By Sarah Wilson
Opt for plants that are hassle free by choosing the best low maintenance shrubs there are. They will bounce back if you neglect them and quietly do their own thing for months on end. We're talking ones that don't need a complicated care schedule of watering, feeding, deadheading and clipping 24/7 to keep them looking good.
Easy evergreens are always a popular choice for the best low maintenance plants. As well as providing a cool green backdrop for your garden that extends seasonal appeal right through the year, they tend to be happy-go-lucky shrubs, settling into pretty much any soil or position in your garden with the minimum of fuss.
There are plenty of other shrubs to choose from that also tick the box for low maintenance that provide fabulous flowers, foliage and berries, as well as fragrance and long lasting good looks.
You can sit back and relax as you don’t need a lot of plant know-how to achieve spectacular results with these low maintenance shrubs.
Best low maintenance shrubs: our top 11 choices for your planting list
By choosing from our pick of the best low maintenance shrubs you’ll be opting for easy planting that looks good with minimum input from you. There is something for everyone here, whatever your garden style.
1. Viburnum Carlesii ‘Aurora’
An easy to look after plant with real staying power, viburnum keeps on giving whatever the month as it’s one of the top low maintenance evergreen shrubs. Most viburnum do not need pruning and those that do require just the lightest of tidy-ups every now and then.
It’s a looker too. Try ‘Aurora’ with its masses of white or pink fragrant flowers that perfume the air in the spring garden, clusters of glossy black berries in autumn and leaves that turn bronze then red.
It grows to around 1.5 meters with a spread of 1 meter so it’s a good choice for small gardens too. Such is its popularity as an elegant finishing touch to low maintenance planting schemes that it’s been given an RHS Garden Award of Merit.
Plant in full sun or semi-shade, in well-drained soil. It does not require a sheltered location as it’s a tough little shrub. Plant near the house, perhaps along a path or by the door to appreciate the lovely fragrance that wafts from the flowers.
2. Mahonia ‘Winter Sun’
If you want an eye-catching statement shrub to light up the garden with a pop of brilliant color choose mahonia to add some pizzazz.
Clusters of bright yellow flowers appear in winter and the air is drenched with their scent, often compared to lily of the valley. The flowers are long lasting and will add a brilliant pop of color to your winter garden ideas. This is followed by deep purple berries that birds love.
The ornamental dark glossy leaves of mahonia look great all year round adding a sculptural outline. A trouble-free plant, it’s easy to manage and fast growing, plus resistant to frost and snow. Another plus is that you don’t have to prune it, so no need to get out the best secateurs to look after this plant!
With a delicate scent and large clusters of canary yellow flowers cascading from rosettes of dark green leaves from November right round to March, mahonia ‘Winter Sun’ is hard to beat. Bunches of ornamental deep purple berries follow the flowers, providing a feast for the birds.
3. Sarcococca confusa
This low maintenance evergreen shrub with glossy leaves and highly fragrant white flowers is a good all-rounder that’s perfect for small gardens. Also known as Christmas box, it’s amazingly easy to grow, is fine being neglected and will thrive in shade if your garden is small and overlooked.
It will cope with being planted in any difficult area of the garden, so can be a good choice if you're searching for shade garden ideas, too. The sweet scented flowers last from December to February, then the plant is covered in an abundance of attractive black berries and the new shoots are flushed with dark purple. It puts on a dramatic show whatever the season.
The most common variety is Sarcococca confusa, a dense, low-maintenance bush that flowers prolifically but can eventually reach up to 4 meters tall if you don't keep an eye on it. A waft of fragrance from this sweetly scented variety is midwinter magic.
4. Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’
If you want to double the wow factor in your garden with beautiful blooms that have a heavenly fragrance too daphne should be at the top of your list. When it comes to fragrant plants daphne is one of the most rewarding. Choose an evergreen variety and its glossy leaves will add year-round interest to low maintenance flowerbed ideas too.
Plant your daphne then step away happy in the knowledge you can leave your new addition to get on with it as no pruning is necessary. All you need do is clear up any fallen leaves around the plant to keep it looking tidy.
Choose a variety like deliciously scented ‘Aureomarginata’, which forms a neat, dense and rounded shape requiring very little care. A robust and glossy evergreen variety, the flowers are a mix of pink and white, and flourish from January through to March.
An added bonus is the pretty red berried fruit after the plant has finished flowering. It’s ideal for small gardens too as it stays contained and won’t romp away reaching a height of around 1.5 meters only.
5. Camellia ‘Anticipation’
Learn how to grow camellias and you'll soon realize that the gorgeous glossy green foliage provides interest in the garden, so even when they’re not in flower the plant looks good and adds structure to your planting.
Camellia come in a range of sizes but don't usually grow taller than around 2-3 meters so are ideal for small gardens. They’re slow growing too so easy to keep under control.
No pruning is necessary. In fact, pruning can have an adverse effect on how many flowers you get the following year. In terms of maintenance all you need do is snip off any faded flowers.
There’s a range to choose from including the silky petals of blowsy peony and rose style blooms to more simple anemone style flowers. Camellia japonica and camellia x willamsii are varieties that flower from January onwards. ‘Anticipation’ is a hardy type that produces large ruffled deep pink flowers in late winter and early spring.
6. Photinia ‘Red Robin’
Easy to maintain, photinia requires minimal pruning. Trim 15cm off the top of the plant in late spring or early summer to encourage new shoots of young leaves and help keep the plant looking shapely. In early spring give it a boost by layering on well-rotted garden compost or manure around the base of the plant. Don't forget, there are plenty of tips on how to compost in our guide.
One of the glossy evergreen varieties of photinia, ‘Red Robin’ has flushes of vibrant red foliage as the name suggests and is a good choice to add interest to the garden whatever the season.
The sunnier the position, the brighter red the leaves will be, drawing the eye and demanding attention. The sun will glance off the fiery tips of the leaves to add a warm glow to the garden.
This low maintenance evergreen shrub is multi-tasking and can be used in a variety of combinations for shape, height and use. The small glossy green leaves of buxus (commonly known as box) look good all year round and the compact growing habit means it’s a low maintenance option that just needs a simple trim once a year to keep its shape.
It’s also one of the best options for snipping into shapely cubes and balls if you’re keen to have a go at topiary. A collection of stylish box plants will introduce a swish low maintenance detail to your porch or other doorway.
It’s also easy to care for, and it doesn’t mind a shady spot either. Another bonus is that bees and butterflies love this classic shrub too.
8. Hebe rakaiensis
If you’re looking for a smaller shrub for your garden this popular easy care hebe is one of our favorites. It’s a great choice as a ‘step hugger’, for spilling out over your garden path ideas or planted in a container as it only grows to around 1 meter high.
It has clusters of pretty flowers and fresh green leaves and forms a neat rounded shape that adds structure to borders. As it requires minimal pruning it qualifies as one of the best low maintenance shrubs around.
All the hebes with tiny leaves have the great attribute of looking like they’ve been clipped when they haven’t. It’s easy to create low ‘pebble’ shapes with them too that look super stylish.
9. Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Silver Queen’
Pittosporum are popular low maintenance evergreen shrubs with small leaves and often fragrant flowers, followed by autumn berries. They're much loved by garden designers.
They are a low-maintenance choice, growing to around 2.5 meters tall in 10 years but less if you plant it in a container. There’s no need to prune it but if it starts to look untidy a few snips here and there will quickly get it looking neat again.
‘Silver Queen’ is a brilliant filler plant with greyish-green leaves edged with creamy white. This easy evergreen likes a sheltered spot in plenty of sun.
It adds a strong architectural element (particularly in winter) and will also thrive in a large planter where it will bush up into a mini tree to make a real statement in any container gardening ideas.
10. Escallonia ‘Pink Princess’
Covered in a mass of vibrant pretty pink flowers from midsummer onwards, this glossy ornamental evergreen stays neat and compact, making it an excellent choice for the best low maintenance shrubs.
These mainly evergreen shrubs are valued for their colorful flowers from summer into autumn, providing a pretty backdrop against which other flowers can shine.
Trouble-free and easy to grow, Escallonia 'Pink Priness’ is suitable for hedging, as well as planting in borders.
Want to grow a new garden boundary, fast? Our list of the best fast growing hedges is a great place to start.
11. Skimmia japonica ‘Wakehurst White’
A stylish-looking compact evergreen with slightly aromatic leaves and fragrant pink or white flowers in spring, skimmia is an easy care shrub that doesn’t need attention so it doesn’t matter if you’re neglectful of it.
The variety ‘Wakehurst White’ grows around 1 meter in 10 years, so can easily be grown in a garden planter, where it will form a lovely dome shape. It has clusters of gorgeous glossy white berries once the flowers fade.
It will thrive in fertile, moist, well-drained soil in a shady spot. If your garden is sunny it will also tolerate full sun if you make sure the soil stays moist.
What are the best low maintenance evergreen shrubs?
Sometimes you may want to take the easy way when it comes to shrubs and hedging. This is where the best low maintenance shrubs and bushes come in.
There's lots of choice from evergreens to fragrant shrubs and ones with pretty flowers and berries too. When choosing make sure the variety you're interested in doesn’t need a complicated schedule of feeding, watering and pruning to free you up from a daily or weekly routine.
Look for shrubs that add something special to the garden, whether that’s flowers, foliage or autumn berries. Ones that keep their leaves all year round are a welcome sight in winter, and stop the garden looking bare. Add a permanent ‘backbone’ to your garden with structural plants that can be clipped into smart shapes.
Shrubs like this have a practical use too as well as an aesthetic one, helping to unify the space. Use shrubs to frame an entrance, create a hedge, and even as ground cover. Many smaller shrubs also grow well in pots.
What small shrubs look good all year round?
More petite shrubs are easy to care for and therefore often labour-saving. Smaller shrubs, especially evergreen ones, can be closely planted to form ground cover and are easy to maintain due to their low height.
Good evergreens that don't grow too tall include varieties of daphne (burkwoodii), skimmia (such as ‘Nymans’), hebe (try ‘Misummer Beauty’) and euonymus (like ‘Emerald Gaiety) but always check the label for growing height and spread, as well as how fast they will grow, before you buy.
What is a low maintenance flowering shrub?
There is a huge range of best low maintenance shrubs to choose from and that includes ones that flower. See them as shrubs with benefits.
Spring flowering varieties include camellia, rhododendron, magnolia and lilac, while summer flowering ones include philadelphus (mock orange), Choisya (Mexican Orange Blossom), ceanothus (Californian lilac) and weigela.
Climbers can be trained to grow up garden walls or fences with trellis or wire giving them something to hang on to. Choose types with fragrant flowers to help perfume your garden. Trachelospermum jasminoides is perfect for a sheltered south facing wall, while clematis montana or honeysuckle is better for shadier situations.
There's more suggestions for the best climbing plants in our guide.
What shrubs look good at the front of the house?
Low maintenance planting is the obvious choice for front garden ideas as it’s on display all the time. Evergreen shrubs will add year round structure, and good choices include skimmia, mahonia and camellia.
Think about how your house can be framed with planting and what can be quickly installed to soften or enhance the exterior but doesn't require a lot of care.
Gardens with open-plan spaces do well with smaller plants at the boundary leading to taller plants closer to the property. Utilize the corners up around the house by filling them with compact planting.
It’s easy to combine planting with parking in your front garden by leaving ‘pockets’ of soil that you can fill with low maintenance planting.
When it comes to choosing the best low maintenance shrubs, opt for those that offer maximum visual impact. Bay trees always look smart, as does box, laurel and other clipped evergreens.
With its crisp edges and clean outline, elegant box hedging is the easiest way to define different areas in your low maintenance garden ideas, creating a smart and distinctive look at the front on your property. It holds its shape well too and requires little maintenance once planted. All it needs is an annual trim to keep it looking smart. Easy to look after and super chic too - just what you need!
Sarah Wilson has been a lifestyle journalist for many years, writing about gardens since 2015. She's written for Gardeningetc.com, Livingetc, Homes & Gardens, as well as Country Homes & Interiors and Modern Gardens magazines.
Her own (small urban) garden is a work in progress - so many ideas, not enough space to cram them in. Hero plants include her ever growing collection of ornamental grasses, black bamboo and ferns, and the perennials like salvias and penstemons that come back reliably year after year. All very restrained though when in fact she'd love to pack her garden with gaudy dahlias and giant cannas, so these are top of her wish list for what to grow next.
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