16 Low-Maintenance Landscape Ideas and Tips

Rock garden with small bushes with pink and purple flowers

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

All yards need some level of upkeep. But certain factors can impact whether you have low-maintenance landscaping or a labor-intensive yard. For instance, watering and mowing can take a large chunk of yard care time, as can weeding and pruning. And some plants have higher care needs than others to keep them looking their best. But there are solutions to have a beautiful yard and save on labor.

Here are 16 low-maintenance landscaping tips to help keep your yard work to a minimum.

  • 01 of 16

    Save Water and Money With Xeriscaping

    Autumn Joy sedum plant in bloom

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    Maintaining a lawn not only can be labor-intensive, but it also can be costly. You might have to spend a lot of money on watering a lawn—or even replacing one that has succumbed to drought. Avoid this completely by changing your landscape design with xeriscaping, a gardening method in which you choose plants that require minimal supplemental watering. One water-wise alternative to a traditional lawn is Autumn Joy stonecrop.

  • 02 of 16

    Use an Automatic Irrigation System

    Sprinkler discharging water across a lawn

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    Skip the maintenance of having to drag a garden hose all around your property, and install an automatic irrigation system. These systems make watering your plants convenient and precise. You can target certain areas that need more water for maximum efficiency. And you can set the system to run even if you won’t be home, meaning your plants won’t go thirsty if you travel. 

  • 03 of 16

    Try Clover as an Alternative to Grass

    Red clover plant in bloom

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    Clover seeds used to be included in the typical lawn seed mix, being appreciated as a ground cover with numerous attractive qualities. Clover lawns have many advantages over traditional grass lawns, including their drought-tolerance. Clover also is insect-resistant, competes well with weeds, and doesn't have to be mowed often. When mixed with other lawn grasses, clover also supplies nitrogen to improve grass health. So your lawn will likely need less supplemental fertilizer on your part.

  • 04 of 16

    Add a Rock Garden

    Rock garden covered with small flowering drought-resistant plants

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Rock gardens typically contain drought-resistant plants that don't need much care. Moreover, the rocks themselves are decor that never needs to be watered or tended to in any way, and they still have a natural visual appeal like plants. Just make sure to choose plants with similar growing needs for your rock garden. For example, make sure they all like lots of sunlight if your rock garden is in full sun. That way, you won't have to worry about providing individualized care.

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  • 05 of 16

    Plant Deer-Resistant Ground Covers

    Sweet woodruff growing well under a Kwanzan cherry tree.

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    Using ground covers is a smart landscape solution that can reduce watering needs and mowing time. But, when deer come to snack on your ground cover plants, you need to refine your strategy. Be sure to select ground covers that deer tend to avoid, such as sweet woodruff and lamb's ear. That way, you won't have to spend the time, money, or effort replacing eaten plants.

  • 06 of 16

    Add Mulch

    mulch and shrubs along a house foundation

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    Mulch is an unsung hero of landscaping. An application of mulch can reduce your watering needs significantly by maintaining soil moisture and keeping plant roots cool. Mulch also suppresses weeds, making yard care much easier. Plus, as it decomposes, it can enrich the soil and improve its texture. And you can use mulch to protect plants over the winter rather than having to remove and replant them.

  • 07 of 16

    Plant Drought-Tolerant Perennials

    Culvers root plants in bloom, displaying clusters of flower spikes

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    There's nothing wrong with growing an annual plant that needs lots of water if you love it for your garden. But it will take a lot of work for only one growing season's worth of enjoyment compared to a drought-tolerant perennial that should last many years. To reduce the amount of care your landscape needs, opt for drought-tolerant shrubs and other perennials, especially in areas of the yard that get full sun (which increases a plant's moisture needs). They'll look great year after year with little help from you.

  • 08 of 16

    Control Erosion With Smart Plant Choices

    Cotoneaster shrub closeup with red berries

    DigiPub / Getty Images 

    By being proactive and taking measures before erosion occurs, you can save yourself a lot of maintenance later. Runoff coming down a hill can have devastating effects not only on your landscaping but even on your home. So it's important to practice erosion control with your plants. Select plants that can grow on slopes, holding back soil and sucking up water. Creeping junipers are commonly used for this purpose.

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  • 09 of 16

    Consider Moss as a Grass Alternative

    Patch of sphagnum moss growing in the wild

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    Mosses are fuss-free plants that can be used as an alternative to grass lawns. They're especially suitable for shady spots where most types of grass refuse to grow. They form dense patches that certainly beat having bare spots on your lawn from trying and failing to nurture grass. Sometimes moss will even pop up naturally in those shady areas. Rather than fighting it, take the path of least resistance and allow it to fill in.

  • 10 of 16

    Adjust Your Landscaping for Dogs

    person seated on lawn with dogs

    Hero Images / Getty Images

    Dogs can run a yard ragged. If you have dogs, you'll probably have to make adjustments to your landscaping. And the smartest adjustments you can make are the ones that will result in the least labor in the long run. Among these are switching to a type of grass that holds up better under "paw traffic," such as Bermuda grass or tall fescue grass. A clover lawn also is ideal because it won't show the unsightly yellow stains, or burns, from canine urine like typical grass does.

  • 11 of 16

    Select Plants Suited to Your Climate and Garden

    Eastern redbud

    The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

    Landscaping with native plants has many benefits. In a nutshell, they require fewer resources and less maintenance because they are already adapted to your area’s growing conditions. For instance, plants native to the southern United States thrive in lots of heat and humidity. And plants native to the desert won’t need supplemental watering. So always be sure to check a plant’s USDA growing zone, along with its specific care needs, to make sure it will work in your garden. For example, if your landscape doesn’t get much sunlight, go for a native plant that prefers partial to full shade.

  • 12 of 16

    Consider Container Gardening

    Container garden

    The Spruce / Christopher Lee Foto

    Container gardening has multiple benefits that help to minimize plant maintenance. For starters, you have control over the exact soil type you use, which will greatly impact your plants' health. Plus, you can control how much water and sunlight the containers get. And pests and diseases are generally less likely to strike containers. So overall you're likely to spend less time dealing with plant problems. You also can simply move containers indoors over winter, rather than having to dispose of and replace plants. 

    Continue to 13 of 16 below.
  • 13 of 16

    Use Artificial Grass

    fake grass on a lawn

    Jose Hernandez-Uribe / Unsplash

    If you want the look of a lush, green lawn but don’t live in a climate that will support such a lawn, consider artificial turf. Many desert homes feature artificial lawns, but they are also a good option for any homeowner who simply doesn’t want to deal with lawn maintenance. Artificial turf doesn’t need mowing, watering, or fertilizer. And you won’t get any unsightly brown spots or weeds popping up. Once you get past the initial installation, maintenance is minimal compared to grass.

  • 14 of 16

    Try Low-Maintenance Ornamental Grass

    Ornamental grass

    The Spruce / K. Dave

    There are many ornamental grasses that are both beautiful and low-maintenance. These grasses are not for walking on. Rather they fill in a space with their texture, height, foliage colors, floral displays, and more. They come in a wide array of appearances and growing requirements, so you’re bound to find a species that is suitable for your yard. For instance, maiden grass is a good tall, drought-tolerant ornamental grass for hardiness zones 5 to 9. And blue fescue is a short, drought-tolerant variety for zones 4 to 8 that doesn’t tend to have any serious problems with pests or diseases.

  • 15 of 16

    Carefully Consider Trees

    Dwarf trees in a landscape

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Trees add major impact to any landscape, providing a substantial focal point and shade. However, some trees are better than others when it comes to minimizing maintenance. Consider a dwarf tree species, especially if your yard isn’t that big. These trees generally mature around 15 feet tall, making pruning a much easier task. Plus, for deciduous varieties, you won’t have as much leaf cleanup in the fall as you would with a larger tree. And speaking of cleanup, look for trees that don’t drop messy seeds or fruits. That way, you won’t have to spend time cleaning them up and preventing seedlings from growing in unwanted places. 

  • 16 of 16

    Incorporate Hardscaping

    Stone waterfall

    The Spruce / Almar Creative

    The hardscape is all the non-living components of landscaping. That includes brick patios, concrete walkways, stone walls, wooden fences, pergolas, and gravel beds. It even includes water features, such as a stone fountain. Hardscape elements aren’t zero maintenance. For example, you’ll have to clean and reseal wood decking, and you might have to repair or replace cracked pavers. But they certainly don’t require as much regular work as the living elements of landscaping, or the softscape. So don’t feel compelled to fill your entire yard with plants. For less upkeep, trade some grass for a concrete patio. That way, you’ll add some usable outdoor living space and cut down on your yard maintenance.  

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