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One of the biggest benefits of artificial turf is that it’s extremely low-maintenance.
But as any landscape designer will tell you, the lawn is just one component of a beautiful landscape. A well-designed lawn also includes pops of color and texture along with a variety of natural shapes and heights to add dimension and complexity.
Fortunately, there are many low-maintenance plants that can bring added beauty to your lawn year after year — with very little work on your end.
When designing a landscape, you’ll start with the tallest focal points first, then add shrubs and/or tall ornamental grasses to connect the spaces. To finish, you’ll fill in all remaining spots with low-growing flowers and ground cover.
Depending on the plants you choose, maintaining your artificial turf landscape typically calls for just a light spring cleaning to prep them for summer, and gentle raking in the fall.
When planning a low-maintenance lawn, you’ll want to use perennials — a category of plants that live for years on end and come back reliably each season. All trees and shrubs are perennials, and so are many decorative grasses and flowers, including hostas, daylilies, shasta daisies, and yarrow.
The opposite of perennials — annuals — need to be replanted each year because they live only for a short period of time. Since this type of plant requires more work to keep established, they’re not a great choice for low-maintenance landscaping. There are other categories of plants, including biennials and self-seeding annuals, but perennials remain the best option for low-maintenance lawns.
Now, keep in mind that the United States is huge, and perennials that thrive in Florida or Arizona may not survive a harsh winter in Maine or New York. For this reason, you’ll want to use this article as a guide, and then work with a local nursery to find specific varieties that are best-suited to your climate.
Drought-tolerant plants, including yarrow, coneflower, and many succulents, are great options for low-maintenance landscapes because they don’t need regular watering.
Although most every plant will benefit from a few deep waterings right after they’re first planted, drought-resistant varieties won’t need much (if any) watering in subsequent years. If there’s an extended dry period and your drought-resistant varieties do need a little extra help from you, they’ll give you a clue by developing withered, droopy leaves.
The final detail to keep in mind when selecting low-maintenance plants is to look for perennials that are disease-resistant, when possible. Some diseases are caused by soggy, poorly drained soil or insufficient air flow, both of which can be prevented by prepping your planting site carefully. However, other diseases, like powdery mildew, can affect a wide variety of plants regardless of growing conditions.
When working with your local nursery, ask about their selection of disease-resistant, low-maintenance perennials. There are many beautiful options for every climate — and a few popular plants with disease-resistant varieties are monarda, sedum, phlox, and geranium.
Depending on how much space you have available, a tree could be a great focal point for your low-maintenance landscaping.
Trees offer many benefits, including shade and the incredible ability to sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Maple trees provide splendid fall foliage, pine, cedar, and juniper trees are all “evergreens” that stay green and vibrant year-round, and flowering trees, including dogwood and cherry blossom, are all popular options for a floral display each spring.
Not sure where to get started? Take a tour of your neighborhood and snap photos of any trees that capture your attention. It’s best to do this during a few different seasons. A tree that is splendid in spring or fall may be rather typical-looking in summer, and evergreens are most appreciated during winter when everything else has died back for the season.
Take your photos of your favorite local trees to a nearby nursery, and the staff can help you identify your favorites and figure out whether they’ll work for your space and needs. By identifying favorite trees in your neighborhood, you’ll also know that they’re well-suited to your climate and should grow well for you.
Most trees are naturally low-maintenance, but there are a few things to keep in mind. Evergreen trees and shrubs will require occasional pruning, and hardwoods will drop their leaves, which you may feel pressured to rake and bag. Fruiting trees — like peach, cherry, and plum — all require regular pruning and often develop diseases, which makes them a poor choice for low-maintenance landscaping. Finally, some trees, like sweet gum, will drop sticky or thorny seeds that can be a mess to clean up.
Shrubs are a great choice for low-maintenance landscaping. Like trees, they offer height and visual interest. But they’re often lower maintenance than trees since they won’t drop as many limbs, leaves, or seeds pods that you’ll want to rake up to keep your turf clean.
Shrubs are often planted in beds along the side of the house, shed, or another structure. Evergreen shrubs, like boxwood, are a popular choice for many yards because they lend color during even the coldest months. However, evergreen shrubs will require occasional pruning — about once per year — to keep from looking unruly.
Flowering shrubs are a great option because they provide beautiful pops of color and many of them don’t need to be pruned. In fact, the bigger they get, the more abundant the blooms! Rose-of-Sharon, forsythia, and hydrangeas are all popular flowering shrubs that require very little maintenance.
Ornamental grasses are a surprisingly beautiful and low-maintenance option that come in a shocking variety of colors and shapes, many of which are drought-tolerant. Some ornamental grasses, like plumegrass and maiden grass, can get rather tall and provide a lovely, year-round focal point. Other grasses, like golden hakone grass or blue fescue, are shorter and more clumping in nature.
The only maintenance that these grasses need is an annual shearing. Simply cut them back to a few inches each fall or winter to allow for fresh growth in spring.
Because flowers and ground cover are the lowest-growing items in your landscape, you’ll decide where to add them after you’ve selected your taller focal points, like trees and shrubs. Flowers help fill in any remaining blank spaces so your landscape doesn’t look overly sparse and barren. In addition to looking beautiful and providing seasonal joy, flowers will also help attract birds, bees, and butterflies to your property.
Some of the most popular drought-tolerant, perennial flowers are yarrow, sedum, russian sage, lamb’s ear, and purple coneflower. If you have a shady space, then both hostas and lungwort and worth looking into. If you live in the desert southwest or another hot, dry climate, then succulents, like agave or aloe are another low-maintenance and interesting option.
When picking out your flowers, don’t forget about ornamental lawn covers. Creeping thyme, creeping myrtle, and creeping juniper are all lovely options to consider, especially when placed alongside paths and edges.
Combine the types of plants mentioned above with artificial turf and you’ll have one of the most beautiful lawns in your neighborhood — with only a fraction of the work.
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