The 10 Best Low-Maintenance Shrubs for Your Landscaping

Lots of Pop, Little Fuss Make These Bushes Keepers

Witch hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia 'Aurora') flowers in yellow and orange.
Hamamelis x intermedia 'Aurora' has more orange in it than most witch hazels. Sue Bishop/Photolibrary/Getty Images

There are many low-maintenance shrubs from which to choose. Problem is, we rarely make plant- selection choices based on one consideration, alone (in this case, the amount of care put into the growing of a particular bush). Regardless of how self-sufficient a plant is, if it does not have much else to offer your landscaping, you will not be happy with it. So the criteria for a plant’s making this list also include factors such as whether the shrub:

  • Has a striking appearance when it is at its...MORE best.
  • Offers more than one ornamental feature of note.
  • Has multi-season interest.
  • Shines at a time of year when many other plants do not, thereby helping you “fill holes” in your sequence-of-bloom scheme.

All of the selections in the list below are cold-hardy to at least USDA planting zone 5, fairly resistant to most pests, and can be fertilized simply with compost.

  • 01 of 10
    Picture: Candy Oh! Vivid red rose flowers, in closeup.
    David Beaulieu

    Candy Oh! is a good example to start with because many gardeners do not associate roses with low-maintenance shrubs. But this is specifically a “landscape” rose, a category with which you will want to become familiar if you love roses but hate spending a lot of time caring for plants.

    Candy Oh! is disease-resistant, 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 gives the landscape with vibrant color.

  • 02 of 10
    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. As a bonus, in between (in summer) it bears clusters of pink flowers.

  • 03 of 10
    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 the fall foliage season if it is grown in full sun. Light pruning to shape the plant is all that is needed.

  • 04 of 10
    Image showing the large bloom and dark-colored leaves of Summerific Perfect Storm hardy hibiscus.
    David Beaulieu

    Summerific hardy hibiscus makes the list for two reasons, besides being low-maintenance:

    It is one of the late-summer flowering shrubs, taking the torch of color handed off by the earlier bloomers and running into autumn with it. If you find that the color level drops off in your yard in late summer, you will want to grow at least one type of hardy hibiscus.

    So why is Summerific one of the better types of hardy hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos)? The bush boasts not only drop-dead-gorgeous, bicolored...MORE flowers of a large size, but also pretty, dark leaves.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10
    Image: the overall impression given off by the type of rose of Sharon called "Sugar Tip" is one of brightness.
    David Beaulieu

    This is another type of hibiscus (namely, Hibiscus syriacus) that is hardy enough to grow in regions that have cold winters. Like H. moscheutos, 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 it 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...MORE their rose of Sharon spread willy-nilly via seedlings. And getting rid of those rose of Sharon seedlings causes you extra landscape maintenance.

  • 06 of 10
    Oakleaf hydrangea (image) is one of the better shrubs for fall foliage. Fall color is red.
    David Beaulieu

    Some shoppers "want it all" when they are in the market for a plant. They lack the time, the energy, or the desire to think in terms of growing such and such a plant that looks great in spring, another in summer, etc. They want a single bush that offers something of interest in each season. Oh, and for good measure, they demand that the plant require little maintenance.

    Does this describe you? Have you been charged with being "too fussy" by your gardening friends? Do they tell you...MORE that you are a dreamer, that there is no plant that meets all of these demands?

    Well, listen up, because there is a bush that you can cite in your defense, a low-maintenance shrub with four-season interest. It is called "oakleaf hydrangea." During the summer it gives you flowers, in the autumn it can display great fall foliage, and during the other two seasons you can marvel at its peeling bark.

  • 07 of 10
    Blue Star juniper (image) is a compact evergreen bush. Growth starts out slow.
    David Beaulieu

    Any one of a number of needled evergreen bushes could have been chosen for this list based on their being low-maintenance, alone. The selection of Blue Star juniper is due as much to the pretty blue color of its needles as it is to a growth habit that lends itself to needing little care. The bush grows low to the ground and takes several years to spread very much. There are two qualities a plant can have that usually mean that you will not have to fuss over it very much, and Blue Star has both...MORE of these qualities:

    It has a slow growth rate.

    It is a dwarf, by nature.

    When this small evergreen shrub finally does start to spread out, you can prune it a bit to keep it in check if you prefer it to be as compact as possible. If, on the other hand, you wish to use it as a ground cover (in which case spreading is desirable), restrict yourself to pruning out the occasional dead branch.

  • 08 of 10
    Photo: Stewartstonian azalea has red flowers. They are numerous.
    David Beaulieu

    Stewartstonian is a type of azalea that has evergreen leaves, meaning that it is not entirely without winter interest (a claim that not all kinds of azaleas can make). It puts on a floral display in spring and a fall-foliage display in autumn. It requires little pruning (just enough to shape it).

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10
    Image: contorted filbert looks great in winter, when there is no foliage to hide its curlicue branching structure.
    Patricia Toth McCormick/Getty Images

    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). And if there is one time of year in which yards are most starved for visual interest in the North, it is winter.

    If you locate your contorted filbert in a spot where it will...MORE have plenty of room to spread out (its mature width can be as great as 15 feet), the only pruning that you will need to do is when you remove dead branches.

  • 10 of 10
    Image showing what the shrub, Moonshadow euonymus looks like.
    David Beaulieu

    Various types of Euonymus sport variegated leaves. So why is Moonshadow the pick for this list? There are two reasons behind its selection:

    The variegation on this shrub is very appealing. The green color appears at the margin of the leaf, with the brighter color in the center. 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'). There is also variation, since the brighter color is gold on the...MORE youngest leaves and changes to a creamy white on the older leaves.

    Moonshadow is a lower-maintenance shrub than is 'Emerald 'N' Gold.' The latter is more prone to reversion (that is, loosing its variegated color pattern over time). Reversion can be corrected through pruning, but that means more work for you.