Plant Selection

Selecting the right plants is a very important step in establishing your landscape. Selecting the improper plant can increase your maintenance chores through excessive pruning, extra watering and additional spraying to control insects and diseases. Selecting the right plant can reduce these chores and increase the time you have to enjoy your landscape.

When choosing plants for your landscape, you should know the characteristics of the plant such as mature size and shape and whether it is evergreen or deciduous. Select plants that are pest-resistant; hardy and heat-tolerant for your area; and adapted for the sun, soil and moisture conditions in your yard. Avoid plants with messy fruits, pods or shedding branches. Select plants that will not grow beyond the desired height and spread. Select plants suited to the growing conditions rather than try to change the conditions to suit the plants.

Trees & Shrubs

Most woody plants require less maintenance than other plants, but some species and cultivars are easier to care for or more pest-resistant than others are. Select slower-growing trees and shrubs to eliminate or reduce the need for pruning. Since these plants are long-term investments, make sure that they will not outgrow their space.

Groundcovers

Most ground covers need less water than turfgrass, so replacing some of your lawn with a ground cover will conserve water. Groundcovers are often better choices than turf for steep slopes difficult to mow or shady areas where grass does not grow well. Beds of groundcovers at the base of structures such as fences will help eliminate tedious trimming. Ground cover plants need more maintenance when first planted to prevent weeds until the area is covered. Fertilizer and closer spacing of plants speeds ground cover establishment.

Vines

Vines can require very high maintenance if improperly sited or can contribute greatly to your landscape. Vines are excellent for providing a fast screen. They will give height to a landscape while needing little ground space and are therefore useful in small gardens. Make sure that vines are given adequate support and that you have time to keep them pruned. On steep banks where a lawn will not grow, vines may be used as groundcovers.

Flowers

While flowers need more maintenance than any other plants, few gardeners would want to eliminate them. To provide color along with easy upkeep, select plants that are well-suited to your site, and use them in limited areas where they will have the most impact.

Annuals need to be watered frequently and should be deadheaded frequently. They must be replanted every year. Perennials come back year after year, but many need deadheading to look their best, and some must be divided every few years. Many perennials need supports to keep them from flopping. Naturalizing bulbs is an excellent way to provide seasonal color with low care.

Other Plants

Roses and other specialty plants often require more maintenance than other types of garden plants. This does not mean that you need to completely forgo your favorite roses. You may want to try to grow them only in a small area though and select tougher plants for the rest of your yard. You may even be able to find certain types and species of roses that need a bit less care. If your passion is water gardening, have a small pond, one that can be cared for in time that you have available. Native plants are often recommended for easy maintenance, but keep in mind that most home sites bear little resemblance to original soils or conditions. Make sure that you choose plants suited to the current conditions on your site.

Lawn

Lawns can be either moderately low-or very high-maintenance, depending on the type of grass and the standard of perfection you want to achieve. Lawns need at least weekly mowing during the growing season. Mow regularly to produce a healthy and dense lawn that will outcompete weeds for sunlight and nutrients. Remove no more than one-third of the grass height at any one mowing.

To minimize landscape maintenance, consider reducing the area of the yard devoted to turf. Keep large enough grassy areas for entertaining needs and play areas, but convert excess turf areas into plantings with lower maintenance needs.

Source: Clemson University Extension Service