Landscaping with a Light Touch

Psst … wanna know the secret to a successful sustainable garden? It all comes down to plant selection.

Garden centers are tempting oases of colorful blooms, graceful grasses and chic succulents. I’m dreaming of the days when I have more free time to garden. But for now, choosing low-maintenance plants to make up the backbone of my garden helps keep my weekends free.

A well-designed landscape includes evergreen plants that look great at every glance as well as colorful shrubs and perennials to put on a burst of blooms in every season. These low-maintenance, water-saving plants can save you cash and hours of landscape maintenance.

With careful thought to plant selection, you can minimize — or even eliminate — watering, fertilizing and pesticides for a more sustainable garden.

Carefree Plant Picks

Give these plants a great start by watering to establish. Then enjoy your newfound freedom from landscape care!

Red yucca. Spike interest in your yard with clumps of red yucca. This Texas native is heat and drought tolerant with long evergreen leaves and coral flowers. After watering to establish, my only garden task is to trim off last year’s flower stalks in March.
Twist-leaf yucca. An evergreen beauty that is endemic to the Edwards Plateau, this yucca is perfectly casual with a hint of punk elegance. Cream-colored blossoms on a five-foot flower stalk make an unexpectedly gorgeous statement in late spring. No care after establishment unless trimming stalks.
Lindheimer's muhly flowers.Lindheimer muhly. This native bunchgrass adds a punch to your landscape with its lovely form and pale, feathery seed heads in fall. Avoid trimming the leaves, but you could cut off the seed heads in March after leaving them on in winter for wildlife.
Rosemary. A Mediterranean favorite, rosemary has fragrant, evergreen leaves and delicate blue blossoms. It needs very little water and I rarely bother to prune or shape mine.

Esperanza. Drought-proof with beautiful big yellow blooms that last all summer. Some years it may freeze back and I trim it back in March.

Mexican mint marigold. This low-water-use perennial offers charming yellow blooms in fall and all I do is prune it back in March.

Cedar sedge or Texas sedge. Last fall, I added two waves of sedges to outline shady beds in my side yard. Low-growing grasses make an unusual and graceful alternative groundcover.

Garden Geek Plant Picks

Our Garden Geek adds his favorite plant selections for a landscape that needs “no watering, no pruning, no mowing and no fertilizer.”

Mexican firebush
Firebush. Perfect for sunny spots, this small shrub has red flowers visited by hummingbirds.
Texas rock rose leaves and flowers.
Rock rose. This perennial favorite has lovely pink blossoms and a casual form. Plant in full sun or partial shade.
frogfruit phyla incisa detail
Frogfruit. The tiny, delicate-looking white flowers of this groundcover will bring bees and other pollinators to your yard.

Silver ponyfoot. Fill in the full sun or partial shade areas with the adorable rounded, silvery leaves of this groundcover.

With these plant selections, you can extend your green, make your yard sustainable and free up your calendar from gardening chores!

Picture of Sasha Kodet
Sasha Kodet
Sasha Kodet is a conservation planner whose large garden attracts a myriad of wildlife and curious neighbors with minimal water. At SAWS, Kodet develops outdoor programs to help people create their own beautiful, water-saving landscapes. She draws on her two decades of experience as a naturalist, botanical garden educator and event planner. Kodet enjoys (really) long walks in the woods and has thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail and the Long Trail.
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