Gardening guide to picking low-maintenance perennials for your lawn.
By Sarah F. Ehrhardt
If I asked 10 of my landscape design clients the most important priority for their home landscape, eight of them would say “low
maintenance.” These days, it seems no one has enough time to do everything they’d like.
Selecting the right perennials can let you achieve that wonderful low-maintenance garden—vibrant color without the repeated cost and labor of planting annuals.
Many perennials require regular dividing every 3 to 5 years. This digging up and splitting one plant into several new ones rejuvenates the plants, keeping them healthy and blooming well. But others just keep on looking good year after year, even without regular dividing. You can divide them if you want more plants, but it’s not necessary to keep the plants healthy.
Remember, you’ll still need to perform a few regular garden chores, like weeding, fertilizing, mulching and pruning. But by doing a little research and carefully selecting your plants, you can glory in a garden that gives you plenty of beauty for far less work.
Here are some of my favorite perennials:
Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) has beautiful cone-topped flower heads begin their show of color in June and continue all the way into September. Not many perennials provide color for such an extended time! Purple coneflower is also very drought-resistant—it’s often found in native prairie plantings.
While purpurea, or purple, might be the most common coneflower, you can find other varieties in an array of summer colors. Orange and yellow make a bright splash in the garden, or soften the planting with the pure white of the ‘Jade’ cultivar. I’ve mixed all four colors in one of my own gardens to create a refreshing all-summer display!
Lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis) features uniquely scalloped leaves of grayish-green that make a great ground cover, while fluffy chartreuse flowers arch gracefully above from mid-May through August. Early in the morning, or after it rains, you’ll find tiny water droplets on the leaves.
Coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata) begins to bloom in late spring and continues all the way into late summer. Dainty, sulfur-yellow flowers wave on slender stems, against a backdrop of airy green foliage. This perennial looks great all season long.
Blazing Star (Liatris) is great for adding vertical interest. From within its grassy foliage, flower spikes of rose or lavender rise up 2 to 5 feet, depending on variety and growing conditions. They will bloom from July to September.
Siberian iris (Iris siberica) has long, narrow leaves and delicate spring flowers of white, blue or velvet purple. As a bonus, these dainty spikes make a fantastic cut flower.
A good old-fashioned peony (Paeonia) will live forever and always look good. You’ll enjoy its large, colorful blossoms in May and later watch the leaves turn bronze-purple in fall. Peonies are truly a dual-purpose perennial.
Tips & Tricks to Picking Perennials
When buying perennials at the garden center, look for plants with lush foliage and the fewest blooms. A perennial with too many blossoms may have less energy to establish roots.
Add mulch around perennials to retain moisture and stifle weed growth. Save the pots from your new plants. When you’re ready to mulch, turn the pots upside down over your newly installed plants to protect them and just toss on the mulch, up to 2 inches deep. Then simply lift them gently off each plant and tuck mulch around its base—quick and simple!
If perennials look “leggy” and flopped over, simply trim them halfway back in spring once they reach 12 inches in height. This delays blooming, but provides you with a more compact, manageable plant.