The secret to finding low-maintenance perennial plants is a simple as matching the perennials you plant to your growing conditions, according to Iowa State University Department of Horticulture's Richard Jauron. While all perennials require attention, those adapted to your garden's light, moisture, soil pH and climate will need less of it. Some perennials, however, are tough enough to handle a range of conditions. These plants perform well even for inexperienced gardeners.
Daylilies are comfortable in gardens across U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 though 10--where minimum winter temperatures range from minus 40 to plus 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Gardeners living in zones 7 through 10 can plant them at any time of year, said University of Florida Cooperative Extension Specialist Edward F. Gilman, in his fact sheet on Hemerocallis spp. Commercially available daylily cultivars include plants that bloom in spring, summer or fall.
Colonizing readily, daylilies are as attractive in large masses as they are in perennial borders. Plants tolerate partially sunny spots, with four to six daily hours of sun, or partially shady ones with two to four hours. They grow in clay, sand or loam and handle mildly acidic--6.1 to 6.5--or mildly alkaline--7.4 to 7.8--soil pH. Moisture-retentive roots make them moderately drought-resistant.
Echinacea, or coneflowers, are low-maintenance perennials hardy from zones 3 to 9, with different plant species tolerating low temperatures from between minus 30 to plus 20 degrees F. All nine species bloom from mid-summer until the first fall frost, bringing daisy-like blooms with conical, bristly darker centers. Flower colors include white, and shades of yellow, pink and purple, says Clemson University Horticulture Extension Agent Millie Davenport.
Their sturdy, up-to-4-foot stems need no staking, making coneflowers good choices for the back of perennial borders. They grow in full sun to partial shade. Heat-and-drought-tolerant when established, plants grow in full sun to partial shade. Spaced to ensure adequate air circulation, they're largely disease resistant. A single spring feeding of slow-release fertilizer satisfies them for an entire gardening season.
Shade gardeners have fewer perennial varieties from which to choose than gardeners working with sunny conditions. In the lily family, however, they'll find curl leaf, lance leaf or fragrant hostas. Tolerating winter temperatures in zones 3 through 9, hostas bring vibrant, interesting foliage to shady areas, according to Cornell University's Home Gardening website. These easy-care, mounding plants require only partial--for best results--to full shade and consistently moist, well-drained soil. That's enough for them to to reward gardeners with years of three-or-four-season performance. Watering from beneath the leaves early in the day will reduce their risk of crown rot and leaf spot. Plants require dividing only every 4 to 5 years.