Low-maintenance Perennials

Are you struggling to find the right plant to put in your home landscape that will allow you to continue to do the things you love?  A plant that you don't have to fuss over.  Here is a small compilation of our low maintenance favorites.  Now, the caveat is, this does not mean NO maintenance.  There will be times when a fall or spring cut back is needed, deadheading, or some fertilizer added depending on soil pH, however, this list is a great jumping off point for those that are looking for something they can plant and pretty much walk away.

For a more comprehensive list, please use the search function in Plant Finder.

 

Shrubs and Woody Vines

 

Abelia 'Rose Creek'
abelia
Deciduous shrub

Blooms most of the summer and requires little to no pruning to maintain the attractive mounded form. Attracts butterflies.

Cephalanthus occidentalis
buttonbush
Deciduous shrub

Missouri native that produces attractive sputnik-like blooms that attract butterflies. This shrub is like a fine wine: with a little bit of age and some extra pruning, it will make an attractive specimen tree in your yard.

Chaenomeles 'Scarlet Storm'
flowering quince
Deciduous shrub

When this shrub blooms, it stops traffic in the Garden. The scarlet-red double blooms pull you in every time. Use it as a hedge, specimen plant, or place it in one of those hard-to-grow areas as it will take a bit of abuse and keep on ticking.
Hibiscus 'Midnight Marvel' 
hibiscus
Deciduous shrub

The breeder for 'Midnight Marvel' deserves a standing ovation. This low-maintenance shrub requires no work beyond standing and staring at its glory. Plant it, cut the stems back to the ground in the spring, and then go brag to your neighbors about your skill as a horticulturist. 
Hydrangea quercifolia 'Ruby Slippers'
oakleaf hydrangea
Deciduous shrub

Oakleaf hydrangeas are the triple threat in a garden. They are low maintenance, provide winter interest, have great fall color, and look fantastic when they are in bloom. Wait, that's four. 'Ruby Slippers' was chosen because of its compact size and white flowers that turn ruby-red as it matures.
Hypericum HYPEARLS RENU
hypericum
Deciduous shrub

This shrub is really not used enough. Aside from the occasional “wild hair” trimming, this one is a plant-it-and-let-it-go shrub. The airy yellow blooms give it a soft touch in early summer, and then it produces loads of berries all over the plant. The berries make fantastic cut flowers and are really popular in the trade at the moment.
Viburnum × burkwoodii 'Conoy'
burkwood viburnnum
Deciduous shrub

'Conoy' is one of those plants that isn't going to steal the show, but it gives you great bones in your garden. It's a staple shrub that provides great structure to a shrub border, would make an excellent hedge, or can be spotted in to provide summer screening from the neighbors. Situate it under a window and catch the fragrance of the flowers on the breeze in April. 
Aristolochia tomentosa
Dutchman's pipe
Vine

A species native to Missouri and a 2019 Plant of Merit, this unique-looking vine will be a talking piece for gatherings around your patio arbor. Named because it loosely resembles a Dutch smoking pipe, this Aristolochia performs a special function in the environment. It is the larval food source for the pipe vine swallowtail butterfly. So, don't be alarmed when they devour the leaves overnight! Instead, take fun selfies with the caterpillars, teach the little ones what they are, and watch the plant bounce back within a couple weeks like magic! 
Lonicera sempervirens 'Alabama Crimson'
honeysuckle
Vine

Don't let the common name fool you; this is not to be confused with the terrible weedy shrub that's wreaking havoc on our natural world. This Lonicera is a kind one who should petition to have a name change. 'Alabama Crimson' was chosen because its crimson-red blooms hail down the butterflies and hummingbirds like a New Yorker trying to catch a cab.

 

Herbaceous Perennials

 
Allium 'Millenium' 
ornamental onion
Bulb

Though technically a bulb, Allium 'Millenium' sneaks into the list because no herbaceous border should be without it. Named the 2018 Perennial Plant of the Year, 'Millenium' forms a clumping mound of attractive foliage. Mid-summer a profusion of rosy-purple, globe-shaped blooms cover the plant. Quickly run to your nearest nursery and buy one or five.
Aralia cordata 'Sun King'
Japanese spikenard

Herbaceous perennial

The chartreuse foliage of 'Sun King' make it a great addition to any semi-shaded garden. In the Midwest, place it in an area that gets morning sun but afternoon shade for best results and coloration. (If you place it in full shade, the leaves will start to fade to green.) Its tall stature makes it a great addition to the back of a border or near a patio where it can pick up the light of moon and reflect it back for you to enjoy.
Echinacea 'TNECHKR' KISMET RASPBERRY
coneflower
Herbaceous perennial

Echinacea breeding has come a long way in colorful introductions for the landscapes. The KISMET series is no different. Placed in our trial border a few years ago, KISMET RASPBERRY outperformed every plant around it. Its large flowers (about 3/4 the size of a hand) and beautiful raspberry-pink flowers made it a quick favorite with the staff. Last year it was moved into the Butterfly Meadow and has been housing loads of butterflies ever since. 
Lamprocapnos spectabilis 'Gold Heart'
bleeding heart
Herbaceous perennial

The picture says all there is to say about 'Gold Heart' so no need to really try. The adorable pink-hearted bloom Lamprocapnos spectabilis 'Gold Heart' - contrasts nicely with the chartreuse foliage. Be sure to place this one amongst some hostas, ferns, or coming out of your favorite groundcover because it will go dormant about mid-summer. 

Physostegia virginiana 'Pink Manners'
obedient plant
Herbaceous perennial

Ever found the common name of the Missouri native Physostegia virginiana quite comical because it can be anything BUT obedient? Well, if you love this plant but are not a fan of its rhizomatous ways, then look no further; 'Pink Manners' is here to save the day. It has all the characteristics you love, but with a clump-forming habit. Wait, what?!? That's right, now not only the hummingbirds will enjoy the dainty snapdragon-like blooms but you can too! 
Sedum 'Thundercloud'
stonecrop

Herbaceous perennial

'Thundercloud', one can assume, received its name from the barreling noise the skippers made as they fought their way towards this plant in the fall. No, just kidding, but really you will not be able to take a decent photo of this plant once the blooms open because the skippers and all of their extended families will be photobombing every shot. Place this low-mounded perennial in the front of a border, in a rock garden, butterfly garden, or in another slightly dry location and watch as the aforementioned unfolds.
Sisyrinchium angustifolium
blue-eyed grass

Herbaceous perennial

This dainty gem will have you questioning if this is actually a grass until it blooms and the sweet violet-blue flowers emerge. To be clear, it's actually in the Iridaceae family, so it's another win because Iris are great too! Site this one in a moderately moist location and other than a spring cut back and a division every few years there's not much more to do! 
Stachys officinalis 'Hummelo' 
betony 
Herbaceous perennial

Selected as a 2019 Perennial Plant of the Year, no herbaceous border would be complete without 'Hummelo'. Its bright green mounded foliage is a great precursor to the rose-lavender bloom spikes in mid-summer. If you live in an area that experiences mild winters, it will even remain evergreen for you. Some light deadheading and a little spring clean-up are all that's really needed to keep this one looking fresh.

 

Grasses and Sedges

 
Calamagrostis × acutiflora 'Karl Foerster'
feather reed grass
Ornamental grass

If you have ever tried to get rid of an ornamental grass in your perennial border, you may be thinking, "Why would they have an ornamental grass section?" It's true, digging out a Miscanthus is hard even for the most robust; however, here's the solution - 'Karl Foerster'! Hopefully you have sited it in the proper location, a nice sunny spot in a border or en-masse as a stately architectural look along a cool building. However, if not, this one is fairly easy to dig and move. Cut back once in the spring before it flushes and that's all that's needed to achieve the picture to the left. 
Carex bromoides
brome-like sedge
Sedge

This one made the list because Carex do not really get the dues they deserve. This one is located in our Butterfly Garden because it plays host to a number of native butterflies and moths. It accents our ornamental rock nicely and softens the look of its jagged edges. Place it in afternoon shade in a semi-moist environment and other than a spring cut-back you won't have to do anything with it.
Eragrotis spectabilis 
purple lovegrass
Ornamental grass

As the name suggests, you are going to fall in love with this grass. Native to Missouri, it is the highest maintenance plant on the list. A spring cut-back and an occasional weeding of the few seeds it drops will be needed to maintain its mounding form. However, when you see the way the sunlight hits the seed heads after a rain and the kaleidoscope of diamonds that appear, you will know why it made the cut. 
Sporobolus heterolepis 
prairie dropseed
Ornamental grass

Like cilantro, Sporobolus heterolepsis is one of those plants that are a bit controversial as to whether you love it or hate it. Since it's about 50/50, we chose to love it! Another species native to Missouri, prairie dropseed was chosen for its graceful and fine textured green summer leaves. In the fall, it turns a pretty golden color with hints of orange hues. To accentuate it even further, and this is where the controversy comes, on a hot August day it will permeate the air with what some describe as a popcorn-like aroma...or something a bit less desirable, you decide.