry or drought-prone region, applying xeriscaping principles to your yard can drastically cut the time you spend on watering and maintenance.
Large lawn areas are probably one of the least drought tolerant parts of your yard. By removing sections of lawn and planting them with native plants or drought tolerant succulents, you can easily move your outdoor space closer to a xeriscape.
Make Paved Walkways
Paved walkways are another hardscaping option to make your outdoor space lower maintenance.
Lawn areas that you walk on a lot tend to end up turning brown and may eventually become bare spots. Instead of wasting a lot of time trying to get your grass to grow back, you can add in walkways that won’t need to be taken care of.
Paved walkways are a low maintenance hardscaping option that provides a place for foot traffic. You can also opt for a less formal walkway by laying out stones or bricks in a pattern and planting in between with moss or another ground cover.
Wood and mulch are options for more organic looking pathways, but they are both less durable than stone or brick. Mulch can also get washed out and would need to be reapplied every year or two.
Stone is a good option for most yards because it blends in, doesn’t require maintenance, and lasts for a long, long time. Other options include concrete, brick, and crushed stone or gravel.
If you want a low maintenance yard that is landscaped with plants, be smart about your planting and you’ll automatically set yourself up for success.
To start off with, make sure you know what USDA hardiness zone you live in. Buy plants that are hardy to that zone and avoid borderline plants that might need you to baby them along.
Putting the right plant in the right place is key to low maintenance landscaping. Hostas, for example, can be very low maintenance, but only if you plant them in a shaded spot.
Even low maintenance plants need to be planted in the right spot in order to thrive. Pay attention to whether certain plants need sun or shade and plant accordingly. Soil also matters. For example, many plants that tolerate dry conditions won’t do well in soggy soil.
By putting the right plant in the right place, your landscape will be able to thrive with little attention from you. Don’t forget to add in native and perennial plants whenever possible, and you’ll be all set!
Implementing Low Maintenance Landscaping Ideas
It might seem overwhelming at first to read through all the options for low maintenance landscaping. The best thing you can do is to decide what you want your outdoor space to look like and figure out the best way to get there from where you are now.
You may have a picture of a lush, green garden, which means you should look into perennials, evergreens, and native plants.
On the other hand, you might prefer to have functional hardscaping with minimal plantings. In that case, you might want to look into paved pathways, patios, and even artificial grass.
Whichever way you choose to go, the important part is to relax and enjoy your outdoor space instead of spending all your time maintaining it!
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.