Low-Maintenance Plants for Vibrant Gardens

Creating a low-maintenance landscape in Chicago doesn’t have to be difficult. With the right plant selections, homeowners can enjoy a balanced and vibrant garden that thrives with minimal upkeep. 

In this article, we’ll explore some of the best plant options for low-maintenance landscaping in the Chicago area, offering both beauty and ease for homeowners seeking a vibrant yet fuss-free garden. Each of these are able to thrive in USDA Hardiness zones 5 and 6, which is where Chicago is located. 

1. Deciduous Shrubs

Deciduous shrubs play a vital role in Chicago landscapes, providing seasonal interest with their colorful foliage, vibrant blooms, and textured bark. From the delicate beauty of flowering dogwoods to the hardy resilience of viburnums, these shrubs not only enhance the visual appeal of gardens but also contribute to biodiversity by providing habitat and food sources for local wildlife.

Hydrangeas – are an excellent choice for any Chicago landscape due to their resilience to both hot summers and cold winters, along with their stunning blooms and foliage. When planning to grow hydrangeas, it’s essential to consider their potential size and ensure adequate space for their growth, as some varieties can develop into large shrubs or vines over time.

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Viburnums – Viburnums are versatile shrubs prized for their attractive foliage, fragrant flowers, and often vibrant berries. With a wide range of species and cultivars available, they offer options for various garden styles, from informal hedging to specimen planting, adding beauty and interest to landscapes throughout the seasons. They have few pest or disease issues, and little pruning is required.

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Spiraea – Spiraea are known for their delicate clusters of flowers and graceful arching branches, bringing a charming and elegant touch to gardens, making it a popular choice for borders, mass plantings, and cottage-style landscapes. They can tolerate a wide range of conditions, perfect for the Chicago weather.

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Dogwoods – A dogwood is an excellent choice for cold Chicago climates, boasting beautiful blooms, vibrant fall foliage, and berries that attract birds, adding both visual interest and ecological value to gardens. Its resilience to winter cold and stunning seasonal displays make it a cherished addition to any landscape in the region.

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Gro-Low Sumac – Gro-Low Sumac is a versatile ground cover prized for its spreading habit, glossy green foliage, and brilliant red fall color, making it an ideal choice for erosion control and landscaping in challenging areas. With its low maintenance requirements and ability to thrive in a variety of soil conditions, Gro-Low Sumac adds both beauty and practicality to gardens and naturalized landscapes.

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2. Evergreens

Evergreen plants provide structure, year-round interest, and often serve practical purposes like privacy screening or wind protection, making them valuable additions to Chicago area landscapes.

Boxwood – Boxwoods like Wintergreen, Green Mountain, or Justin Brouwers, are excellent landscaping choices for Illinois, offering year-round evergreen foliage and low-maintenance structure. They thrive in diverse conditions, making them adaptable for various garden settings. With minimal upkeep, they can be shaped into formal borders or maintained at a manageable 30-inch height, though they can grow up to 4 feet if left untrimmed.

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Arborvitae – Arborvitae are popular evergreen shrubs or trees with dense foliage that provides year-round privacy screening and windbreaks. They come in various sizes and shapes, from tall columnar forms to low, spreading varieties.

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Juniper – Junipers are versatile evergreen shrubs with needle-like or scale-like foliage. They are drought-tolerant and come in a wide range of sizes, colors, and growth habits, making them suitable for various landscaping needs, from ground covers to tall specimens.

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Yew – Yews are slow-growing evergreen shrubs or small trees with dense, dark green foliage. They tolerate shade well and are often used for hedges, foundation plantings, or as accent plants in the Chicago area.

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3. Perennials

Perennials bring vibrant bursts of color, texture, and seasonal interest, enriching the chicago landscaping enthusiasts. From the cheerful blooms of daylilies and black-eyed Susans to the lush foliage of hostas and catmint, these enduring plants not only enhance the aesthetic appeal but also contribute to the resilience and biodiversity of the local ecosystem, creating a dynamic and inviting outdoor space for homeowners to enjoy year after year.

Catmint – Catmint is a hardy perennial with aromatic foliage and spikes of lavender-blue flowers. It’s drought-tolerant, attracts pollinators like bees and butterflies, and is easy to care for, making it a great choice for Chicago area gardens.

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Russian Sage – Russian sage is prized for its silvery-gray foliage and tall spikes of lavender-blue flowers. It thrives in hot, dry conditions and adds a wispy, airy texture to the garden, making it a standout perennial choice for Chicago landscapes.

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Daylilies – Daylilies are beloved for their vibrant, trumpet-shaped flowers that come in a wide range of colors and bloom throughout the summer. They’re incredibly adaptable and low-maintenance, thriving in a variety of soil conditions and sunlight levels, making them a versatile perennial option for Chicago gardens.

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Hostas – Hostas are renowned for their lush, textured foliage and come in a variety of colors, sizes, and leaf shapes. They prefer shaded or partially shaded areas and are perfect for adding interest and beauty to woodland gardens or shady corners of Chicago landscapes.

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Hibiscus – Hardy hibiscus, also known as rose mallow, is a showy perennial with large, colorful flowers that bloom from mid to late summer. They prefer moist, well-drained soil and full sun, making them ideal for adding a tropical flair to Chicago gardens while still being able to withstand the local climate.

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Black-eyed Susan – Black-eyed Susans are classic, bright yellow flowers with dark centers that bloom from midsummer to fall. They’re drought-tolerant, attract pollinators, and add cheerful color to borders, meadows, and cottage gardens in the Chicago area.

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4. Ornamental grasses

Ornamental grasses can add dynamic texture, movement, and architectural interest to Chicago landscapes, whether swaying gently in the breeze or catching sunlight with their delicate seed heads. Their versatility allows for use as focal points, borders, or ground covers, providing year-round visual appeal and requiring minimal maintenance, making them an ideal choice for gardens seeking both beauty and practicality.

Switchgrass – Switchgrass is a native ornamental grass known for its upright form, fine texture, and attractive seed heads. It comes in a variety of cultivars with different colors and heights, making it versatile for different landscape designs.

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Little Bluestem – Little Bluestem is a native grass with blue-green foliage that turns reddish-bronze in the fall, providing year-round interest. It has a clumping growth habit and is drought-tolerant once established.

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Feather Reed Grass – Feather Reed Grass is a cool-season grass that forms dense, upright clumps with feathery flower spikes in summer. It’s tolerant of a wide range of soil conditions and is often used in mass plantings or as a focal point in the landscape.

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Japanese Silver Grass – Japanese Silver Grass is a tall, graceful grass with arching foliage and feathery flower plumes that emerge in late summer. It adds movement and texture to the garden and is available in several cultivars with different heights and colors.

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Fountain Grass – Fountain Grasses are known for their graceful, arching foliage and bottlebrush-like flower spikes that sway in the breeze. They come in various sizes and colors, with options like Purple Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’) adding striking burgundy foliage to the landscape.

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5. Ground Covers

Ground covers are essential elements in Chicago landscapes, serving as living carpets that suppress weeds, prevent erosion, and provide a lush backdrop for other plants. From the vibrant blooms of creeping phlox to the evergreen foliage of pachysandra, ground covers offer both aesthetic beauty and practical functionality, transforming bare patches into verdant expanses while reducing the need for maintenance, making them indispensable components of a thriving garden ecosystem.

Creeping Phlox – Creeping Phlox is a low-growing perennial ground cover with masses of colorful flowers in spring. It spreads quickly to form a dense carpet and is excellent for rock gardens, slopes, or as a border plant.

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Pachysandra – Pachysandra is an evergreen ground cover with glossy, dark green leaves that form a dense mat. It thrives in shady areas and is ideal for underplanting trees or in woodland gardens.

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Creeping Jenny – Creeping Jenny is a low-growing, trailing perennial with bright yellow-green foliage that adds a pop of color to shady areas. It’s versatile and can be used as a ground cover, in hanging baskets, or as a trailing accent in containers.

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Lily of the Valley – Lily of the Valley is a classic woodland ground cover with fragrant, bell-shaped white flowers in spring. It spreads rapidly to form a dense carpet and thrives in shady, moist areas.

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Ajuga – Ajuga, also known as Bugleweed, is a fast-spreading ground cover with colorful foliage and spikes of blue, purple, or pink flowers in spring. It’s tolerant of a wide range of growing conditions and is great for edging pathways or filling in gaps in the garden.

Low-Maintenance Plants for Vibrant Gardens Beverly Companies

Low-maintenance landscapes in Chicago offer homeowners a practical way to support local ecosystems and biodiversity. By selecting plants suited to the region’s climate, homeowners can cultivate vibrant gardens that provide essential resources for pollinators and other wildlife while minimizing upkeep.

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