In the midst of a busy world, gardens should provide an opportunity for respite in the outdoors, not exhaustion. Rather than courting frustration with plants and varieties that will require skill and attention, choose plants that maintain themselves. Many easy-care plants are old-fashioned favorites precisely because they demand so little attention.
Native plants should form the basis of any low-maintenance gardening scheme. A wildflower garden with black-eyed Susan and purple coneflower will grow with little attention and return every year, provided it has the type of soil that is natural in the area. Each region has its special natives. Red baneberry, bluebead, moccasin flower and lesser lady slipper grow in Eastern woodlands. Colorado blue columbine, Sego lily and scarlet gilia are native to the West. Western columbines and Mariposa lilies thrive in the Pacific Northwest; wild columbine and Pride of Ohio shine in the Midwest. Most states have native plant societies that provide information and share plants.
Easy to Grow Flowers
The secret to success with any plant is location; plant your annuals and perennials where they get the right amount of sunlight and water. Most garden plants need about an inch of water a week from rain or irrigation or a combination.
The easiest plants to grow are the ones that have been started for you. Try garden annuals such as snapdragons, zinnias, impatiens, petunias, French marigolds, geraniums, cosmos, strawflowers and nasturtiums. Plant them in groups with space between so you can walk between clumps to pick fresh flowers for the house and remove leftover spent blooms in a process called deadheading.
Plant daylilies and hostas but stay away from the expensive hybrids; these self-reliant perennials will increase in size every year until you have large clumps that you can divide to make new plants the same size as the one you had to begin with. Bulbs like daffodil and lilies multiply, too, with little more than a sprinkling of bulb food or a dressing of well-rotted manure after they bloom.
Low Maintenance Edibles
Invest in a stack of sturdy tomato cages and use them to support tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers and beans—all easy vegetables to grow. Pass by the packets of seeds and buy a few plants of each variety to keep your garden simple and easy to manage. Given support, these wanderers stay tidy.
Radishes, carrots and leafy greens are easy to start in a raised garden; they make perfect projects for kids because they are easy to grow, require little space and have short growing seasons.
Herb gardens are not low-maintenance landscaping but herbs in containers are easy to manage and convenient for cooks. Basil, parsley and dill grow easily from seed. Rosemary and thyme have lovely flowers. Prune herbs periodically to encourage new growth.