10 Perennials for an Almost Maintenance-Free Garden

A few weeks ago, my sister-in-law asked me to come and look at her garden. She needed some advice. The flowerbed at the front of her house was full of weeds, and she didn’t like the path to the front door, or the old stone wall. Time to start again!

Her main question was: what plants should I put in so as to have as little maintenance as possible? She and my brother are often outdoors in the summer, and they have very active children who have to be transported here and there. In short, they don’t have much time to maintain their garden. No problem!

My father, Larry Hodgson, has dedicated his career to making gardening as simple as possible, so that we can enjoy beautiful flowerbeds without sacrificing all our free time. There is such a thing as an almost maintenance-free garden. Let’s take a look at a few perennials that, according to him, are not only easy to maintain, but are hardy and will last for decades.

Acanthus hungaricus. Photo: C T Johansson.

Bear’s Breeches

Acanthus hungaricus

Dimensions: 75-120 cm (24″-48″) haut x 80 cm (32″) large

Exposition: soleil, mi-ombre, ombre

Soil: well drained

Flowering: July-September

Hardiness: 4 (USDA 3)

Uncommon in our gardens, this is a perennial with a long flowering period. Its cut foliage comes out early in spring and remains attractive until autumn.

Aconitum carmichaelii ‘Arendsii’. Photo: Agnieszka Kwiecie?, Nova.



Size: depending on cultivar, 60-180 cm (24-72″) high x 40-90 cm (16-36″) wide

Exposure: sun, partial shade, shade

Soil: well drained, moist, rich in organic matter

Flowering: according to species

Hardiness: 2 or 3 (USDA 3 to 7)

Recommended species and cultivars: A. × cammarum ‘Eleanora’, A. × cammarum ‘Pink Sensation’, A. × cammarum ‘Eleanora’, A. carmichaelii ‘Arendsii’, A. napellus ssp. vulgare ‘Albidum’

An easy-to-grow, resilient perennial, wolfsbane can live up to 40 years.

Amsonia hubrichtii. Photo: Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz.



Size: depending on species, 40-100 cm (16-40″) high x 40-120 cm (16-48″) wide

Exposure: Sun, part shade

Soil: ordinary, well-drained, moist

Flowering: June-July, depending on species

Hardiness: depending on species, 3-5 (USDA 3 to 9)

Recommended species and cultivars: A. tabernaemontana, A. hubrichtii

One of the few plants with truly blue flowers. It remains attractive after flowering thanks to its pointed, willow-like leaves and sturdy stems. Its main attraction is its golden-yellow autumn color.

Baptisia australis. Photo: Jean-Pol GRANDMONT.

Wild Indigo


Size: depending on species, 25-200 cm (10-78″) high x 60-200 cm (24-78″) wide

Exposure: sun, part shade

Soil: well drained, dry

Flowering: June-July

Hardiness: depending on species, 2, 3 or 4 (USDA 3 to 9)

Recommended species and cultivars: B. australis, B. alba var. alba

With its violet-blue flowers, Wild indigo resembles lupine, a close relative. A large perennial, it acts as a shrub. Slow to establish, it is nevertheless almost permanent.

Lamprocapnos spectabilis. Photo: Wuzur.

Bleeding Heart

Lamprocapnos spectabilis, Dicentra spectabilis

Dimensions: 60-120 cm (24-48″) high x 90-120 cm (36-48″) wide

Exposure: sun, part shade, shade

Soil: well drained and deep

Flowering: May-June

Hardiness: 2 (USDA 3 to 9)

Recommended species and cultivars: L. spectabilis (Dicentra spectabilis), L. spectabilis ‘Gold Heart’.

A classic in our gardens, but what a bloomer! This perennial forms small, heart-shaped flowers. Plant it where it won’t be seen, as it often goes dormant and its leaves turn yellow in summer.

Dictamnus albus. Photo: White Dittany

Gas Plant


Dimensions: 60-90 cm (24-36″) high, 90 cm (36″) wide

Exposure: sun, part shade

Soil: well drained, deep, rich

Flowering: June-July

Hardiness: 3 (USDA 3 to 8)

Recommended species and cultivars: D. albus purpureus

Although slow to mature, gas plants can last over 75 years! Their flowers, borne in spikes, are orchid-like with an orange fragrance.

Hemerocallis ‘Happy Returns’.Photo: David Stang.



Size: depending on cultivar, 15-200 cm (6-78″) high, 15-90 cm (6-36″) wide

Exposure: sun, part shade

Soil: all

Flowering: depending on species, June-October

Hardiness: depending on species, 2 or 3 (USDA 2 to 9)

Recommended species and cultivars: H. ‘Elfe Marie-Antoinette’, H. ‘Frans Hale’, H. ‘Malija’ Golden Zebra™?, H. ‘Autumn Minaret’, H. ‘Stella de Oro’, H. ‘Apricot Sparklers’, H. ‘Berrub’ Ruby Stella, H. ‘Black Eyed Stella’, H. ‘Buttered Popcorn’, H. ‘Catherine Woodbery’, H. ‘Chicago Apache’, H. ‘Going Bananas’, H. ‘Happy Returns’, H. ‘Just Plum Happy’, H. ‘Little Grapette’, H. ‘Moses’ Fire’, H. ‘On and On’, H. ‘Pardon Me’

Daylily flowers last only one day, hence the name “daylily”. There is usually more than one bud per stem. With flowering times ranging from three weeks to several months, depending on the species and cultivar, they have a reputation for being very easy to grow.

Hosta ‘Empress Wu’. Photo: Daderot.


Size: depending on cultivar, 10-120 cm (4-48″) high, 15-180 cm (6-72″) wide

Exposure: sun, part shade

Soil: moist, well drained

Flowering: July-August

Hardiness: 3 (USDA 3 to 8)

Recommended species and cultivars: H. plantaginea, H. ‘American Hero’, H. ‘August Moon’, H. ‘Big Daddy’, H. ‘Blue Mouse Ears’, H. ‘Empress Wu’, H. ‘Fragrant Bouquet’, H. ‘Krossa Regal’, H. ‘Liberty’, H. ‘Patriot’, H. ‘Bailey Langdon’, H. ‘Praying Hands’, H. ‘Sagae’, H. ‘Sum and Substance’, H. ‘Striptease’.

Available in a wide range of sizes and foliage colors and shapes, hostas adapt to a variety of conditions, from dry shade to full sun. Take care to choose slug-resistant varieties.

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Madame de Verneville’. Photo: James Steakley.


Paeonia spp.

Size: depending on cultivar, 30-150 cm (12-60″) x 60 x 90 cm (24-36″)

Exposure: depending on cultivar, sun, part shade

Soil: well drained, rich

Flowering: late spring

Hardiness: 3 or 4 (USDA 3 to 8)

Recommended species and cultivars: Paeonia daurica ssp. mlokosewitschii, P. obovata, P. tenuifolia, P. lactiflora ‘Angel’s Cheeks’, P. lactiflora ‘Bowl of Beauty’, P. lactiflora ‘Cheddar Gold’, P. lactiflora ‘Clair de lune’, P. lactiflora ‘Coral Charm’, P. lactiflora ‘Coral’n Charm’, P. lactiflora ‘Dandy Dan’, P. lactiflora ‘Gold Standard’, P. lactiflora ‘Ilini Warrior’, P. lactiflora ‘Kansas’, P. lactiflora ‘Krinkled White’, P. lactiflora ‘Madame de Verneville’, P. lactiflora ‘Many Happy Returns’, P. lactiflora ‘Paula Fay’, P. lactiflora ‘Hawaiian Coral’, P. lactiflora ‘Salmon Chiffon’, P. lactiflora ‘Scarlett O’Hara’, P. lactiflora ‘Sea Shell’, P. lactiflora ‘Walter Mains’, P. lactiflora ‘Westerner’, P. ‘Bartzella’, P. ‘Julia Rose’, P. ‘Scarlet Heaven’.

In addition to their beautiful spring flowers, the foliage of herbaceous peonies remains dome-shaped after flowering and attractive.

Persicaria polymorpha . Photo: Acabashi.

Great White Fleeceflower

Persicaria polymorpha (Polygonum polymorphum, Koenigia alpina var. alpina)

Dimensions: 1.2-2.5 m (4-8′) x 1.2-2.5 m (4-8′)

Exposure: sun, part shade, shade

Soil: rich, cool

Flowering: June-October

Hardiness: 3 (USDA 4 to 9)

Larry Hodgson’s favorite perennial because of its shrub-like size, bamboo-like stems, prolonged white bloom, versatility and hardiness.

Mathieu manages the and websites. He is also a garden designer for a landscaping company in Montreal, Canada. Although he loves contributing to the blog, he prefers fishing.

9 comments on “10 Perennials for an Almost Maintenance-Free Garden

  1. Looking for a versatile grooming tool? Discover the VGR All-In-One Trimmer for Men! This multi-functional trimmer is your ultimate grooming companion, designed to meet all your styling needs in one convenient package. With precision blades and multiple attachments, you can easily trim and shape your facial hair, beard, mustache, and even body hair with ease.

    VGR All-In-One Trimmer for Men offers exceptional performance, allowing you to achieve precise and professional results in the comfort of your own home. Its ergonomic design ensures a comfortable grip for effortless grooming sessions. The trimmer is equipped with advanced technology for smooth and efficient trimming, making it an indispensable addition to your grooming arsenal.

    Whether you’re a seasoned groomer or a novice, the VGR All-In-One Trimmer is user-friendly and suitable for all hair types. Say goodbye to multiple grooming tools cluttering your bathroom and say hello to the convenience of VGR’s all-inclusive solution.

    Take the next step in upgrading your grooming routine with VGR All-In-One Trimmer for Men. Buy now and experience the ease and versatility of this top-quality grooming tool, brought to you by the trusted brand, VGR. Elevate your style and achieve a polished look effortlessly with VGR All-In-One Trimmer for Men.

  2. Jennifer R

    I agree with amsonia and baptisia but there are many more native plants that have evolved to live in their native climate and once established in their ideal conditions are so self sufficent. Our native plants also support the native food web inluding bees, butterflies and moths which then feed our native birds and many other species at risk.

  3. Sherry Thorn

    Suggestions for hot, dry zone 5?

    • Echinops (globe thistle) and eryngium (sea holly) are drought tolerant and fun spiky looking plants. Yarrow, echinacea, rudbeckia, lavender, penstemon should all do well in hot, dry conditions. There are also some lovely sedums that are hardy to zone 5.

  4. Gail Bebee

    Zone for bear’s breeches is 5 to 10 (USDA) according to Missouri Botanical Garden site. I have had trouble growing this in Toronto. ( Canadian zone 6)

    • Mathieu Hodgson

      It is very possible that it will survive better with more snow cover. It grows very well in canadian zone 4.

    • Mieke Allan

      I have a beautiful bears breeches here in Whitby. It grows up against the brick of my house.

  5. aconitum is very poisonous so not the best suggestion for a garden with children around

  6. farmerpam

    All very good choices, I’m not familiar with Great White Fleeceflower, I’ll be looking into that today, thanks! And False Indigo comes in some other lovely colors, Cherries Jubilee is one of my new favorites, it’s yellow with a red tip. Foliage makes for some great filler in floral arrangements too.

Leave a Reply

Sign up for the Laidback Gardener blog and receive articles in your inbox every morning!