Right Plant – Right Place

Tips for Low-Maintenance Gardening

“Low-maintenance”” is a plant feature that is at the top of just about everyone’s wish list. Here’s a secret: Most plants are low-maintenance, if they are planted in the right spot!

For example, let’s say you want to plant evergreen shrubs along the front of your house, and there are windows that are 4’ from the ground. If you plant a type of shrub that grows 5-6’ tall, in time you will need to prune the branches to keep them from covering the windows. You’ll need to do this every year, since plants continue to grow. Having to prune the front shrubs every year would be a lot of work. The key is to select shrubs that grow 3-4’ or shorter so that you don’t need to “maintain” their height!

If you’d rather enjoy your garden instead of working in it, keep these things in mind:

Sunlight

Of course, all plants need some sun, but what happens if they get too much or not enough?

Let’s start out with some definitions:

Full Sun: Sun all day or all afternoon

Part Sun: 4-6 hours of mid-day to afternoon sun

Shade: Sun only in the morning, or filtered sun throughout the day

What Happens When a Plant Doesn’t Get the Right Amount of Light?

Full Sun plants will not be super-star performers

  • They will not bloom as much or at all
  • Plants with special foliage colors, such as the yellow of Gold Mop cypress or dark-red Crimson Pygmy barberry leaves will start to lose their unique foliage color
  • They will not grow as fast as you’d like
  • They will become spindly and not as lush

Pro-Tip – Most of the time, people fertilize plants that are not performing well, which costs time and money. As we see here, the problem could be a lack of light and no amount of fertilizer will help.

Shade plants will wilt and burn

  • Imagine running a 5K without water – that’s what it is like for a shade lover planted in too much sun. The plant will often droop and wilt – constantly asking for water
  • The plant leaves can burn, causing a washed-out appearance in the color of the foliage
  • Since being in too much sun stresses the plant, it is more susceptible to insects and diseases

Pro-Tip – If you are not sure if you have enough sun/shade for a plant you love, give it a try for a year or two. If you find it isn’t working out, you can always transplant it to a better spot.

Spacing Distance

A good rule of thumb is to plant most shade trees 20’ apart (or from a building or existing tree), flowering trees 15’ apart and evergreen trees 10-15’ apart. Most of the time you can plant perennials about 24” apart and shrubs 3-4’ apart.

Plant Heights

One of the easiest ways to have a low-maintenance garden is to pay attention to plant heights. Unlike people, who start to lose height as they get older – yikes! – plants keep growing taller throughout their lifetime. Most plants grow faster during their adolescence and then slow down as they mature, but they still keep growing just the same. Obviously, you can keep plants pruned, but who wants to spend a lot of time pruning?