Best low-maintenance border plants: 10 flowers and shrubs to add maximum impact

Create a beautiful border with minimum effort.

Are you excited about the idea of having a beautiful border, but worried you lack the time or energy to keep on top of the maintenance? Don’t fret, because we’ve gathered 10 ideas for low-maintenance border plants and shrubs, meaning you can have a beautiful border and still have time to sit back and enjoy it.

The best scenario would be to plant your border and leave it to look after itself. But even low-maintenance plants need some care and attention. However, to make life as easy as possible, you can follow a few guidelines to choosing your low-maintenance border plants and how to get the most out of them.

Large garden border of low maintenance plantsCredit: Shutterstock/Denise Allison Coyle
Create a beautiful border with our top tips on choosing low-maintenance plants

What to consider when choosing your plants

Right place, right plant

When selecting your plants and shrubs, think ‘right plant, right place’. Is your border in a sunny spot or a shady nook? What is the soil like? All these conditions will play a part in how your plants perform.

For a low-maintenance border, you’ll also want to keep your secateurs firmly in your back pocket, so choosing flowers and shrubs that don’t need deadheading or cutting back too often will be a priority.

And what about weeding your garden? There are plenty of ways to prevent those little blighters from popping up, such as filling your beds with ground cover plants or covering the soil with mulch.

Watering is another task that can take its toll, and if you have a water meter, it can be an added expense to keep your borders looking perky. Selecting drought tolerant plants will save you watering time and help you save water in the garden.

We all appreciate a little variety, so mix it up. Consider the different heights of plants and go low nearer the front of the border and add height at the back.

With a careful selection of planting, it’s possible to create a low-maintenance border that looks good all year round.

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1. Alliums

Bulbs that strike a pose

Heads of purple alliumsCredit: Matthew Haddon
Alliums make a stunning statement in a border

Why it’s a good low-maintenance border plant: “As with most bulbs, alliums are a great low-maintenance burst of colour for late spring or early summer, drawing bees to their multiple flowers,” says Matthew Haddon, a pre-registered member of the Society of Garden Designers. “They like sunny spots and soil that does not get too wet. They are fantastic as they come back each year with no work needed – providing a rhythm of globe-like flowers through the border.”

Soil type: Well-drained

Try this cultivar: Haddon’s personal favourite is Allium hollandicum ‘Purple Sensation’ for its vibrant colour. It starts to flower in mid-May and provides a burst of colour when any daffodils or tulips have finished flowering.

2. Lavender

Let the wildlife party

Hidcote pink lavenderCredit: Shutterstock/Mike Russell
Drifts of Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote Pink’ add fragrance to a border

Why it’s a good low-maintenance border plant: This well-known shrub hardly needs an introduction. Aside from adding fragrance to the garden, it attracts an abundance of wildlife.

“This silvery grey evergreen shrub has masses of insect friendly flower spikes in purples, blues, pinks and whites,” says Guy Barter, chief horticultural adviser at RHS.

Lavender thrives in a sunny spot with well-drained soil, but its roots can rot in heavy, wet soil. The fragrant shrub also makes a delightful low hedge, a perfect specimen to edge your border.

Soil type: Well-drained

Try this cultivar: Lavandula angustifolia ‘Imperial Gem’ is a robust specimen that’s bushy and covered in a mass of dense, rich purple flowers in summer.

3. Alchemilla

For light texture

Alchemilla - yellow flower with bright green leafCredit: Shutterstock/Jana Loesch
The bright yellow flowers of Alchemilla add a splash of colour

Why it’s a good low-maintenance border plant: Sometimes referred to as lady’s mantle, alchemilla is a small herbaceous perennial with frothy green leaves and small bright yellow flowers. Barter says: “It has amazing, soft, velvety green fan-shaped leaves that hold raindrops beautifully in showery weather.”

The plant enjoys full sun or partial shade and is drought resistant.

Soil type: Any

Try this cultivar: Alchemilla mollis is the most popular variety and looks pretty in cottage-style and gravel gardens.

4. Liriope

Plant in masses

Liriope green foliage with lilac-purple flowersCredit: Mark Watts
Liriopes are great ground cover plants

Why it’s a good low-maintenance border plant: Liriope flowers in late summer to early autumn and is grown for its attractive foliage and abundance of white or lilac-purple flowers. Often mistaken for grasses, these evergreen perennials make perfect fillers and produce purple-black berries once the flowers have finished.

Mark Watts, a member of the Society of Garden Designers, says: “It’s best planted in masses and works as an excellent weed suppressor.” While on the maintenance side, he adds: “It can be cut back, but it’s not really necessary”.

Soil type: Neutral, acid soil

Try this cultivar: Liriope muscari ‘Big Blue’, can tolerate partial shade and works well as an informal low hedge in a border.

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5. Rudbeckia

Add a splash of autumn colour

Rudbeckia's yellow star-like flower with a cone centreCredit: Shutterstock/Dark_Side
Rudbeckias can be dotted through a border to add a splash of colour

Why it’s a good low-maintenance border plant: A vibrant perennial, rudbeckias offer colour in the garden from late August through to October, when other flowers are past their best. Also known as coneflowers and black-eyed Susan, these star-like flowers contain a central disc that forms a cone.

Haddon suggests growing it in full sun or light shade in generous groups. “It can be dotted through a low-maintenance border to add colour at the end of the season,” he says. He also suggests pairing this fully hardy specimen with Aster × frikartii ‘Mönch’ and ornamental grasses.

Soil type: Most types

Try this cultivar: Haddon’s favourite is Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’. It has received the RHS’s Award for Garden Merit.

6. Hardy geraniums

Easy-going gardening

Allium 'Gladiator' among the blue flowering geranium 'Rozanne'Credit: Shutterstock/Joe Kuis
Allium ‘Gladiator’ stands tall among the blue flowering geranium ‘Rozanne’

Why it’s a good low-maintenance border plant: Geraniums or cranesbills are tougher than their delicate flowers lead you to believe. The easy to grow herbaceous perennial is long-flowering and available in various colours. Hardy geraniums also make great pollinators and are loved by bees and hoverflies.

Soil type: Any

Try this cultivar: Barter recommends geranium ‘Rozanne’ for its mass of white-centred, violet blue, saucer-shaped flowers. “It’s self-fertile and won’t form seeds, so it doesn’t spread like some other cranesbills,” he says. But if you already have ‘Rozanne’ in the garden, he suggests considering ‘Orion’, with blue flowers and purple veins.

7. Heuchera

Pretty foliage that makes a perfect ground cover

Heuchera's deep red foliageCredit: Shutterstock/Inna Giliarova
Sometimes called coral bells, heuchera’s foliage is available in vibrant colours

Why it’s a good low-maintenance border plant: Heucheras provide mounds of foliage and are available in a wide range of bold colours, from yellow and orange to red and silvery blue-grey. They are easy to grow, drought-resistant and suit full sun or partial shade. These compact plants usually keep their leaves throughout the year, making them a good choice for borders that can be viewed from your house.

Although the real pull of the plant is its beautiful foliage, heucheras produce delicate flowers that appear on a stalk with small red, white or pink bell-like flowers.

Soil type: Any

Try this cultivar: Heuchera ‘Purple Petticoats’ has crinkled, greenish-purple leaves with white flowers in early summer. If purple doesn’t take your fancy, Barton suggests the delightfully named ‘Marmalade’, with its yellow and brown foliage, or ‘Caramel’, with rounded caramel leaves.

8. Choisya ternata

Year-round interest

Choisya ternata with white star-like flowersCredit: Shutterstock/lenic
Choisya ternata has small, delicate white flowers

Why it’s a good low-maintenance border plant: This evergreen shrub, more commonly known as Mexican orange blossom, provides all-year interest with sweet-scented white flowers in spring and summer. It’s compact, reliable and easy to maintain; Barter recommends giving it a quick prune to keep it to size after it’s finished flowering. It thrives in full sun or partial shade. Once established, the plants shouldn’t require watering other than during a hot, dry summer.

Soil type: Any

Try this cultivar: Choisya x dewitteana ‘Aztec Pearl’, with dark green foliage and pink and white flowers or the yellow-leaved Choisya ternata ‘Sundance’, with white flowers.

9. Juniperus communis

Low-spreading evergreen shrub

Low-growing Juniperus communisCredit: Shutterstock/Nahhana
The common juniper provides low-growing coverage in the border

Why it’s a good low-maintenance border plant: The common juniper is an evergreen shrub or columnar tree, so be sure to choose the correct version for your low-maintenance border. The low-growing evergreen grows as a matt-forming shrub with needle-like bright green foliage and thrives in full sun or partial shade. Although it doesn’t require pruning, watch out, as the foliage can cause skin irritation.

Soil type: Any

Try this cultivar: Juniperus communis ‘Green Carpet’ is slow-growing and will reach about 10cm (4in) tall and 1m (39in) across. Barton also recommends Juniperus communis ‘Goldschartz’ and Juniperus squamata ‘Little Joanna’, with blue-grey leaves.

10. Plomis

Drought-resistant and architectural

Phlomis with bright yellow flower headCredit: Shutterstock/LianeM
Phlomis likes to stand up and be counted

Why it’s a good low-maintenance border plant: Popular for its long flowering season and tolerance to drought, Phlomis is an excellent choice for a low-maintenance border. Also known as Jerusalem sage, the leaves are similar to standard sage, but that’s where the likeness ends. The distinct, summer-flowering perennial is architectural, with long spikes of hooded yellow flowers, though some varieties have pink or mauve flowers. As an extra benefit, the beautiful seed heads look stunning in winter borders.

Soil type: Any

Try this cultivar: Barter suggests Phlomis russeliana, with crinkled grey-green leaves and yellow flowers; shrubby Phlomis fruticosa; and shrubby Phlomis italica for its pink flowers.

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Camilla Sharman

Written by Camilla Sharman she/her

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With her 30 years of experience, Camilla Sharman has covered a wide range of sectors within the business and consumer industries both as a feature, content, and freelance writer.  As a business journalist, Camilla has researched articles for many different sectors from the jewellery industry to finance and tech, charities, and the arts. Whatever she’s covered, she enjoys delving deep and learning the ins and out of different topics, then conveying her research within engaging content that informs the reader.