There are many low-maintenance shrubs out there, but you don't want to make your decision based on easy care alone. Regardless of how self-sufficient a plant is, if it doesn't offer much else for your landscaping, you won't be happy with it. A good low-maintenance shrub also has one or more attractive qualities, such as:
- A striking appearance when it's at its best.
- More than one ornamental feature of note.
- Multi-season interest.
- Thriving at a time of year when many other plants do... not, thereby helping you “fill holes” in your sequence-of-bloom scheme.
In addition, a good, all-around low-maintenance shrub should be cold-hardy to at least USDA plant hardiness zone 5 (and up). It should also be at least fairly resistant to most pests and can be fertilized simply with compost.
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Candy Oh! may be an unexpected choice because many gardeners do not associate roses with low-maintenance shrubs. But this is specifically a “landscape” rose, a category you'll want to know about if you love roses but hate spending a lot of time caring for plants.
Candy Oh! is disease-resistant and deer-resistant and can be pruned as little or as much as you want. This easy-to-care-for rose blooms for most of the summer and brightens the landscape with vibrant color.
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Most years, one shearing will be all the care that ‘Gold Mound’ spirea requires. What do you get in return for this minimal care? A bush that provides nice foliage color in both spring and fall and, in summer, bears clusters of pink flowers.
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Witch hazel is another low-maintenance shrub giving both spring and fall interest (although very little in summer). In spring, this flowering shrub is one of the first plants to bloom (a trait that is always highly valued in the North). The bush can be a standout for the fall foliage season if it is grown in full sun. Light pruning to shape the plant is all that is needed.
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Summerific hardy hibiscus is prized for two reasons (besides being low-maintenance). First, it boasts large, drop-dead-gorgeous, bicolored flowers as well as pretty, dark leaves. Second, it's a late-summer flowering shrub, taking the torch of color handed off by the earlier bloomers and running with it into autumn.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
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Sugar Tip rose of Sharon is another type of hibiscus that's hardy enough to grow in regions with cold winters. Like Summerific hardy hibiscus, it flowers late in the summer, when the landscape is hungry for color. Sugar Tip rose of Sharon is beloved for not only its pretty flowers but also for its variegated leaves.
What makes this a low-maintenance shrub—compared to the traditional rose of Sharon—is that it does not reseed. Why is that a good thing? Because many growers do not wish to have their rose of Sharon spread willy-nilly via seedlings. And getting rid of those rose of Sharon seedlings causes you extra landscape maintenance.
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Oakleaf hydrangea is a great year-rounder: In the summer it gives you flowers, in the autumn it displays great fall foliage, and during the other two seasons you can marvel at its peeling bark. This is a popular option for gardeners who want it all—except, of course, lots of maintenance.
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Any one of a number of needled evergreen bushes can be considered low-maintenance, but Blue Star juniper is a standout for its pretty blue needles and its easy-to-manage growth. It is, by nature, a dwarf, and it grows low to the ground and takes several years to spread significantly.
When this small evergreen shrub finally does start to spread out, you can prune it a bit to keep it as compact as possible. On the other hand, if you wish to use it as a ground cover (making spreading desirable), you can prune just the occasional dead branch.
08 of 10Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10
Despite the colorful common names, this low-maintenance shrub is grown neither for eye-popping flowers nor for brightly-colored fall leaves. Rather, it is all about the twists and turns that its branches take, a feature that makes for great visual interest in winter (when there are no leaves to get in the way of the view).
To minimize maintenance, locate this shrub where it has plenty of room to spread out (its mature width can be up to 15 feet), so the only pruning needed is for removing dead branches.
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Many types of Euonymus sport variegated leaves and the Moonshadow's variegation is particularly appealing. A dark green appears at the margin of the leaf, surrounding a center of bright gold (on young leaves) or creamy white (on older leaves). This gives the leaf more definition than it would have if the color scheme were reversed—as it is on, for example, Emerald 'N' Gold.
Moonshadow is also lower-maintenance than Emerald 'N' Gold, which is more prone to reversion or losing its variegated color pattern over time. Reversion can be corrected through pruning, but that means more work for you.