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Low Maintenance Landscaping Plants For Difficult Conditions

Low Maintenance Landscaping Plants For Difficult Conditions

Master gardeners and landscape designers know what works in difficult situations because they have experience with hundreds of possible scenarios.

This gives a built-in database for quickly diagnosing difficult landscaping situations.  Poor soil is one of the top challenges. Now combine that with other challenging elements, such as full sun and drying winds, and suddenly it becomes a complex puzzle.

It turns out that enough landscaping plants will do well in difficult conditions to give every landscape a solid foundation of desired qualities, whether that is color, texture, or privacy.

In this article, you will discover a palette of durable plants and the problematic conditions that they solve. You only need to evaluate your site conditions and consider each plant’s special qualities to achieve your desired outcomes.

Do keep in mind that every plant will have greater vigor if you can partly remedy the difficult situation you are facing. For example, while some plants will do fine with minimal moisture, many will respond favorably to additional moisture whenever possible.

The same is true of shady areas. There are few plants that will thrive in full shade. Therefore, it is advisable to thin the shade-producing canopy to allow at least partial sun whenever possible

Feather Reed Grass

Calamagrostis × acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ is a beautiful ornamental grass with a consistent vertical form that approaches 4′ in height. It adds movement to any landscape and offers a gentle privacy screen to buffer unacceptable views.

It performs nicely to meet the challenge of these difficult landscaping conditions.

  • Abundant Sun
  • Strong Winds
  • Heavy Soil
  • Privacy Screen
  • Full-Season Color

Gro-Low Sumac

Rhus x aromatica ‘Gro-Low’is a workhorse. It will grow to a height of up to 3’ or more but is easily maintained at variable heights of about 18 – 32″ early and late summer pruning. This adaptability is part of its charm. In addition to filling spaces beneath trees as a tall groundcover, it can be creatively sculpted into variable drifts to suit both formal and informal designs.

Grow-Low Sumac grows in almost any soil conditions and in full or part sun. Its foliage is fragrant when leaves are touched and displays a bright mahogany-red foliage in the fall. This plan spreads underground with woody roots that fills spaces left by branches that are accidentally broken by play or traffic.

  • Strong Winds
  • Prolonged Wetness
  • Play Area
  • Fragrance
  • Fall Color

Skyline® Honeylocust

Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis ‘Skycole’ is a tough tree that provides filtered shade. This and it’s ability to grow in heavy soils makes it a candidate for street parkways where sun-loving turfgrass is also desired.

As its name suggests, Skyline® Honeylocust has a more regular and upright form than most other honeylocusts. Its small yellow leaflets are blown away with the wind in the fall. This is another reason why it is a good choice for landscapes where turfgrass health is a priority.

It performs nicely to meet the challenge of these difficult landscaping conditions.

  • Abundant Sun
  • Strong Winds
  • Part Shade
  • Heavy Soil
  • Prolonged Wetness

Stella D’oro Daylily

Low Maintenance Landscaping Plants For Difficult Conditions

Hemerocallis x ‘Stella D’oro’ is a yellow flowering perennial that blooms from spring to fall. There is a period during mid-summer when it takes a rest but only for no more than three weeks.

Despite its common name, the daylily is not, in fact, a lily. That distinction belongs to the more delicate and often fragrant members of the Lilium genus.

While the Stella D’oro is sometimes overplanted in landscapes, it can serve as a beautiful complement to Russian Sage, another low-maintenance plant for difficult conditions.

It performs nicely to meet the challenge of these difficult landscaping conditions.

  • Abundant Sun
  • Strong Winds
  • Heavy Soil
  • Prolonged Wetness
  • Play Areas
  • Full-Season Color

Annabelle Hydrangea

Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ is a moderate-sized shrub with beautiful white flowers that will prosper in sun or light shade. It makes an excellent border plant for the foreground of larger shrubs and trees.

Annabelle hydrangea blooms on new wood. For this reason, a hard pruning to within 6-12″ of the ground will encourage a flush of new growth in the spring that will support a more abundant flower show. Annabelle hydrangeas will thrive in full or part sun. Flowers will be greater in size if watered regularly.

While Annabelle hydrangeas only bloom in early summer the flowers are persistent throughout the entire season, including winter if pruning is postponed until the next spring.

It performs nicely to meet the challenge of these difficult landscaping conditions.

  • Abundant Sun
  • Part Shade
  • Heavy Soil
  • Prolonged Wetness
  • Full-Season Color

Arrowwood Viburnum

Viburnum dentatum is an upright, rounded, multi-stemmed, deciduous shrub that typically matures to 6-10′ tall with a similar spread, but may reach a height of 15′ in optimum growing conditions.

Its qualities include being tolerant of most soils and being capable of forming a dense privacy screen during the growing season. When the leaves turn in the fall the show ranges from auburn to nearly crimson red.

This is a plant that will take a beating from soccer or basketball with minimal damage.

It performs nicely to meet the challenge of these difficult landscaping conditions.

  • Abundant Sun
  • Strong Winds
  • Part Shade
  • Heavy Soil
  • Prolonged Wetness
  • Play Areas
  • Privacy Screen

Techny Arborvitae

Thuja occidentalis ‘Techny’ is an upright evergreen with dense branching holding soft, dark-green foliage that maintains its color in even the coldest winters.

If your landscaping requires a year-round privacy screen for an outdoor living space it will perform like no other. It does best in full sun but it will do fine with moderate shade. While Techy arborvitae prefers good drainage like most evergreens, it will tolerate most areas better than most.

One interesting feature of Techy arborvitae is the needles are soft to the touch. It responds well to shaping to create a more formal hedge. The recommended form is wider at the bottom than the top so that all of the needles receive adequate sun.

It performs nicely to meet the challenge of these difficult landscaping conditions.

  • Abundant Sun
  • Strong Winds
  • Part Shade
  • Heavy Soil
  • Privacy Screen
  • Full-Season Color

Dwarf Korean Lilac

Syringa meyeri ‘Palibin’ is a spreading dwarf lilac with fragrant, pale lilac flowers. It blooms profusely in midseason, typically mid-May here in Minnesota. If you want to introduce a low-maintenance plant with fragrance to your garden, dwarf Korean lilac should be at the top of the list.

Dwarf lilacs flower on old wood. Therefore, if pruning is necessary it should be done after flowering and before new buds are set. This plant can be maintained at 3-4′ but will grow nearly 6′ if conditions are optimal.

It performs nicely to meet the challenge of these difficult landscaping conditions.

  • Abundant Sun
  • Part Shade
  • Heavy Soil
  • Privacy Screen

Knock Out® Roses

The family of Knock Out® roses is disease resistant and requires little to no maintenance. These shrub roses bloom from early summer to the first hard frost and produce cherry red and hot pink blooms that will continue until the first hard frost.

Shrub roses will require some pruning to clean up older wood and to fix broken branches. However, anyone familiar with traditional roses would agree this is a low-maintenance plant that offers brilliant color throughout the growing season.

It performs nicely to meet the challenge of these difficult landscaping conditions.

  • Abundant Sun
  • Strong Winds
  • Full-Season Color

Russian Sage

Perovskia atriplicafolia is the common or standard Russian Sage. It grows to a height of 3′ or more tall and wide. There are cultivated hybrid varieties that have a more consistent form and shorter height, but the flower show of the standard Russian Sage is unmatched.

This plants flowers in early-midsummer and then fades over many weeks. However, pruning the top 25-30% will encourage a second show, albeit one that is somewhat less showy. This plant has a fragrance resembling native sage plants.

It prefers dry to wet soil but will flourish with consistent moisture that increases its size and flower show.

It performs nicely to meet the challenge of these difficult landscaping conditions.

  • Abundant Sun
  • Strong Winds
  • Full-Season Color

Giant Blue Hosta

Low Maintenance Landscaping Plants For Difficult Conditions

Hosta sieboldiana ‘Elegans’ is a low maintenance perennial that makes a statement in shady gardens with its striking blue color and large texture.

One of the common complaints about gardening in shade is that the recommended plants often have small, delicate textures and subtle flower color. While Giant Blue Hostas will fade to green as autumn approaches, they are a bright blue for most of the season.

The leaves can easily be the size of dinner plates. So if you want to add some pizazz to your shade garden this hosta will easily make that happen. Hostas prefer well-drained soil but always prefer moist over dry conditions.

It performs nicely to meet the challenge of these difficult landscaping conditions.

  • Part Shade
  • Heavy Soil
  • Full-Season Color

We’ve tackled our share of difficult landscaping conditions to design and build some of Minnesota’s most stylish and functional outdoor spaces. Let’s create a plan that elevates your lifestyle so that you and your guests can enjoy it for years to come.

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