Do you love the idea of a garden, but hate the idea of gardening?
…Or maybe there’s nothing you’d like more, but simply don’t have the time, energy or ability to stay on top of constant plant care?
Maintaining a garden can often be a tiring, tedious activity, but it’s perfectly possible to have a beautiful garden that doesn’t need hours of effort to stay looking good. We’ve listed a whole host of low-maintenance garden ideas, so you can pick and choose anything and everything that works for you.
10 Tips for a Low-Maintenance Garden
Plan your garden right, and the maintenance will start to take care of itself. Generally speaking, the easiest route is to minimise your flower beds, simplify your lawn area and plan for a substantial amount of paving. Having said that, you shouldn’t lose sight of your dream garden – if you long for bright flowers and luscious lawns, there are ways of balancing these features with other low-maintenance garden ideas.
1. Aim for minimalism
A pared-back aesthetic is the first step to low-effort upkeep. White walls, monochromatic pots and unfussy shapes are easy to maintain and replace if they get damaged. Plus, they can make for very tranquil surroundings when all you want to do is chill. Check out more minimalist garden ideas.
2. Lose the lawn…
Scaling back the size of your lawn – or replacing it altogether – will save you so much time in the long run. Swap large areas of lawn with gravel or a patio for minimal maintenance. Zero mowing, plus zero weeds, plus zero mud… equals more time to relax!
3. …Or just fake it
Artificial grass has gone in and out of fashion, but modern textures and colours are so believable that it’s up to you whether you keep it a secret or show it off at every opportunity! With kid-friendly and pet-friendly materials available, there’s no reason why you should lift a finger for lawn maintenance ever again. Take a look at any home magazine or social media channel, and you’ll see that artificial grass is one of the most popular low-maintenance garden ideas right now.
4. Make space for storage
Even if you only need a handful of tools to maintain your garden, it’s going to be much easier if you know where they all are. Invest in a small shed or storage chest to keep all of your garden essentials tidy – even if that’s just a hose and a deckchair. Try not to go overboard with storage space though. If you get tempted to leave clutter in there, you’ll only end up misplacing what you need and having to spend more time cleaning and emptying it out.
5. Use structure to create style
“Fuss-free” should never mean “dull”. Although plants are usually the focus of a garden, pergolas and arbours create visual interest with none of the upkeep hassle. They’re not very expensive or particularly difficult to install, and they don’t require regular maintenance.
6. Add sophistication with sculptures
Minimalist plants can become the perfect backdrop for dramatic artwork. Incorporate stylish sculptures or statuettes into your landscaping to make your restricted flowerbeds look “curated”, instead of “sparse”. Look for materials that won’t show up a lot of dirt, or that look better a little bit weathered, like moss-covered stone. Look for more inspiration in our list of minimalist garden ideas and our piece on Japanese garden design.
7. Turn up the heat with a fire pit
Fire pits are great for entertaining friends and make it easy to enjoy your garden even in the cooler seasons. Visually, they make a wonderful focal point, and can emphasise the aesthetic of your home. You can have a fire pit professionally installed or build one yourself, and the only real upkeep they need is a sweep after use.
8. Low-maintenance decking
Do you love the look of wooden decks, but hate the idea of upkeep? Polymer composite gets you that warm, homely look but with none of the hassle of real wood – making it a stylish and savvy choice when it comes to low-maintenance garden deck ideas. Plus, if you prefer a deck with more personality, composite decking materials in all kinds of vibrant colours that won’t fade in the sun.
9. Use fences, not hedges
Hedges are great at offering privacy, but need frequent trimming as they become unruly in summer. Unless you’re prepared to pay someone to bring a strimmer or secateurs, it might be best to nip them in the bud (so to speak), and replace them with hard-wearing fences or walls.
10. Easy-care flowerbeds
Plotting your garden beds is crucial to keeping your garden low-effort in the future. Before planting anything, observe which areas of your garden get the most or the least amount of rain and sunlight. Some plants need to bask in the sunlight to thrive, while others do much better in the shade. Taller plants also need a bit of room to grow, while certain species of flowers and grass require extra room to spread out. By knowing where your plants will do best, you will spend a lot less time trying to coax them to grow.
9 Ideas for Low-Maintenance Garden Plants
If your neighbours plants make you green with envy, there are plenty of ways you can flaunt flowers, fuss-free. The main thing is to choose foliage that is native to where you live – that way, whatever flowers, shrubs and trees you choose will be able to survive with little interference. It’s also worth remembering that lots of potted plants will only grow as big as their surroundings, reducing the amount of pruning.
The basis of a low-effort garden plant collection should be evergreens, like mini conifers, holly and box shrubs which are hardy enough to stay outdoors all year.
Alternatively, succulents like sedums, sempervivums, pachyphytum and aeonium are other great options for a year-round, low-upkeep garden. Just give them enough drainage in raised, well-aerated soil, whether they’re potted or in lawn beds. All they need is a bit of light and the occasional watering to grow!
Looking for a little more colour? Choose perennials (rather than annuals) like lavender, aster and geraniums, which will bloom year after year with very little effort. The important part is to stick to flowers that are native to the UK, as they’ll be naturally suited to the local weather and soil – and won’t require effort and expense to maintain. If in doubt, check with your local garden centre.
If you’re keen for some flowers but can’t be bothered to tend immaculately-sculpted beds, plant a wildfire mix and let them do their thing. These easy-care seed mixes provide a riot of colour and flourish in the natural British environment. Just keep them separate from any more delicate plants – wildflowers are best left to their own devices and can smother any other growth in the flowerbed. Best to keep them separated with some garden edging.
5. Artificial blooms
Desperate for gorgeous flowers but seriously committed to the low-maintenance lifestyle? Artificial shrubs and synthetic flowers are more realistic than ever, and will always look picture-perfect. Sneak them in between real shrubs to give your garden some oomph, or make the most of unlikely blooms and create a fantasy flower garden that will last all-year.
6. Top-dress garden beds
Weeding is one of the most thankless parts of gardening. By covering the surface of your flowerbeds with a light gravel or wood chips, you can reduce the chances of weeds breaking through. If you have the time to be more thorough, we’ve got more tips for weed-resistant flower beds.
8. Alternative plant displays
Cottage gardens aren’t for everyone. Instead of trying to maintain soil beds, look to more hard-wearing arrangements, like rockeries, or confining your plants to just a few large pots and planters. Don’t go overboard on containers though – the less soil in each pot, the closer you will have to keep an eye on it drying out (and therefore watering regularly).
9. Plants to avoid for a low-maintenance garden
There are some plants you should absolutely avoid if you want to keep your garden low-effort. Annuals and tender plants will need routine care – that’s most bedding plants, vegetables and seeds.
Plants that need staking, or climbers are also a no-go. Self-clinging plants (such as ivy) can quickly become out of control, or they will need ongoing tying to help them climb. Finally, check that your plants don’t attract pests (like hostas). You’ll spend more time dealing with slugs or snails than relaxing outside.
Low-Maintenance Garden Ideas: 5 Furniture Tips
Where will you spend all the time you’re saving with your easy-care plants? Hopefully, relaxing in your hassle-free outdoor space. If you’ve designated a substantial portion of your garden to a patio, make sure you’re choosing to sit out on easy-care patio furniture.
Low-maintenance garden furniture can be beautiful, comfortable and functional. To keep cleaning and storage to a minimum, opt for simple, lightweight designs and stick to what you need. Unfortunately, few materials can cope with year-round exposure to British weather, so make sure you choose furniture that doesn’t need more upkeep than you’re prepared for.
1. Rattan furniture
Rattan garden furniture is attractive and comfortable, but is best-suited to warm, dry climates and will eventually rot in damp weather. For low-maintenance rattan furniture, you’ll need to invest in synthetic, weather-proof rattan on aluminium frames (not steel).
2. Metal patio furniture
Powder-coated aluminium furniture is another great choice for low-maintenance outdoor seating. It might set you back a little bit more than other lightweight metal furniture, but the coating means it won’t fade or rust.
3. Plastic garden seating
If you’re on a tight budget, plastic furniture is a great low-cost, low-maintenance option. Available in lots of bright colours and designs, it’s easy to clean, easy to move and easy to store. Plastic is ideal if you want garden furniture that you can leave out in the rain, but keep in mind that it can be blown around in windy weather, and become faded in direct sunlight – best to keep it in a shady spot.
4. Wooden patio furniture
Wood patio furniture is another popular choice, as it’s attractive, lightweight and fairly durable. Choose a hardwood (like teak or European oak) over softwood, and you’ll spend a lot less time treating it to keep its strength, colour and to prevent damp or rot.
5. Fabric furniture for outdoors
There’s a growing trend for fabric furniture outside, made from specially-treated materials that repel water (and dirt). Although fabric seating is one of the more expensive options for low-maintenance garden furniture, it makes up for it with style, weather-resistance and easy cleaning.
Water Features and Ponds for a Low-Maintenance Garden
Installing a water feature is never going to be high on the list of low-maintenance garden ideas, but if your home already has a pond it’s probably more effort to dig it up than to leave it. Keep it free of fish and wildlife, and you should find that the water finds its own natural balance. Over the years, silt will build up and the pond will gradually fill itself in.
What’s the secret to a low-maintenance garden?
The reality is, the fewer plants you have, the easier it will be to care for your garden. However, weeds and moss aren’t harmful, and a little overgrowth on your lawn and flower beds can actually help it retain water and stay healthy. The real key to owning a fuss-free garden is to live with a more relaxed mindset.