12 Low-Maintenance Perennial Plants for Your Garden

Coreopsis nana with yellow flowers in field with sunlight

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Busy gardeners, even if they consider themselves to be avid gardeners, often find themselves short on time to complete the many garden tasks and chores that need to be done all season. Balancing work life and home life is challenging and adding a garden into that balance is not always easy to do, although it can be a respite. Finicky plants that need special attention and constant tending just aren't a good choice for our active lifestyles, so garden planning should focus on long-lived, low-maintenance, and disease resistant perennials.

​Here are 12 low-maintenance perennials that more or less enable gardeners to “set it and forget it"; they re-grow year after year with little to no attention.

Gardening Tip

Most perennials, including the 12 listed here, are easy to propagate by digging them up and dividing the root clumps. The rule of thumb for dividing perennials is to divide based on bloom cycle: divide spring and summer bloomers in the late summer or early fall and divide fall bloomers in the spring. When dividing in the fall, do it early enough so that the newly divided plants have a chance to establish their root systems before winter sets in.

  • 01 of 12

    Yarrow (Achillea spp. and hybrids)

    Achillea yarrow with yellow flowers in garden

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Yarrow grows one to three feet tall with delicate, wispy, fern-like foliage. The summer blooms (June to September) can be white, crean, yellow, pink, or red. Yarrow is tolerant to drought, so you’ll have gorgeous flowers even during dry summers (or when you’ve forgotten to water). However, they do have a tendency to flop in windy conditions or when planted in shady locations, and wet soils can cause yarrow to develop various root rots and leaf spots. The right location is key to a care-free yarrow plant.

    There are several species of the Achillea genus that are common as garden plants. Most have yellow flowers, but there are many hybrids derived from cross-breeding species or other hybrids. An example is the very popular 'Moonshine', a cross between A. clypeolata  and A. Taygetea.

    USDA Hardiness Zones: 3–9

    Color Varieties: White, cream, yellow, pink, maroon, reddish-rust (depends on variety)

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

    Soil Needs: Dry to medium moisture, sandy loam

  • 02 of 12

    Astilbe (Astilbe hybrids)

    Astilbe plat with pink plume-like flowers in garden

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    These late spring to early summer blooms can be white, cream, several shades of pink, purple, or red. Growing from one to four feet tall, astilbes are a good fit in a shady space. Add them for delicate blooms and beautiful color with little to no maintenance required. Traditionally a shade plant, newer astilbe hybrids will now tolerate more sun.

    Although some pure species are used as garden plants, it is more common to use one of the many hybrids. For example, the large Astilbe × arendsii  group was derived from various crosses of  A. chinensisA. japonicaA. thunbergii and A. astilboides.

    USDA Hardiness Zones: 4–8

    Color Varieties: Whites, pinks, purples, reds

    Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade

    Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained soil, heavy feeder

  • 03 of 12

    False Indigo (Baptisia spp. and hybrids)

    False indigo plant with tiny purple blooms on thin stems closeup

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    For a refined flower with the look and low maintenance of a wildflower, use false indigo to fill up large spaces in the garden. Two to four foot tall flower spikes open with pea-like blooms in white, yellow, blue, or purple. The greyish-blue foliage is extremely attractive. Plant them in full sun for early spring blooms.

    The most common species used in gardens are B. australis, B. alba, and B. tinctoria, but more often it is hybrid crosses that are used as garden specimens. Some recommended hybrid cultivars include 'Purple Smoke', 'Blueberry Sundae', and 'Lemon Meringue'.

    These plants have a shrubby growth habit that works well to create shape and form in a mixed perennial garden; they are a good choice for cottage-style gardens. In part-shade conditions, false indigo may require some pruning or the use of supports to keep them from flopping. But if conditions are right, they thrive with almost no attention and are very long-lived. Their deep tap root makes them difficult to transplant or divide but also enables them to be quite drought tolerant.

    USDA Hardiness Zones: 3–9

    Color Varieties: Purple, blue, yellow, white

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

    Soil Needs: Dry to medium moisture, well-drained soil

  • 04 of 12

    Coreopsis (Coreopsis spp.)

    Coreopsis plant with small yellow daisy-like flowers and buds

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    These daisy-like flowers are gorgeous year after year without much tending. Expect summer and fall blooms on plants one to three feet tall. These plants are known for their excellent drought tolerance.

    Four coreopsis species are commonly grown in gardens. All coreopsis species have daisy-like flowers but otherwise have somewhat different foliage and growth habits:

    • Coreopsis lanceolata (lanceleaf coreopsis) is a one to two foot tall plant with narrow, hairy, lance-shaped leaves. It has upright, erect stems. The flowers are one to two inches across.
    • C. verticillata (threadleaf coropsis) has a clumping growth habit and fine-textured, lacy leaves. Lanceleaf coreopsis ends its blooming in July, while threadleaf coreopsis continues to bloom into September.
    • C. rosea (pink coreopsis) is a North American native variation of threadleaf coreopsis, featuring pink flowers.
    • C. grandiflora (large-flowered tickseed) is regarded by some as a variation of C. lanceolata. It is quite similar to that plant, but with extra-large flowers as large as three inches across.

    All four species are very easy to care for and do well in rocky, poor soils.

    USDA Hardiness Zones: 3–9

    Color Varieties: Yellow is most common with pink and white cultivars also available.

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

    Soil Needs: Dry to medium moisture, average soils

    Continue to 5 of 12 below.
  • 05 of 12

    Coneflower (Echinacea spp.)

    Coneflower plants with bright pink and white flowers with central cones

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Commonly known as the coneflower, Echinacea is excellent both medicinally and aesthetically. Another species with flowers reminiscent of daisies, Echinacea will grow two to four feet tall, is drought tolerant, and is an excellent source of pollen for bees and seeds for over-wintering birds once the blooms have faded.

    Several species of wild coneflower are available, but the classic purple coneflower is Echinacea purpurea. This pure species plant has petals that curve downward, so most varieties chosen for gardens are cultivars bred to have more open flower faces. Many hybrid are available in different colors in addition to the classic light purple.

    USDA Hardiness Zones: 3–8

    Color Varieties: Pink, purple, white, red, orange, yellow

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

    Soil Needs: Dry to medium moisture, well-drained soil

  • 06 of 12

    Daylily (Hemerocallis spp. and hybrids)

    Hemerocallis day lilies with yellow and red flowers with buds

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Daylilies are staples in a perennial garden, with literally thousands of varieties available. Despite the name, these are not lilies at all, but belong to a different genus that includes about 15 common species. For garden use, it is not the species that are usually planted, but rather hybrid cultivars that have been developed over the last 150 years.

    No plants are easier to care for than daylilies. Although individual flowers bloom only for a day or two, each plant can be counted on to produce a large number of flower stalks, and the clumps of sword-like foliage add shape and texture to the garden throughout the year. Most daylilies bloom for several weeks in early to midsummer, but some types have a repeat blooming pattern for a more modest second bloom in the fall.

    Although preferring to be grown in full sun six to eight hours per day, daylilies will grow in partial shade but will produce fewer blooms. While they are drought tolerant, they do better when they receive regular moisture. They tolerate a wide variety of soil conditions but the soil must be well-drained. If deer presence is a problem in your area, be aware that daylilies are one of their favorite meals.

    USDA Hardiness Zones: 3–9

    Color Varieties: All colors except true green and true blue; petals can be bi-colored, ruffled, single, double, with or without an inner eye

    Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    Soil Needs: Any soil, provided it is well-drained

  • 07 of 12

    Hostas (Hosta spp.)

    Hosta plant with variegated green and yellow leaves clustered above dirt

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    For beautiful foliage and a low-maintenance plant, hostas are a given. The leaves are detailed and colorful and excellent for adding interest to dim areas of the landscape. Do watch out for slugs, though, as hostas tend to attract them. A huge range of sizes are available, some hostas with leaves just an inch or two long, and others with massive leaves that form clumps as much as six feet wide.

    Hostas are typlicall grown for their foliage, and some gardeners remove the flower stalks. But the flowers are very attractive to bees, hummingbirds, and other pollinators, and some varieties have fragrant blooms. If deer presence is a problem in your area, be aware that hostas are one of their favorite meals and overnight can nibble lush hosta foliage down to the ground.

    USDA Hardiness Zones: 3–9

    Color Varieties: foliage can be many shades of green or bluish-green, solid or variegated; flowers are lavender or white

    Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade

    Soil Needs: Rich, fertile, well-drained soil

  • 08 of 12

    Siberian Iris (Iris sibirica)

    Siberian iris plant with purple-blue flowers with white and yellow centers

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Bearded irises are beautiful plants, but you want seem them on a list of low-maintenance plants due to their susceptibility to iris borers. That's not true of the Siberian iris, which is truly a trouble-free plant. From clumps of beautiful grass-like foliage, flower spikes produce beautiful blooms in late spring, generally right after the bearded irises have finished blooming

    But unlike the bearded iris, whose leaves become quite shabby after the plants finish blooming, Siberian iris foliage continues to add texture, movement, and color through the entire summer and fall. With flower stalks removed, the plants are every bit as attractive as any ornamental grass.

    Siberian irises grow one to four feet tall, depending on variety, with colors that range from white to yellow to blue to the deepest purple. These plants like moist soil, so place them next to water features (or downspouts). Though they prefer full sun, Siberian iris are more tolerant of shade than their bearded cousins.

    USDA Hardiness Zones: 3–9

    Color Varieties: White, cream, yellow, blue, purple, pink, bi-colors

    Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    Soil Needs: Medium moisture to damp soil

    Continue to 9 of 12 below.
  • 09 of 12

    Catmint (Nepeta cataria)

    Catmint plant with small violet-blue flowers on purple stems

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    This relative of catnip (Nepeta cataria) has some of the same bewitching effects on cats, but this species has more attractive flowers, blooming from May until September. It will grow best in soil that remains relatively cool and moist; southern gardeners will want to plant it in part shade, while northern gardeners will find full sun to be fine.

    Catmint grows from one and a half to three feet tall, bursting with violet-blue flowers in the spring and summer. For an extra flush of blooms, cut the plants back after the first round of flowering.

    USDA Hardiness Zones: 3–8

    Color Varieties: White, blue, purple, or yellow

    Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained soil

  • 10 of 12

    Sage (Salvia spp.)

    Sage plant with purple flowers on thin stems

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Once established, sage plants are extremely low maintenance, drought-tolerant, and deliciously aromatic additions to the garden. Look for early summer blooms and growth up to four feet tall for common sage. Many cultivars are available, offering different plant heights, foliage color, and bloom color.

    The species known as common sage is Salvia officinalis, but there are several other sage species, including pineapple sage (S. elegans) and woodland sage (S. nemoros). All are similarly low-maintenance plants in the landscape.

    USDA Hardiness Zones: 4–7

    Color Varieties: Violet-purple, blue, with white and pink varieties also available

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

    Soil Needs: Dry to medium moisture, well-drained soil

  • 11 of 12

    Sedum (Sedum spp.)

    Sedum plant with pink and light green flower clusters

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    The various plants given the common name sedum are also known as stonecrop, so named because they are fond of rocky soils. This gives you a sense of just how maintenance-free these plants can be. The many varieties of sedum can look very different, but they are all perennial plants with fleshy leaves that store moisture. They will thrive in almost any conditions, except for very soggy soils, which can cause root rot.

    Sedums come in many varieties, from creeping groundcovers to upright shrub-like plants. The flowering period varies by species; some are spring bloomers while others flower in late summer and fall.

    Although they once were all categorized under the Sedum genus, many have now been split out into the Hylotelephium genus. The reassigned plants include some of the most popular varieties, including 'Autumn Joy', 'Autumn Charm', and 'Autumn Fire'. They are generally still known and sold as sedums in the trade, despite the genus reassignment.

    USDA Hardiness Zones: 3–9

    Color Varieties: White, yellow, pink, purple, rust-red (depends on variety)

    Sun Exposure: Typically full sun; some varieties can be grown in part shade

    Soil Needs: Dry to medium moisture, well-drained soil

  • 12 of 12

    Thyme (Thymus spp.)

    Thyme plant with tiny purple flowers on woody stems in sunlight

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    A true garden workhorse, thyme is good for just about everything. Used as an herb in culinary and medicinal preparations, thyme is excellent for kitchen gardens. It can creep along the ground, making it a good choice where you need a ground cover crop. Or, some varieties grow into a mounded shape. Fragrant with delicate blooms, thyme is a beautiful plant in any form.

    Common thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is the most common herbal variety, but there are a number of other species that have similar low-maintenance profiles, including wooly thyme (Thymus pseudolanuginosus), Thymus praecox, lemon thyme (Thymus × citriodorus), and wild thyme (Thymus serpyllum).

    USDA Hardiness Zones: 5–9 (depends on variety)

    Color Varieties: Pale purple or blue

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

    Soil Needs: Dry to medium moisture, well-drained soil