12 Low-Maintenance Perennial Plants for Your Garden

Coreopsis nana with yellow flowers in field with sunlight

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Busy homeowners, even if they consider themselves avid gardeners, often find themselves short of time to complete all the garden work that needs to be done, especially during those years when they are also raising kids. Finicky plants that need special attention and constant tending just aren't a good choice for this time of life, so garden planning should focus on long-lived perennials that don't need to be replanted every year. And you should focus on species that don't require a lot of tending or attention to insect and disease issues.

​Here are 12 low-maintenance perennials that are more or less “set it and forget it," coming back year after year with little to no effort.

Gardening Tip

Most perennials, including the 12 listed here, are easy to propagate by digging them up and dividing the root clumps. Spring is usually the best time for this, but it can also be successful in fall; however, do it early enough that the newly planted specimens 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 to be a couple of feet tall with fern-like foliage. The summer blooms (June to September) can be white, yellow, pink, and 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 Growing Zones: 3–9

    Color Varieties: Yellow, pink, red (depends on variety)

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

    Soil Needs: Dry to medium moisture, sandy loam

  • 02 of 12

    Astilbe (Astilbe hybrids)

    Astilbe
    Astilbe Photo courtesy of Tony Hisgett

    These late spring to early summer blooms feature muted pinks and reds. Growing from 1 to 4 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 available. For example, the large Astilbe × arendsii  group was derived from various crosses of  A. chinensisA. japonicaA. thunbergii and A. astilboides.


    USDA Growing Zones
    : 4–8

    Color Varieties: Whites, pinks, purples, reds

    Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade

    Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained soil

  • 03 of 12

    False Indigo (Baptisia spp. and hybrids)

    Baptisia
    Baptisia Photo courtesy of normanack

    For a refined flower with the look and maintenance level of a wildflower, use false indigo to fill spaces in the garden. Whites, yellows, blues, and purples on tall, 2- to 4- foot spikes bring lots of colors. Plant in full sun to light shade 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.


    USDA Growing Zones
    : 3–9

    Color Varieties: Yellows, blues, purples

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

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

  • 04 of 12

    Coreopsis (Coreopsis spp.)

    Coreopsis
    Coreopsis Photo courtesy of Bob Peterson

    These daisy-like flowers are gorgeous year after year without much tending. Expect summer and fall blooms on plants 1 to 3 feet tall. These plants are known for their excellent drought tolerance.

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

    • Coreopsis lanceolata (lanceleaf coreopsis) is a 1 to 2-foot tall plant with narrow, hairy, lance-shaped leaves. It has upright, erect stems. The flowers are 1 to 2 inches across.
    • C. verticillata (threadleaf coropsis), on the other hand, 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 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 much as 3 inches across.

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


    USDA Growing Zones
    : 3–9

    Color Varieties: Yellow, 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.)

    Echinacea
    Echinacea Photo courtesy of Maria Grazia Montagnari

    Commonly known as the coneflower, Echinacea is excellent both medicinally and aesthetically. Another of the species with flowers reminiscent of daisies, Echinacea will grow 2 to 4 feet tall and has a good tolerance for drought.

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


    USDA Growing Zones
    : 3–8

    Color Varieties: Pink, purple, white, red

    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 are only present 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 or will return for a more modest second bloom in fall.

    Although preferring full sun, daylilies will tolerate quite a bit of shade, and return reliably each year without requiring frequent division. They have an excellent tolerance for drought and poor soils.


    USDA Growing Zones
    : 3–9

    Color Varieties: All colors except true green

    Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

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

  • 07 of 12

    Hostas (Hosta spp.)

    Hostas
    Hostas Photo courtesy of InAweofGod'sCreation

    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. There is a huge range of sizes available, some hostas with leaves just an inch or two long, and others with massive leaves that form clumps as much as 6 feet wide.

    Hostas are normally grown for their foliage, and some gardeners clip the flower stalks away. But the flowers are very attractive to bees, hummingbirds, and other pollinators, and have a pleasant scent.


    USDA Growing Zones
    : 3–9

    Color Varieties: Yellows, greens, blue-greens; many variegated varieties

    Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade

    Soil Needs: Rich, fertile, well-drained soil

  • 08 of 12

    Siberian Iris (Iris sibirica)

    Iris sibirica
    Iris sibirica Photo courtesy of Alex Lomas

    Bearded irises are beautiful plants, but they can't make any list of low-maintenance plants due to their susceptibility to iris borers. That's not true of the Siberian iris, though, which 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.

    But unlike the bearded iris, whose leaves become quite shabby after the plants finish blooming, Siberians have foliage that continues to add texture 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 1 to 4 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 to keep them low maintenance. Though they prefer full sun, Siberians are more tolerant of shade than their bearded cousins.

    USDA Growing Zones: 3–9

    Color Varieties: White, cream, yellow, blue, purple, bicolors

    Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    Soil Needs: Medium moisture to damp soil

    Continue to 9 of 12 below.
  • 09 of 12

    Nepeta (Nepeta subsessilis)

    Nepeta subsessilis
    Nepeta subsessilis Photo courtesy of TANAKA Juuyoh (田中十洋)

    This relative of catnip (Nepeta catara) has some of the same bewitching effects on cats, but this species has more attractive flowers, blooming from May all the way to 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.

    Nepeta grows from 1.5 to 3 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 Growing Zones
    : 3–8

    Color Varieties: Violet blue

    Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained soil

  • 10 of 12

    Sage (Salvia spp.)

    Salvia
    Salvia Photo courtesy of M a n u e l

    Once established, sage plants are extremely low maintenance, drought-tolerant, and a deliciously fragrant addition 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 Growing Zones
    : 4–7

    Color Varieties: Violet-purple; 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
    Sedum Photo courtesy of Kate Ter Haar

    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 sedums 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 Growing Zones
    : 3–9

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

    Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade (varies according to variety)

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

  • 12 of 12

    Thyme (Thymus spp.)

    Thyme
    Thyme Photo courtesy of Alice Henneman

    A true garden workhorse, thyme is good for just about everything. Used as a herbal in culinary and medicinal preparations, thyme is excellent for kitchen gardens. It also creeps along the ground, making it a good choice where you need a ground cover crop. Or, trim it back to make it more mounded. Fragrant with delicate blooms, thyme is beautiful in any capacity.

    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 Growing Zones
    : 5–9 (depends on variety)

    Color Varieties: Pale purple

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

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