10 Shrubs That Offer Low Maintenance

Witch hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia 'Aurora') flowers in yellow and orange.

Sue Bishop/Photolibrary/Getty Images

There are hundreds of landscape shrubs that fit the description of low-maintance plants, requiring little in the way of feeding, pruning, or other regular maintenance. But the best selections will be not only self-sufficient, but will offer one or more notable attractive qualities:

  • A striking appearance during its peak—especially at times of year when other plants do not
  • More than one ornamental feature of note
  • Multi-season interest

As for performance, the best low-maintenance selections will be cold-hardy to at least USDA plant hardiness zone 5 (and up). The best choices will be fairly resistant to most pests and common disease. And they will have modest feeding needs—thriving just as well with compost top-dressing as with commercial fertilizer.

Here are ten good low-maintenance shrubs that fit the bill.

Low-Maintenance Sometimes Means Invasive

Any shrub with a notable reputation for being low-maintenance may become a nuisance or even invasive where conditions are ideal—especially if the plant is known to be fast-growing. Always check with local experts to determine if a particular shrub has a reputation for spreading rampantly. The shrubs discussed here are generally slow-growing and easy to control, but other varieties of the same species may not be so well behaved. Gardeners should be careful to control landscape plants to prevent them from naturalizing in the wild.

  • 01 of 10

    Candy Oh! Rose (Rosa 'Zlemartincipar' CANDY OH!)

    Picture: Candy Oh! Vivid red rose flowers, in closeup.
    David Beaulieu

    Candy Oh! is a trademarked form of the Rosa 'Zlemartinicipar' hybrid cultivar developed by breeder David Charles Zlesak of St. Paul, Minnesota. It might be an unexpected choice for a list of low-maintenance shrubs, because most gardeners do not associate roses with easy care. But this is specifically a landscape shrub rose—a category you will 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.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Red
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained loam
  • 02 of 10

    Gold Mound Spirea (Spiraea japonica 'Gold Mound')

    Gold Mound spirea flowers (picture) are a nice addition to the leaves. The latter are nice in fall.
    David Beaulieu

    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, clusters of pink flowers. This dense, mounded shrub grows 4 to 6 feet tall with a slightly wider spread.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Pink blossoms; golden foliage
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained soil
  • 03 of 10

    Common Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)

    Witch hazel in bloom.
    David Beaulieu

    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 its fall foliage season if it is grown in full sun. Light pruning to shape the plant is all that is needed.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Yellow
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, well-drained
  • 04 of 10

    Summerific Hardy Hibiscus (Hibiscus Summerific® series)

    Summerific Hardy Hibiscus
    David Beaulieu

    The Summerific series of hardy hibiscus is prized for two reasons (besides being low-maintenance). First, these 4-foot-tall shrubs boast large, drop-dead-gorgeous, pink, red, or bicolored flowers as well as pretty, dark leaves. Second, they are late-summer flowering shrubs, taking the torch of color handed off by the earlier bloomers and running with it into autumn. 

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Pink to red
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Average, medium to wet soils
    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    'Sugar Tip' Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus 'America Irene Scott' SUGAR TIP)

    'Sugar Tip' Rose of Sharon
    David Beaulieu

    'Sugar Tip' is a proprietary form of the 'America Irene Scott' cultivar of rose of Sharon. It is hardy enough to grow in regions with cold winters and has a good tolerance for drought and salty conditions. Like the Summerific hardy hibiscus, it flowers late in the summer, when the landscape is hungry for color. Growing to 5 or 6 feet, this variety is beloved for not only its pretty flowers but also for its variegated leaves. Unlike the traditional rose of Shaon, this cultivar does not self-seed, thus sparing you the duty of plucking out volunteer seedlings.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8; may survive zone 4
    • Color Varieties: Pink
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Average, well-drained soil
  • 06 of 10

    Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)

    Oakleaf Hydrangea in the Fall

     

    HenryPhotos / Getty Images

    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. It grows to 4 to 6 feet, with a multi-stemmed, upright growth habit.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
    • Color Varieties: White, becoming purplish pink
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained soil
  • 07 of 10

    'Blue Star' Juniper (Juniperus squamata 'Blue Star')

    Blue Star juniper (image) is a compact evergreen bush. Growth starts out slow.
    David Beaulieu

    Any 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 a dwarf by nature, hugging low to the ground and requiring several years to spread significantly. When this small evergreen shrub finally does start to spread out, pruning is necessary only if you wish to keep it compact.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Blue-green evergreen foliage
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Medium-moisture, well-drained soil
  • 08 of 10

    'Stewartstonian' Azalea (Rhododendron 'Stewartstonian')

    'Stewartstonian' Azalea
    David Beaulieu

    'Stewartstonian' is an azelea cultivar with evergreen leaves and therefore is not entirely without winter interest (a claim that few azeleas can make). A good choice for shady locations, 'Stewartsonian' puts on a floral display in spring and a fall-foliage display in autumn. This 4- to 5-foot-tall shrubs requires little pruning, just enough to shape it.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8; may survive in zone 4
    • Color Varieties: Orange-red
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade
    • Soil Needs: Average soil, acidic in pH
    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Harry Lauder's Walking Stick (Corylus avellana 'Contorta')

    Harry Lauder's Walking Stick
    Patricia Toth McCormick/Getty Images

    This low-maintenance shrub is grown neither for eye-popping flowers nor for brightly-colored fall leaves. Rather, Harry Lauder's walking stick 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, plant this shrub where it has plenty of room to spread out (its mature width can be up to 15 feet). The only pruning needed is for removing dead branches.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Color Varieties: NA; grown for the appearance of its stems
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained soil
  • 10 of 10

    'Moonshadow' Euonymus (Euonymus fortunei 'Moonshadow')

    Moonshadow Euonymus
    David Beaulieu

    Many types of Euonymus sport variegated leaves, but '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). Offering lower maintenance needs than the other Euonymus cultivars, 'Moonshadow' is a spreading plant that grows to only about 24 inches and requires little pruning.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Green and gold foliage
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Average soil