17 Low-Maintenance Plants and Dwarf Shrubs

Browse through these beautiful, but easy-to-care for plants and bushes.

Chinese Fringe Tree

The Chinese fringe tree is not very cold tolerant.

Chionanthus retusus
Gardener's Note: There also is a native species (Chionanthus virginicus) that is much more cold tolerant than the Chinese. Even as far south as zone 8, winter damage can be seen on retusus and not virginicus.
Deciduous Tree with "fringy" white flowers in spring, flowers are larger on male plants
Female plants produce a blue/black berry in late summer
Plant in average to moist soil
Plant in full sun to light shade
Height: 15-20 feet
Width: 20-25 feet
Hardy in USDA zones 5-8:
Zone 5: Plant in spring to prevent winter heaving; plant in full sun; apply extra mulch after first hard frost; avoid contact with salt; may suffer branch dieback in this zone.
Zone 6: Plant in spring or early fall; plant in full sun; avoid contact with salt; may suffer branch dieback in this zone.
Zone 7: Plant in fall; plant in full sun to light shade; provide supplemental water during dry spells; may suffer branch dieback in this zone.
Zone 8: Plant in fall; plant in full sun to light shade; provide supplemental water during dry spells.

Quartz Rose Verbena

This groundcover blooms profusely all season.

Verbena x hybrida 'Quartz Rose'
Annual trailing verbena grown as a groundcover that blooms profusely all season with bright pink flowers with a white eye
Plant in loose organic soil that is well-drained; makes an excellent container plant; attracts butterflies
Plant in full sun
Height: 8-12 inches
Width: 12-18 inches, spreading
Grown as an annual in all zones:
All Zones: Plant in spring after danger of frost has passed; plant in full sun; water when dry; bring indoors for winter or discard plants after first killing frost.

Dwarf Globe Blue Spruce

The dwarf globe blue spruce should be planted in full sun.

Picea pungens 'Globosa'
Dwarf, globe-shaped evergreen shrub with bright blue needles
Plant in full sun in moist, but well-drained soil
Protect from harsh winds and hot sun
Water to establish and then when dry
Height: 3-5 feet
Width: 5-6 feet
Hardy in USDA zones 2-6 (7):
Zone 2: Plant in spring to prevent winter heaving; plant in full sun; apply extra mulch after first hard frost; avoid contact with salt; avoid exposure to harsh winter winds.
Zone 3: Plant in spring to prevent winter heaving; plant in full sun; apply extra mulch after first hard frost; avoid contact with salt; avoid exposure to harsh winter winds.
Zone 4: Plant in spring to prevent winter heaving; plant in full sun; apply extra mulch after first hard frost; avoid contact with salt; avoid exposure to harsh winter winds.
Zone 5: Plant in spring to prevent winter heaving; plant in full sun; apply extra mulch after first hard frost; avoid contact with salt; avoid exposure to harsh winter winds.
Zone 6: Plant in spring or early fall; plant in a sunny area but avoiding hot afternoon sun; apply extra mulch after first hard frost; avoid exposure to harsh winter winds.
Zone 7: Plant in early fall; plant in a sunny area but avoiding hot afternoon sun; apply extra mulch after first hard frost; avoid exposure to harsh winter winds; may be short-lived in this zone, especially with long, hot summers.

Purple Prince Butterfly Bush

This plant is on the watch list of several states for possible invasiveness.

Buddleia davidii 'Purple Prince'
Gardener's Note: This plant is on the watch list of several Western and Midwestern states for possible invasiveness.
Deciduous shrub with gray-green foliage and bright purple flowers that attract butterflies
Plant in rich, but well-drained soil; prune heavily in very early spring
Water regularly until established; fertilize in spring
Deadhead to reduce seedlings and prolong blooming
Plant in full sun for best flowering
Height: 8-10 feet
Width: 6-8 feet
Hardy in USDA zones 5-9:
Zone 5: Plant in spring to prevent winter heaving; plant in full sun; mulch heavily after first hard frost; avoid contact with salt; care for plant as herbaceous perennial and prune to the ground in early spring.
Zone 6: Plant in spring or early fall; plant in full sun; mulch in fall; care for plant as a deciduous shrub and prune heavily in late winter.
Zone 7: Plant in early fall; plant in full sun; mulch in fall; care for plant as a deciduous shrub and prune heavily in late winter.
Zone 8: Plant in early fall; plant in full sun; mulch in fall; care for plant as a deciduous shrub and prune heavily in late winter.
Zone 9: Plant in early fall; plant in full sun; mulch in fall; care for plant as a deciduous shrub and prune heavily in late winter.

Firelight Spiraea

This shrub bears deep orange foliage and pink flowers in early summer.

Spiraea japonica 'Bumalda' or 'Firelight'
Deciduous shrub noted for its deep orange foliage and pink flowers in early summer
Plant in full sun to partial shade; color and blooming are better in sun
Plant in rich, but well-drained soil
Water regularly until established; fertilize in spring; prune ½ to 1/3 when dormant
Height: 2-3 feet
Width: 3-4 feet
Hardy in USDA zones 4-8:
Zone 4: Plant in spring; plant in full sun; mulch heavily after first hard frost to prevent winter heaving; avoid contact with salt.
Zone 5: Plant in spring; plant in full sun; mulch heavily after first hard frost to prevent winter heaving; avoid contact with salt.
Zone 6: Plant in spring or early fall; plant in full sun to light shade; mulch after first hard frost.
Zone 7: Plant in early fall; plant in full sun to light shade; mulch in fall.
Zone 8: Plant in early fall; plant in full sun to partial shade; mulch in fall; gold foliage may fade and defoliate early in hot, dry weather.

Quartz Burgundy Verbena

This annual trailing verbena makes an excellent container plant.

Verbena x hybrida 'Quartz Burgundy'
Annual trailing verbena grown as a groundcover that blooms profusely all season with dark burgundy flowers with a white eye
Plant in loose organic soil that is well-drained; makes an excellent container plant; attracts butterflies
Plant in full sun
Height: 8-12 inches
Width: 12-18 inches, spreading
Grown as an annual in all zones:
All Zones: Plant in spring after danger of frost has passed; plant in full sun; water when dry; bring indoors for winter or discard plants after first killing frost.

Rockspray Cotoneaster

The pink flowers on this shrub are followed by red fruit.

Cotoneaster horizontalis
Semi-evergreen arching shrub with dark green foliage, pink flowers followed by red fruit
Plant in fertile, average to moist, but well-drained soil
Plant in full sun to partial shade
Height: 5-6 feet
Width: 6-8 feet
Hardy in USDA zones 4-7:
Zone 4: Plant in spring to prevent winter heaving; plant in full sun; apply extra mulch after first hard frost; avoid contact with salt; may be semi-evergreen in this zone; prune as needed to keep in bounds and neat in appearance.
Zone 5: Plant in spring to prevent winter heaving; plant in full sun; apply extra mulch after first hard frost; avoid contact with salt; prune as needed to keep in bounds and neat in appearance.
Zone 6: Plant in spring or early fall; plant in full sun; apply extra mulch after first hard frost; prune as needed to keep in bounds and neat in appearance.
Zone 7: Plant in early fall; plant in full sun; apply mulch after first hard frost; prune as needed to keep in bounds and neat in appearance.

Blue Lyme Grass

This cool season grass has attractive blue foliage.

Elymus arenarius
Perennial, cool season grass with blue foliage
Plant in organic soil; tolerant of wet and dry soil
Plant in full sun; prune while dormant in winter
Can spread invasively by rhizomes
Height: 3-4 feet
Width: 3-4 feet, spreading
Hardy in USDA zones 4-10:
Zone 4: Plant in spring to avoid winter heaving; plant in full sun; mulch after first hard frost; avoid contact with salt; fertilize in spring with balanced fertilizer.
Zone 5: Plant in spring to avoid winter heaving; plant in full sun; mulch after first hard frost; avoid contact with salt; fertilize in spring with balanced fertilizer.
Zone 6: Plant in spring; plant in full sun; mulch after first hard frost; fertilize in spring with balanced fertilizer.
Zone 7: Plant in spring; plant in full sun; mulch after first hard frost; fertilize in spring with balanced fertilizer.
Zone 8: Plant in spring; plant in full sun; mulch in fall; fertilize in spring with balanced fertilizer.
Zone 9: Plant in spring; plant in full sun; mulch in fall; fertilize in spring with balanced fertilizer.
Zone 10: Plant in spring; plant in full sun; mulch in fall; fertilize in spring with balanced fertilizer.

Wooly Thyme

Wooly thyme bears bright pink flowers in summer.

Thymus pseudolanuginosus
Evergreen perennial groundcover with wooly gray leaves and bright pink flowers in summer
Plant in full sun
Plant in coarse, sharply drained soil
Height: 2-4 inches
Width: 8-12 inches
Hardy in zones 5-8:
Zone 5: Plant in spring; plant in full sun; mulch after first hard frost to avoid winter heaving; avoid exposure to salt.
Zone 6: Plant in spring; plant in full sun; lightly mulch in fall.
Zone 7: Plant in spring; plant in full sun; lightly mulch in fall.
Zone 8: Plant in spring; plant in full sun; lightly mulch in fall.

Quartz White Verbena

This beautiful white verbena attracts butterflies.

Verbena x hybrida 'Quartz White Burgundy'
Annual trailing verbena grown as a groundcover that blooms profusely all season with white flowers
Plant in loose organic soil that is well-drained; makes an excellent container plant; attracts butterflies
Plant in full sun
Height: 8-12 inches
Width: 12-18 inches, spreading
Grown as an annual in all zones:
All Zones: Plant in spring after danger of frost has passed; plant in full sun; water when dry; bring indoors for winter or discard plants after first killing frost.

Dwarf Norway Spruce

This dwarf shrub needs to be protected from harsh winds and hot sun.

Picea abies 'Pumila'
Globe-shaped, spreading evergreen shrub with blue-green needles radiating around stem
Plant in full sun in moist, but well-drained soil
Protect from harsh winds and hot sun
Water to establish and then when dry
Height: 3-4 feet
Width: 2-4 feet
Hardy in USDA zones 3-6:
Zone 3: Plant in spring to prevent winter heaving; plant in full sun; apply extra mulch after first hard frost; avoid contact with salt; avoid exposure to harsh winter winds.
Zone 4: Plant in spring to prevent winter heaving; plant in full sun; apply extra mulch after first hard frost; avoid contact with salt; avoid exposure to harsh winter winds.
Zone 5: Plant in spring to prevent winter heaving; plant in full sun; apply extra mulch after first hard frost; avoid contact with salt; avoid exposure to harsh winter winds.
Zone 6: Plant in spring or early fall; plant in a sunny area but avoiding hot afternoon sun; apply extra mulch after first hard frost; avoid exposure to harsh winter winds.

Fireworks Goldenrod

Contrary to popular belief, goldenrod does not cause fall allergies.

Solidago rugosa 'Fireworks'
Gardener’s Note: Goldenrod does not cause fall allergies. The true culprit is ragweed, which blooms at the same time with green, unnoticeable flowers.
This cultivar also comes true from seed.
Compact perennial with arching sprays of golden yellow flowers in late summer and early fall
Plant in full sun
Plant in organic, but well-drained soil; drought tolerant
Remove old foliage after frost
Divide in early spring
Height: 3-4 feet
Width: 2 feet, slowly spreading
Hardy in USDA zones 4-9:
Zone 4: Plant in spring to prevent winter heaving; plant in full sun; apply extra mulch after first hard frost; avoid contact with salt; may be marginally hardy in this zone unless protected or covered by snow.
Zone 5: Plant in spring to prevent winter heaving; plant in full sun; apply extra mulch after first hard frost; avoid contact with salt.
Zone 6: Plant in spring; plant in full sun; apply extra mulch after first hard frost.
Zone 7: Plant in spring; plant in full sun; apply extra mulch after first hard frost.
Zone 8: Plant in spring; plant in full sun.
Zone 9: Plant in spring; plant in full sun.

Elijah Blue Fescue

This evergreen ornamental grass should be planted in full sun for it to produce the best color.

Festuca cinerea 'Elijah Blue'
Evergreen ornamental grass with blue-gray foliage and blue-green flowers
Plant in full sun for best color
Plant in moist to dry, well-drained soil
Height: 8-12 inches
Width: 8-12 inches
Hardy in zones 4-7 (8):
Zone 4: Plant in spring; plant in full sun; mulch after first hard frost to avoid winter heaving; avoid exposure to salt; may require extra protection if container grown.
Zone 5: Plant in spring; plant in full sun; mulch after first hard frost to avoid winter heaving; avoid exposure to salt.
Zone 6: Plant in spring; plant in full sun; mulch in fall.
Zone 7: Plant in spring or early fall; plant in full sun; mulch in fall; may lose bright color in hot weather.
Zone 8: Plant in spring or early fall; plant in full sun; mulch in fall; may lose bright color in hot weather.

Fountain Grass

Fountain grass can spread invasively by seed.

Pennisetum alopecuroides
Perennial grass with narrow shiny leaves and stems with creamy beige/pink seed heads
Plant in organic soil that is well-drained.
Plant in full sun; prune while dormant in winter
Divide every few years in early spring
Can spread invasively by seed
Height: 2-3 feet
Width: 2-3 feet
Hardy in USDA zones 6-9:
Zone 6: Plant in spring; plant in full sun; mulch after first hard frost; fertilize in spring with balanced fertilizer.
Zone 7: Plant in spring; plant in full sun; mulch after first hard frost; fertilize in spring with balanced fertilizer.
Zone 8: Plant in spring; plant in full sun; mulch in fall; fertilize in spring with balanced fertilizer.
Zone 9: Plant in spring; plant in full sun; mulch in fall; fertilize in spring with balanced fertilizer.

Archer's Gold Lemon Thyme

The lemon-scented leaves of this plant can be used for cooking.

Thymus x citriodorus 'Archer's Gold'
Woody evergreen perennial with gold-yellow leaves and bright pink flowers in summer
Lemon-scented leaves can be used for cooking
Plant in full sun
Plant in coarse, sharply drained soil
Height: 6-10 inches
Width: 8-12 inches
Hardy in zones 6-9:
Zone 6: Plant in spring; plant in full sun; lightly mulch in fall.
Zone 7: Plant in spring; plant in full sun; lightly mulch in fall.
Zone 8: Plant in spring; plant in full sun; lightly mulch in fall.
Zone 9: Plant in spring; plant in full sun; lightly mulch in fall.

Dwarf Arctic Blue Leaf Willow

This willow can tolerate a wide range of soil.

Salix purpurea, 'Nana'
Dwarf rounded deciduous shrub with slender gray/green leaves and purple stems
Plant in full sun
Tolerant of a wide range of soil
Height: 3-5 feet
Width: 3-5 feet
Hardy in zones 4-8:
Zone 4: Plant in spring; plant in full sun; mulch after first frost to prevent winter heaving; remove mulch in spring; avoid exposure to salt.
Zone 5: Plant in spring; plant in full sun; mulch after first frost to prevent winter heaving; remove mulch in spring; avoid exposure to salt.
Zone 6: Plant in spring; plant in full sun; mulch in fall; remove mulch in spring.
Zone 7: Plant in fall; plant in full sun; mulch in fall; remove mulch in spring.
Zone 8: Plant in fall; plant in full sun; mulch in fall; remove mulch in spring.

Red Meidiland Rose

This shrub rose is fragrance free and disease resistant.

Rosa 'Red Meidiland'
Shrub rose with single, rouge red flowers and yellow centers
No fragrance; repeat bloomer
Disease Resistant
Moist, but well-drained soil
Plant in full sun for all zones
Height: 4-6 feet
Width: 4-6 feet
Hardy in USDA zones 4-10:
Zone 4: Plant in spring; water in dry periods during growing season; after first hard frost, build protective cage around and 6" taller than shrub and fill with compost or shredded leaves; prune back 1/3 to 1/2 in late winter.
Zone 5: Plant in spring; water in dry periods during growing season; after first hard frost, build protective cage around and 6" taller than shrub and fill with compost or shredded leaves; prune back 1/3 to 1/2 in late winter.
Zone 6: Plant in spring; water in dry periods during growing season; after first hard frost, mound compost or shredded leaves several inches deep above crown; prune back 1/3 to 1/2 in late winter.
Zone 7: Plant in early spring or early fall; water in dry periods during growing season; after first hard frost, mound compost or shredded leaves several inches deep above crown; prune back 1/3 in late winter.
Zone 8: Plant in early spring or early fall; water in dry periods during growing season; after first hard frost, mound compost or shredded leaves several inches deep above crown; prune back 1/3 in late winter.
Zone 9: Plant in early spring or early fall; water in dry periods during growing season; watch for fungal diseases year round; apply light fertilizer in November; prune back 1/3 after blooming which can continue into December.
Zone 10: Plant in early spring or early fall; water in dry periods during growing season; watch for fungal diseases year round; apply light fertilizer in November; prune back 1/3 after blooming which can continue into December.