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Low-Maintenance Landscaping Ideas

Use these landscaping ideas to transform your clients' yards into attractive, low-maintenance landscapes. 

With busier lifestyles, most homeowners would rather spend their time enjoying their yards rather than weeding, mowing and performing other upkeep. So for those clients, creating an attractive, low-maintenance landscape is key.

“More often than not, people create more maintenance than there needs to be,” says Annie Bamberger, a landscape designer at Dennis' Seven Dees Landscaping in Portland, Ore. From ground covers to heartier plants, many techniques will leave your client with a picturesque yard that’s easy to maintain.

Native Landscaping

Native landscaping is on the rise, so why not embrace the trend? Once they’re established, native plants, flowers and grasses require less overall care because they are already accustomed to the area’s climate. Also, landscapers should consider creating beds from perennials, avoiding flowers that will need to be replaced. Finally, try to select appropriate low-water plants, like aloe and succulents, in milder climates.

As president of Joseph Hillenmeyer & Associates in Lexington, Ky., Joseph Hillenmeyer says low-maintenance landscaping is increasingly in demand among his high-end clientele. “One of the biggest things we try to do is limit the quantity of different types of plant materials,” he says. When you plant 10 plant types rather than 30 in the same garden, you reduce the chance of fungal and insect problems that will require attention down the road.

Ground Cover Plants

Because fertilizing introduces chemicals into the environment, ground covers are an environmentally friendly alternative. Clover, moss or pea gravel can be used to replace grass, flowerbeds or patches of lawn. This not only reduces watering needs, but it also prevents weed growth, eliminating the need to fertilize.

“We encourage a lot of evergreen ground cover,” says Hillenmeyer. Plants such as Pachysandra and Vinca are low-lying evergreens that don’t require mowing or fertilizers. Play up the possibility of under-planting ground covers with daffodils, tulips and alliums, a design option not possible in grass lawns.

Low-Maintenance Landscape Design Techniques

A major step toward low-maintenance landscaping is reducing the amount of grass, whether by creating a smaller lawn space or replacing it with an alternative ground cover. That cuts down on constant mowing, irrigation and fertilizer.

In lieu of grass, you can plant an eco lawn seed that has clover and drought-tolerant grass seeds in it. This may give a different look, Bamberger says, but it will require less water, no fertilizer and will be more tolerant of foot traffic.

Do you normally shape shrubs into boxes and balls? Why not promote the use of more natural plant and shrub designs instead? “Let them spread around on the ground,” Bamberger says. “Don’t try to contain them by trimming them.”

Also when designing the landscape, group plantings with similar watering needs together. This way, water is not wasted, and each plant receives the right amount of water.


From patios and decks to fully functioning outdoor kitchens, hardscapes have become the hottest outdoor alternative to traditional yards.

“People are just really looking at increasing their living space,” Hillenmeyer says. That means homeowners are investing in creative ways to enhance their yards, whether by expanding patios, segmenting land or installing stand-alone rooms — all of which translate to more business opportunities for you.

Let your clients know that patios, pavers and flagstone can all help minimize the time spent tending to vegetation. For people seeking low-budget options, a cement pad or compacted gravel area is both simpler ways to expand living spaces outdoors.

Irrigation Methods

New technology is making it easier for homeowners to conserve water. Instead of traditional spray heads that pop out of the ground, developments like soil moisture censors and smart irrigation controllers can be installed to automatically adjust irrigation schedules based on moisture levels, weather and other conditions.

It’s important to leave homeowners with a better understanding of their maintenance needs. A few targeted tips from the pros should leave them more pleased with their low-maintenance landscapes in the long run, and allow them to spend more time enjoying their yards.


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