Beauty Without the Effort: Low-Maintenance Plants for a Spring Garden

The sun is out, and birds are chirping. Come summer, and the indolent scent of lavender wafts through the idyll breeze, begging for the gardener to come relax on the patio, a martini in hand.

Gardening can be invigorating, but it can also be tiresome. Once the heat starts revving up its intensity, many gardeners will want to retreat to their houses and spend minimal time maintaining their gardens. 

Low-maintenance plants often gain a reputation for being plain, dull or scraggly. However, there are many spring plants that offer a multitude of colors and textures, many of which extend into the summer months.

This year, take the time to savor your garden beds with these low-maintenance yet visually appealing plants. 

Barlow Columbine

Black Barlow Columbine

Barlow columbine mixes the flamboyance of the dahlia with the rustic elegance of wildflowers. The ‘Black Barlow’ variety in particular produces striking petals that are near-black color, bringing to mind a dead maestro. It prefers light shade, but is not overly fussy. 

Zones: 3 – 9 

Double Dipped Rainbow Sherbet Coneflower 

This dazzling variety of coneflower, with sprightly, raspberry-colored centers, looks good enough to eat. No doubt you’ll be asking for seconds with this vibrant flower, a mainstay in pollinator and native gardens. 

Zones: Hardy perennial in zones 4 – 8


Epimedium is recommended for drought-prone gardens that simultaneously experience shade. Also known as bishop’s hat or fairy wings, the delicate exterior of these little-known flowers belies a tough spirit. Resembling spidery orchids, epimedium dwells in dappled shade, their stems rising gracefully from the ground. 
Zones: 5 – 8 

Knock-out Roses                

Knock-out roses may be considered low brow imitations among rose connoisseurs, but they’re solid performers that will endure through tough weather. A sturdy trellis can help your roses sprawl even further, sending runners loaded with flowers heavenward. A drawback is that many lack the heady fragrance so coveted in David Austin roses; some cultivars may retain a light, subtle fragrance. 

Zones: 5 – 9, great for the front-yard  

Red Hot Poker 

Transplants are recommended for this South African native, which prevails in moist soils amended with compost. Its ombre coloring, ranging from a butter yellow to a fire engine red, helps add liveliness to the garden. Supplement with some solar lights to ensure that it lights up your terrain even in the dark of the night. 

Zones: 6 – 9, enduring from early midsummer to fall 


A favored plant among gardeners, lavender tops the ranks as one of the most drought-resistant plants, not to mention its aromatic fragrance. Its versatility makes it popular in wildflower and native gardens. Cut off sprigs and keep them in your garden bag, where they will perfume the atmosphere. 

Zones: 5 – 9, has more than 450 varieties  


Often regarded as a symbol of the aristocracy, hydrangeas are an elegant plant that flourish in shade, preferable near the East or North side of the house. A black- accented planter pairs especially well with the cool blue of their blooms. They can be susceptible to heat stress, so make sure to water regularly, either with a soaker hose or supplemented with wicking cells.

Zones: 3 – 9 

American Beautyberry 

Starting from late-spring, the beautyberry bears small, pink clusters of flowers; its jewel-like, purple berries will sustain birds in the colder months. Unlike some of the other berry varieties, this shrub is a low-effort plant that requires virtually no maintenance other than optional pruning. 

Zones: 6 – 11

Dusty Miller 

When fresh, the foliage of this plant is an icy, filigree that provides a nice contrast to colorful flowering plants. Dusty miller or silver ragwort is generally grown as an ornamental and has found uses in moon gardens, along with candytuft and yarrow. 

Zones: Hardy perennial in zones 8 – 10 

Whirling Butterflies (Oenothera lindheimeri)

Whirling Butterflies, previously of the genus Gaura, form mesmerizing displays of blooms that resemble butterflies in flight. Commonly available in a soft white, whirling butterflies are even more eye-catching in their pink form. 

Zones: 5 – 9, native to Texas and Louisiana 


Indigo, also referred to as baptisia or false indigo, blooms reliably in dense thickets. Its common name derives from dyes that have been extracted from its leaves, a substitute for indigo. It has a tendency to grow slowly, so make sure to select large, bushy plants. 

Zones: 3 – 9

Desert Rose 

Among succulents, desert rose has an anomalous look: flowers in festive shades of white and magenta sprout from a squat, bonsai-like trunk. For those who are tired of the usual Christmas cactuses and aloe vera, the desert rose is an unusual addition. It’s an excellent plant for rolling planters, where it can be wheeled inside for the winter. 

Zones: 11 – 12 as outdoors ornamental; otherwise grown indoors 

Purple Prairie Trillium

There is something charming about the prairie trillium’s mottled leaves and maroon-colored flowers. An adaptable groundcover that prefers moist, well-drained conditions, it can tolerate shade bare spots under trees, where it serves as an early harbinger of spring. 

Zones: 4 – 9, a lotus-like plant with elliptical petals 

Creeping Phlox 

Creeping phlox has gone viral all over the country for its whimsical carpets of flowers, like something straight from a fairytale. Used commonly as groundcover, some gardeners have even opted to refurbish entire strips of their lawn with this low-maintenance plant. 

Zones: 3 – 9 

Consider growing plants in raised garden beds

Some gardeners will place a few hanging baskets filled with stuffy geraniums around the porch and call it a day, which can quickly get boring.

Why not have a coterie of die-hard plants serenade you instead? Raised beds are a great way to hijack many of the arduous steps with in-ground gardening, tilling, weeding, and preparing the soil. 

Both serious and beginner gardens have reported wide success with raised garden beds, which allow the gardener to integrate plants with different growing requirements that otherwise would not get along in the wild. An oscillating sprinkler can provide coverage to multiple grouping of plants. 

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