How to Make a Low Maintenance Flower Bed

These tips will help you make a beautiful garden with showy, low-maintenance flowers and ground covers.

low maintenance flower bedNataliia Melnychuk/Shutterstock

If you want a low-maintenance flower bed that looks good year after year, these steps will make it happen.

Amend the Soil

It’s been said before: a good garden starts with good soil. No matter what kind of soil you have, you can improve it—and the best time to do that is before you plant. Add several inches of compost and peat moss, turning it over by the shovelful to mix it into the top 6 to 8 inches of soil. Remove rocks and roots and break up any clumps of soil you find. Compost and peat moss help clay soil drain better and sandy soil retain moisture and nutrients.

Choose the Right Flowers to Plant in Your Garden

Planting a water hog in a hot, sunny location is a recipe for maintenance—you’ll be forced to water it constantly! And, an overly aggressive plant will need to be chopped back over and over. Look around and choose plants that are suited to your conditions. Whenever possible, use native plants, which are better suited to your climate, will come up year after year and are unlikely to act like garden thugs. When you choose the right plants, you not only have less maintenance, you also have better success. You’re not fighting an uphill battle.

Choose the Right Location to Plant Your Flower Bed

This one goes without saying. Make sure the area you’re choosing to plant your flowers is conducive to the plants you want to plant. Your soil type may dictate which plants you can choose. Also, don’t create the bed in a high traffic area where the plants have the potential to get trampled. And, for low maintenance, you won’t want to walk blocks every time you tend to your garden. Create it to satisfy your own personal low maintenance goals.

Add a Soaker Hose

Unless you’re planting a bed full of cacti and succulents, you’ll need to water. Make it easy on yourself by hooking up a soaker hose that slowly releases moisture directly to the plant’s root zone. It’s efficient and really saves on maintenance. Moreover, you can easily hide the soaker hose under mulch.

Mulch the Flower Bed

Speaking of mulch, it’s a real labor saver. It prevents weeds, saves on watering and keeps the soil cool. It also stops the sun from baking the soil dry and forming a crust that impedes water from penetrating. Cedar breaks down slowly and won’t attract insects. Stone is recommended for cacti and succulents because it doesn’t hold excess moisture to rot the stems of those denizens of dry soil. Cocoa mulch smells nice after rain, but according to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, some veterinarians have expressed concerns about the use of cocoa bean shell mulch, especially for those with dogs left unsupervised in the yard. There have been some reports of dogs eating the mulch and getting sick.

Add a Ground Cover

As practical as mulches are, there’s an unmistakable beauty to ground cover plants like periwinkle (also known as myrtle or vinca vine), pachysandra, lamium, ajuga and creeping jenny (Lysimachia). Get a six-pack of ground cover plants and poke them into a few spots, then let them fill in around your taller plants. You’ll need less mulch in the future, and your low-maintenance flower bed will look more natural.

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Luke Miller
Luke Miller is an award-winning garden editor with 25 years' experience in horticultural communications, including editing a national magazine and creating print and online gardening content for a national retailer. He grew up across the street from a park arboretum and has a lifelong passion for gardening in general and trees in particular. In addition to his journalism degree, he has studied horticulture and is a Master Gardener.