Cacti and succulents are obvious choices for a low-maintenance garden

The key to creating a low-maintenance garden

Without doubt, plants form the foundation of an appealing garden composition, and all plants require some maintenance to keep them in peak condition and appearance.

One way of keeping plant maintenance to a minimum is xeriscaping - selecting plants that can thrive in the landscape with as little supplemental water as possible.

Cacti and succulents are an obvious choice for xeriscapes, although many Australian native plants, particularly grasses and perennials such as Lomandra and Dianella varieties, are ideal plant selections that require minimal maintenance.

A common misconception about Australian native plants is they're low maintenance.

While there are many that fall into the low-maintenance category, there are just as many that do not. Fast-growing plant species such as grevilleas, particularly the tropical brush varieties, are spectacular flowering plants, but their vigour requires regular pruning to curtail exuberant growth.


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Similarly, westringia are hardy, drought tolerant and cope with a wide range of environments and soil conditions but require regular pruning.

Most low-maintenance plant species are evergreens that produce minimal amounts of litter. Evergreens will drop foliage over a longer period than deciduous trees and shrubs.

The volume of leaf litter is more manageable, but maintenance is spread over a longer duration.

Leaves, flowers and fruits are normal plant litter, but some species produce more litter than others and some litter more frequently.

Besides the necessity to keep hardscape surfaces free of plant litter, many flowering plants and ornamental fruiting varieties may require specialist pruning, adding to maintenance.


A minimalist approach to plant selection will result in low maintenance, as management for mass plantings of a limited number of species contains maintenance to one area, not individual plants.

This technique is used effectively in many commercial landscapes and is beneficial in formal garden designs.

Keep in mind maintenance will increase if more plant species are added.

  • John Gabriele is a horticulture teacher with a love for green spaces.
This story The key to creating a low-maintenance garden first appeared on The Canberra Times.