Many people have little spare time due to work commitments to spend on gardening, or they may have difficulties in looking after their gardens due to health problems.
This article aims to suggest some ideal low maintenance plants to grow in this situation and to offer tips on running low maintenance gardens.
One of the biggest tips I can think of is to try to grow plants that are native to your area, these will be ideally suited to the local weather and soil conditions and should basically look after themselves, requiring the odd bit of tidying up, and an occasional watering during very dry periods.
You may also consider growing drought tolerant species. When watering do so at the coolest part of the day as plants will have a better chance to absorb water before it evaporates; also supply plenty of water as opposed to giving frequent splashes of water.
A second tip is to supply a compost mulch around the plants at the start of spring; this will help the soil to retain moisture and also reduce the amount of both water and fertilizer that needs to be applied.
To save even more time, you may consider installing a drip irrigation system into the garden.
A third time saving tip is to use a landscaping cloth, this will make weeding a doddle.
A final tip for those with little time in the garden is to buy low maintenance plants from nurseries and transplant them into their final location rather than growing from seed; this will save a lot of work. Good plants to purchase are annual species such as Impatiens, Geraniums, Strawflowers, Snapdragon, Nasturtiums, and Zinnias.
Tagetes patula - French Marigold
This member of the daisy family is a common site in gardens. They bloom with yellow or orange flowers from late Spring through to the first frost. Plants are hardy and can tolerate both moist and dry soils, and areas of shade and full sunlight.
Leucanthemum x superbum - Shasta Daisy
This commonly grown garden perennial is ideal in garden borders, blooming with white daisy like flowers from summer through Autumn. Requires very little care other than deadheading blooms to prolong the blooming period.
Shasta Daisies are a great example of low maintenance garden plants; photograph by F.D. Richards.
These plants are usually grown for their foliage and reach maturity after about four years. They are great plants to grow in shady areas of the garden. These long lived perennials require little car other than watering and the occasional application of fertilizer.
Portulaca grandiflora - Moss Rose
These plants make great ground cover, require next to no looking after during the growing season; though you may want to remove them before they set seed as they may take over the garden.
Cortaderia selloana - Pampas grass
These impressive and durable grasses can reach heights of up to twelve feet (4M), and carry narrow leaves that can reach up to ten feet (3M) in length. They are usually grown in clumps and bloom in the summer with foot long white plumes. They are great plants to use in landscapes, and dwarf varieties are available for those with smaller gardens.
Setaria palmifolia - Palm grass
These evergreen grasses carry pleated leaves that may reach up to three feet (90 cm) in length. The plants may reach heights of up to ten feet and they carry spiky inflorescences. These plants can look after themselves in warm tropical climates, but it is a good idea to remove inflorescences before they set seed to prevent spreading.
Allium tuberosum - Garlic Chives
These delightful little perennials have grass like leaves and reach about 16 inches (40cm) in height. Despite the name 'Garlic' chives they are not grown for their bulbs, which tend to be tough, but for their leaves. Inflorescences of rounded umbels shoot out to a height of around two feet (60cm). They are able to grow in both full sunlight and areas of light shade, and are great to use as ground cover, as an edging plant or as part of an herb garden.
The Chrysanthemum is a popular plant and is grown by many gardeners who lovingly refer to them as 'mums'. They are very easy to look after, have aromatic leaves, and a large array of flower shapes and colors. Best grown in sunny or lightly shaded areas, they are at their best when grown in large quantities as part of a flower bed.
Narcissus - Daffodil
These perennials are easy to look after and add a splash of color to the garden and are best grown in clumps. Ideally they should be grown in an area that receives morning sunlight, and light afternoon shade. The soil that they grow in should be well prepared (they like a rich, pH neutral sandy soil, and you will need to remove roots from trees and shrubs; drainage needs to be excellent), but once this job is completed daffodils are very low maintenance. Just water deeply once a week during the growing season.
Daffodils are an easy to grow plant that requires little maintenance; photograph by Ian Britton.
Viola sororia - Violet
These beautiful flowers add a splash of color to the garden in spring. They have heart shaped leaves, and violet colored flowers. Plants reach about 6 inches (15cm in height). Best grown in partially shaded areas, though can tolerate full sunlight as long as the soil is kept moist.
Echincea purpurea - Purple Coneflower
These perennials grow in clumps that may reach three feet (90 cm) in diameter. They have dark green leaves and delightful daisy like flowers that carries flowers about 3 inches (8cm) in diameters, with purple petals and an orange center. They are drought tolerant, making them great plants for a low maintenance garden.
Phlox subulata - Creeping Phlox
These plants are great for using as ground cover; they bloom in late spring with red, pink, lavander or white flowers. Best grown in sunny areas.
In addition to the above there are many hundreds of species of low maintenance plants, it is worth asking at the local nursery which plants are local to your area and require little time to look after.
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