When autumn arrives, the last thing you want to do is put down the rake and start pruning, deadheading, and transplanting finicky perennials. Save yourself the extra work by sticking with low-maintenance plants that bring beauty to the fall and winter landscape without too much involvement on your part. Some plants that appear stunning at the nursery turn out to be high maintenance once you get them home. It can take a lot of work to keep a plant looking its best, especially in the fall when there are many other chores to tackle.
1. Sweet Woodruff
This perennial creeper forms a dense mat of dark green leaves topped with clusters of star-shaped white flowers. Sweet woodruff is a rabbit- and deer-resistant ground cover that thrives in Zones 4 through 8 in part to full shade. Given perfect growing conditions, it can be an aggressive spreader, but it can be easily managed with a lawn mower on a high setting.
A good front-of-the-border perennial, calamint is a pollinator magnet that blooms in full sun in the summer and will continue to grow well into fall in Zones 5 through 7. Its pale green leaves are fragrant, and its flowers are diminutive but profuse—and require no deadheading.
3. North Pole Arborvitae
An excellent choice for the small-space garden in Zones 3 through 7, North Pole arborvitae is a winter-burn-resistant evergreen that can be planted in multiples to form a living privacy fence, or singly as a specimen. Site it in full or partial sun, then watch it grow—it can reach up to five feet wide and 15 feet tall.
4. Panicle Hydrangea
Panicle hydrangea is an enduring deciduous shrub, and there’s a cultivar that’s perfect for every size garden. Plant these stunners in full to partial sun in Zones 3 through 8 and they will reward you with large cone-shaped flowers that emerge white from new wood in July, then transition to various shades of green, pink, and red, depending on the cultivar.
5. Japanese Forest Grass
Available in several variegated leaf types, Japanese forest grass thrives in moist, partly shaded sites and requires little care. The cascading growth habit is particularly attractive planted along the edge of a garden. The plant will spread on its own; to speed the process you may choose to divide the plant in the fall.
6. Rugosa Rose
The rugosa rose may be the perfect rose for you, provided you live in Zones 2 through 7 and away from coastal regions where the plant has been deemed invasive. Rugosa roses have toothy leaves and highly fragrant clove-scented flowers. Deadheading after early August will encourage rebloom, but this will come at the expense of the large, tomato-like rose hips that swell and change color in the fall, and provide a touch of cold-weather visual interest.