Gardening 101: Create a Colorful, Low Maintenance Garden

10 gorgeous shrubs, plants, flowers and grasses that create a polished look with little upkeep.

Low maintenance gardening is a great option for those of us who don’t have a lot of time to spend in the garden but still want their yard to look lush and manicured. There are many ways to make gardening easier and less time consuming, like creating rock gardens, using mulch or pine straw, adding mixed containers for extra color, or using clover or sedum as ground cover. Use flowers, trees, plants and shrubs that are drought tolerant, compact, can grow in a variety of soils and light levels, and don’t require hours of trimming and pruning. We’ve built a list of 10 shrubs, plants and flowers that you can use in your yard to create a polished look with little upkeep. 

1. Canna Lily – TOUCAN® Series by Proven Winners®

“Proven Winners is going tropical with a new line of Toucan® Cannas. If you love the look of tropical plants but need some that grow more like petunias, look no further. These new cannas are fast, vigorous, highly disease resistant and easy to grow in greenhouse production. They are ideal for warm climates where they flower like crazy in the heat.” ( We are wowed by the bold green foliage and the striking flowers that continue to bloom from summer to fall. This perennial looks great in a landscaped bed or in one of Jilly May’s mixed containers!

2. Carex EverColor® Everglow (Sedge) by Southern Living® Plant Collection

In addition to the shrubs, plants, and flowers on our list, we wanted to include a decorative grass option for your low maintenance garden. Carex EverColor® Everglow, also known as Rush grass or Sedge, features bright, colorful variegated green and yellow foliage with an orange tint. Able to grow in partial sun to full shade, this compact evergreen foliage looks outstanding in any border, walkway, container or mass planting.

3. Daylily – Rainbow Rhythm®, Ruby Stella, and Stella de Ora by Proven Winners®

Looking for large, medium height flowers with lots of color? Try one of the many varieties of Daylily! Our favorites are Rainbow Rhythm®, Ruby Stella, and Stella de Ora. The bright colors, ruffled petals, sweet fragrance and reblooming performance make the Daylily a favorite for low maintenance gardens! Plant in full sun for the best blooms, but the daylily can tolerate part sun areas as well. This tough, adaptable perennial will grow in almost any soil and can be used as a border plant, in a bed as a focal point or a mass planting, and can be highlighted in a container. It is a repeat bloomer and blooms nearly continuously from early summer on. 

4. Drift® Roses

Drift® Roses bloom from spring to frost and feature vibrant flowers that catch your eye from anywhere. They are fully winter hardy and disease resistant, as well as heat and drought tolerant. This rugged shrub will bloom every 5-6 weeks and will perform beautifully without fertilizing. Colors include Apricot Drift®, Coral Drift®, Pink Drift®, Popcorn Drift®, Red Drift®, and more! These roses grow to a height of about 2 feet, making them compact and easy to maintain.

5. Gaillardia, aka Blanket Flower

Gaillardia comes in bright reds, oranges, and yellows. This perennial is compact and thrives in heat. An early summer to fall bloomer, Gaillardia’s daisy-like flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds while resisting deer and rabbits. Gaillardia will perform best in well-drained, moist soil, but can tolerate poor soil and dry/drought conditions once established and has no serious disease issues. As a bonus, it is also Native to North America!

6. Hydrangea quercifolia, aka Oakleaf Hydrangea by Proven Winners®

One of our favorite flowering shrubs, the Gatsby series of Hydrangea features large, upright cone-shaped flowers with leaves that change color through the season. This deciduous shrub is easy to maintain and grows in everything from full sun to full shade. According to, “Hydrangeas don’t need to be fussy plants, and some don’t require any pruning at all. When you choose native oakleaf hydrangeas, you won’t need to worry about having perfectly acidic soil that stays moist all the time, and you won’t need to worry about when to prune because they don’t require it. Gatsby oakleaf hydrangeas typically grow 5-8 feet tall with green, oak leaf-shaped leaves and large panicles of white flowers that begin to appear in early summer. Cooler fall temperatures draw out purple tones in the foliage and make the flowers blush.”

7. Itea virginica, aka Virginia Sweetspire by Proven Winners®

Virginia Sweetspire is available in several different varieties and our favorite is Scentlandia. This shrub is a hardy, compact selection with pleasingly fragrant white flowers that bloom in early summer, attracting pollinators like butterflies and bees. Green summer foliage changes to brilliant oranges and reds in the fall, making it beautiful well past its bloom time. Scentlandia is tolerant of wet areas, thrives in sun or shade, and grows up to 2-3 feet tall and wide, making it an excellent plant for tough areas. Scentlandia is the perfect name for this wonderful smelling shrub!

8. Petunia Supertunia® Vista® Bubblegum® by Proven Winners®

Petunias come in a wide variety of colors and styles, but our hands-down favorite is Supertunia Vista® Bubblegum®! According to, “Supertunia Vista® varieties deliver an outstanding performance over the entire season, lasting an extra month in southern states and well into fall in moderate climates. They are bred to flower earlier, grow taller and wider, and grow more vigorously than other Supertunia®, with mounding habits that can reach up to 2 feet in height in the landscape and will trail over the edges of baskets and containers up to 4 feet by the end of the season.” These award-winning flowers are long blooming, drought and heat tolerant, and deadheading is not necessary for reblooming, making petunias one of the best fillers or trailing plants for garden beds, containers, and other low maintenance landscaping projects.

9. Salvia Rockin’® series: Blue Suede Shoes™, Deep Purple, Fuchsia and Playin’ The Blues® by Proven Winners®

The Salvia Rockin’® series is an award-winning rebloomer that’s richly colored and a great attractor of butterflies, hummingbirds and bees. It’s heat and drought tolerant, thrives in average and poor soil, resists deer, and tolerates part to full sun. It’s compact but also easy to maintain the size and shape you are looking for. Deadheading isn’t necessary but a little trimming will allow it to branch out and become thicker and fuller. Salvia works great as a border plant, in a container, a garden bed, or as a mass planting.

10. Sedum Lemon Coral® by Proven Winners®

Sedum Lemon Coral® is beautifully textured succulent with touchable lime green to chartreuse foliage. Vigorous and drought tolerant, this ground cover is ideal for sunny landscapes but also works well in containers or as houseplants. This sedum is heat and drought tolerant, attracts butterflies, resists deer, and thrives in full to part sun.

Here’s a short list of some other “set it and forget it” plants:

  • Cephalotaxus
  • Clethra
  • Coreopsis Jethro Tull
  • Echinacea 
  • Encore Azalea
  • Hydrangea pan.
  • Ilex Bordeaux
  • Ipomoea
  • Knock Out Rose
  • Lantana
  • Leucanthemum
  • Sedum Angelina
  • Ligustrum jap.
  • Miscanthus
  • Nepeta
  • Pennisetums
  • Rudbeckia
  • Verbena Homestead Purple
  • Veronica Royal Purple

Guest Blogger

Wendi Epps,

Social Media Manager at Johnson Nursery

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