Easy Care Plants

You don’t always need to toil in the soil to grow a beautiful garden!

Timesaving, low maintenance plants make relaxing in the garden easier. It’s not that we don’t love gardening, but time is precious!

Using plants that are happier in a given space also saves money; there’s no need for solving problems with expensive sprays, and the water bill will be easier to digest.

Remember: Right plant, right place. Closely observe the sites where plantings are needed, paying attention to the available light through the day and moisture levels in the soil year-round. Choose plants that will thrive in the area.

The plants listed require less pruning, staking, fertilizing, and fussing. They are cold hardy in the Portland area, disease resistant, and many are also drought tolerant. Typically, they don’t send seeds to sprout around the yard, nor do they spread by suckering roots.

The lists assume that plants are installed in the ground, not grown in pots. When grown in containers, plants don’t have access to nutrients and water in the ground, and may need protection during winter months, so they require more effort to maintain.

See the PDFs below for a few easy-care standouts and their cultural requirements.


Conifers

Conifers are great for adding structure and year-round color to the garden, and they’re generally easy to care for, if they’re given enough space to grow. Many dwarf cultivars are suitable for smaller spaces, but keep in mind that while they grow at a slower pace of less than 6” per year, they can still get big if given enough time.

Easy Care Conifers


Ferns

We haven’t met a fern that seems like a chore to care for. Some are evergreen, while others lose their leaves in autumn, and a handful are a little tender in Portland. But for the most part, they’re easy to grow and make great additions to moist shaded areas.

List Coming Soon


Fruit, Herbs, and Veggies

Edible plants are higher maintenance generally, but these offer more disease resistance and are hardy year-round. They may offer more drought tolerance than some edible plants, but for full juicy fruit, irrigation is usually needed.

Easy Care Fruits, Herbs and Veggies


Grasses

Grasses offer varying textures and are easy to grow…sometimes too easy, spreading by seed or running underground and getting a little weedy. We’re only including clumping forms that are well behaved in the list. Deciduous grasses need to be pruned low to the ground when new shoots appear in early spring.

Easy Care Grasses


Groundcovers

Groundcovers are incredibly useful in the garden. They can stabilize hillsides, fill in between steppingstones, and add act as a natural mulch, keeping weeds at bay and helping soil moisture to stay more even year-round. By nature, they spread, but the ones listed will not spread by seed.

Easy Care Groundcovers


Northwest Natives

The plants native to Oregon have evolved here and are generally more adapted to our climate. Many are happy in the winter wet, summer dry conditions that we experience here in Portland.

Easy Care Northwest Natives


Perennials

Perennials are flowering favorites that live for years in the garden. The old stems can be pruned to the ground in fall or early spring, but leaving the flower heads on through winter can be a good source of seeds for birds and hollow stems provide a nice place for pollinating insects to overwinter and lay eggs. Dividing multi-stemmed clumps every 3 years or so ensures healthy plants and leads to new starts that can be replanted in new places or given to neighbors. There are many options; these are a few solid performers.

Easy Care Perennials


Roses

Roses are notoriously time consuming, but there are many disease-resistant plants that don’t require a lot of fussing to bloom and grow well. The roses included in this list are also grown on their own roots, producing vigorous plants that won’t revert to a different rootstock if they suffer die-back during an extra cold winter. Roses all have some degree of drought tolerance but will bloom more with occasional drinks in summer. If you’re willing to do a little pruning, the list gets bigger.

Easy Care Roses


Shrubs

Shrubs offer a wide range of easy-care options. These are some of our favorites.

Easy Care Shrubs


Trees

There are many trees that thrive in our area, but it’s important to take appropriate measures to help them root in and become well established, and to prune properly. Pruning mistakes weaken a tree’s structural integrity and should be avoided. When planting trees, make sure they have enough room to mature in the site without pruning.

Click to learn more about pruning

The trees included have reasonably sized root systems, are not particularly brittle, and aren’t prone to pests or diseases; those susceptible to verticillium wilt are not included. Trees that drop fruit are included if they’re otherwise easy to care for.

Easy Care Trees

Easy Care Natives

Establishing New Plants

It would be great to plant it and walk away, but most newly installed plants take time to get settled. Here are some tips.

Install plants in the fall. The soil stays warm for months, and roots grow all winter, making them much more prepared to handle heat in summer. Early spring is also an excellent time for bringing easy-care plants into your garden, but you'll need to be vigilant with watering while they're getting established.

Most plants need evenly moist soil while they’re getting settled into a new spot. Water deeply in the morning or evening, delivering water to the entire root system during summer in the first few years. One or two times a week should be sufficient at first, then back off in subsequent years. In extreme temperatures, water deeply before hot weather arrives. Drip systems or soaker hoses are good options for delivering water at a slow pace so that it soaks into the ground and doesn’t run off or just evaporate.

Add a layer of mulch over the roots to keep soil cooler and wetter during summer, warmer and drier during winter.


Easy Care Garden Plants