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Casual, Low-Maintenance Garden Style

Discover how succulent plants, creative garden beds, and kick-back seating help create an easy-care landscape. By Doug Jimerson

Plant for Low-Maintenance

Less is more when it comes to designing your low-maintenance outdoor living space. After all, wouldn’t you rather be relaxing in a comfy chair with a cool drink instead of weeding and watering every day? This garden, for example, looks terrific all year long and it requires almost no work. The homeowners simply spread a thick weed mat over the area and then covered it with several inches of pea gravel and planted succulents. Succulents, which require almost no water, fill all the beds in this California landscape. 

LANDSCAPE TIP: Would you like to plant a large area of your yard in succulents? Check out these succulent planting tips. 

Use Succulents in Containers

Succulents are great solo players in a garden design because they look so stunning planted in small containers. Here a cluster of brightly colored ceramic and terra-cotta pots holds a mass of different type succulents to create a textural vignette on a patio bench. Plant succulents that are tender in your region in containers so you can whisk them indoors once the weather turns cold. 

CARE TIP: Succulents in pots and in the garden love full sun and dry soil. Get a FREE e-book for mastering the art of growing cacti and succulents, here. 

Choose Less-Thirsty Plants

When designing your low-maintenance garden, select plants that are native to your region whenever possible. Natives are ideal because they naturally thrive with your soil and climate conditions. This is especially true if you live in a very dry climate such as California, Texas, and Arizona. Here, natives such as fleshy-leaved cacti and succulents were selected to fill the planting beds because they can go long periods without a drink.

LANDSCAPING TIP: Learn more about using natives and drought-tolerant gardening, also called xeriscaping. 

Conserve Water

Gardeners in dry areas have always made water conservation a high priority. But it’s really something that all gardeners should consider as climate patterns seem to change each year. Droughts happen, even in more temperate regions, so be smart and plan ahead. In this garden, the owners installed a rain barrel that collects water whenever there’s a storm. Plus, by using drought-tolerant plants they rarely, if ever, have to water.

LANDSCAPING TIP: Many plants, including succulents, can thrive in drought situations. See a planting plan that uses all low-water perennials. 

Feed Pollinators

Invite colorful butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden by including nectar-rich plants to grow alongside succulents. You can grow these plants in containers on your patio directly in the beds nearby. In this garden, for example, lantana is used throughout the garden. Lantana produces endless quantities of brightly colored flowers that nectar lovers flock to. It’s also drought-resistant, making it an ideal plant for hot, dry locations.

POLLINATOR TIP: Here are more pollinator favorites!

Add Welcome Seating

Create a warm, welcoming atmosphere in your low-maintenance landscape by mingling vintage pieces together. For example, on this gravel patio, a pair of rainbow-color papasan chairs hold court next to an Adirondack-style seating ensemble. A metal basket weave patio set provides ample space for outdoor dining. The result—a fun and fanciful place for the family to kick back and relax.

LANDSCAPING TIP: Do you have a large area around a patio to plant? Try landscaping by buying plants in bulk.

Mix Colors

Succulent species offer a paintbox of colors, as well as textures. Create a patchwork quilt of color by combining low-growing species that can grow shoulder to shoulder in the garden. An advantage of filling a bed with groundcover succulents? No weeds are able to gain a roothold.

LANDSCAPING TIP: Mulching is another way to keep weeds from invading beds and borders. 


Carve Out Privacy

If you have the space, add a cozy little sitting area in an out of the way corner to your backyard. On this open hillside, the owners built a level wooden platform in a garden corner that’s just big enough to accommodate a pair of gorgeous Adirondack chairs. It’s a great spot to unwind and take in the stars after the sun goes down.

LANDSCAPING TIP: Use groundcover sedums to fill in between stones in a pathway.


Look Up!

You can add succulents in baskets and hang them from tree limbs. Here a bench sits beneath a string of hanging baskets with agaves and other assorted succulents. Because succulent require so little water, these easy-care plants make ideal hanging baskets.

CONTAINERS TIP: Succulents love growing in containers. Read more about raising these easy-care plants in pots.