5 Tips for a Low Maintenance Landscape

liatris and coneflowers Ted Lare

Yard work takes time; there’s no sugar-coating it. Some people love yard work, living for the weekends when they can leave perfectly straight mower lines on the lawn, plant a new shrub, or build a pergola. But, many of us don’t feel that level of passion for yard work, while others just don’t have time for it.  

Regardless of our relationships with our lawnmowers, we all want to have an attractive yard, so low-maintenance landscaping is essential. There is no such thing as a maintenance-free yard (unless you hire someone else to do all of it), so fair warning: designing and installing a low-maintenance yard can be a fair bit of work up-front. But, once your landscape is complete, your to-do list will be shorter than ever. Here are a few landscape tips for cutting down your outdoor chore list:


purple salvia Ted Lare

1. Plant drought-tolerant perennials.

If you like flowering plants, but you don’t have time to clean them up and water them, choose drought-tolerant perennials. There are many beautiful options that are hardy enough to thrive through an Iowa drought summer and survive the depths of winter. These plants all offer great color and require very little care once established:

  • Silvermound Artemisia
  • Sea Holly
  • Cushion Spurge
  • Blue Fescue
  • Bearded Irises
  • Lavender
  • Catmint
  • Russian Sage
  • Black-Eyed Susan
  • Yarrow
  • Coneflowers
  • Salvia
  • Veronica
  • Liatris

Ornamental grasses are another excellent option. Prairie Dropseed, Switchgrass, Big Bluestem, Little Bluestem, Karl Foerster Feather Reed, Ravenna Grass, and Purple Flame Maiden grasses all grow very well in Iowa. 

You may also want to look into xeriscaping. Many people think rocks and cacti when you mention xeriscaping, but that’s not all it is. Xeriscaping is about using mostly native plants that are best suited to survive your climate with no extra watering involved. For some places, that means cacti and rocks. Luckily we have plenty more options than just cacti in Iowa.


Black-eyed Susans Ted Lare

2. Plant deer-resistant plants.

Deer can do a number on landscaping, munching through flower beds, vegetable gardens, and even eating all the leaves off of trees and shrubs sometimes. If you have deer visiting your yard regularly, make sure to choose plants that they’re less interested in eating. These perennials are usually deer-proof:

  • Allium
  • Boxwood
  • Ligularia
  • Black-Eyed Susan
  • Salvia
  • Bleeding Heart
  • Coreopsis
  • Coneflowers
  • Ferns
  • Irises
  • Lavender
  • Mint
  • Bee Balm
  • Russian Sage 

dutch clover Ted Lare

3. Choose a low-maintenance lawn alternative.

Lawns are high maintenance. It might seem like keeping a large plain square of grass should involve less maintenance than an array of flower beds, shrubs, and trees, but it’s quite the contrary. Traditional lawns need to be mowed once a week. The more lawn you have, the longer it takes to mow. Then there’s also the lawnmower maintenance to factor in, not to mention inputs and watering. 

A lawn alternative, like white or Dutch clover, can drastically cut down on lawn maintenance time. Clover stays pretty short, doesn’t require mowing, and can handle heavy traffic, including rowdy dogs. Other lawn alternatives options include moss, thyme, and chamomile.


4. Install automatic irrigation.

If you want to stick with a traditional lawn, an automatic irrigation system will quickly become your “secret weapon.” It’s the best way to make sure your grass gets enough water through the summer without all the work of watering the lawn yourself.


mulching a garden Ted Lare

5. Embrace Mulch.

Mulch is a must for low-maintenance landscapes. A good thick layer of mulch keeps down weeds, regulates soil temperature, and helps soil retain moisture. It protects your trees, shrubs, and perennials in winter, it looks tidy and clean, and best of all, you don’t need to mow it!

You’ll want to top-up your mulch with a fresh layer every year or two, but otherwise, it just looks good all the time. It also improves the soil health and quality over the long term as the older layers break down into soil rich with organic material.


Love what you’re reading? Sign up to our email newsletter, and get inspiration delivered straight to your inbox.


If you want a low-maintenance yard, but you’re not sure where to start, or you don’t want to do it yourself, have a chat with our landscape design team. With 37 years as a leading design & build company in the Des Moines area, we can help you bring your landscape in line with your lifestyle.



The Ted Lare Look

Our garden style and trend blog, dedicated to helping you design and shape your dream home, garden, and outdoor retreat.

Inspiration comes in many forms. Have inspiration delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our email newsletter, where you’ll receive our best gardening articles, project ideas, and more!


Ted Lare Garden Center