11 Low-Maintenance Landscaping Ideas for Atlanta

garden in atlanta

There’s no such thing as a no-maintenance landscape in Atlanta. Even a bare patch of dirt will come up with weeds and weevils if left to its own devices, but low-maintenance landscaping is different. Here are 11 low-maintenance landscaping ideas and tips for Atlanta and the surrounding suburbs.

close-up of zoysiagrass
1. Love Your Lawn
Rosa laevigata
2. Savor Southern Perennials
Beautyberry branches with clusters of bright purple berries
3. Go Native, Georgia
Flower garden
4. Water Wise With Xeriscaping
Rain garden in a ditch with trees, bushes, and grasses
5. Recycle with a Rain Garden
6. Embrace the Evergreens
patio with teak furniture and stone flooring
7. Hardscape, Not Landscape
three pots with flowers in a backyard
8. Keep It Contained
close-up of bark mulch
9. Magic of Mulch
Sweet woodruff, named after the sweet smell of its deep green foliage, is an excellent ground cover plant for shady gardens.
10. Grow Ground Cover
rock garden
11. Rock It Out

1. Love Your Lawn

Zoysiagrass yard
Photo Credit: Forest & Kim Starr / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

If you’re looking at reseeding or resodding, choose warm-season turfgrass. These grasses are heat- and drought-tolerant for those occasional long spells without rain. If you plant turfgrasses adapted to Atlanta temperatures, you won’t spend as much time fighting the climate in your quest to achieve a thick, green lawn.

  • Centipedegrass (Eremochloa ophiuroids): The “Lazy Man’s Grass” uses less fertilizer than other grasses, which reduces maintenance needs. The broad, coarse-textured, light green leaves of centipedegrass have thick, flat stems.
  • St. Augustinegrass (Stenotaphrum secundatum): This grass, like centipedegrass, has thick, flat stems and large, coarse leaves. St. Augustinegrass grows a thick, dense turf with a captivating green-blue tint.
  • Zoysiagrass (Zoysia sp.): This grass has several varieties to choose from and is relatively cold and drought-tolerant. However, it will need more water in the summer than other warm-season grasses. Zoysia species include coarse- or fine-textured cultivars, but its blades are not as broad as St. Augustinegrass.

2. Savor Southern Perennials

Rosa laevigata
Photo Credit: Midori / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Perennial plants overwinter well and return year after year. They’re much easier to maintain than their annual cousins, which only last one year. 

A few of the flowering perennials that do well in the Atlanta area.

  • Cherokee rose (Rosa laevigata): Chosen as Georgia’s official state flower in 1916, this evergreen climbing shrub or vine has thorns, fragrant white flowers, and dark green foliage in early spring.
  • Bearded irises (Iris germanica): Irises are simple to grow if properly planted and cared for. Bearded irises flourish in full sun with good drainage and come in an almost infinite variety of colors.
  • Coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens): Interested in creating a wildlife-friendly habitat in your Atlanta yard? Invite the hummingbirds, bumblebees, and a few species of moth by planting a coral honeysuckle vine. The tubular, red blooms burst forth in spring and continue through the year.

3. Go Native, Georgia

Beautyberry branches with clusters of bright purple berries
Photo Credit: Donald Lee Pardue / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Fortunately for Atlanta gardeners, there’s an explosion of colors and textures among Georgia’s native plants. Plants native to Georgia will be some of the easiest, lowest maintenance plants for the everyday landscaper. 

Suppose you plant native flowers, shrubs, and trees. In that case, you’re also helping your neighborhood ecosystem and giving local birds and small animals food and shelter in your yard. 

  • American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana): The American beautyberry is an eye-catching shrub with three-season interest, reaching 3 to 8 feet tall. Enjoy light green leaves in the spring and lavender-pink blooms in the summer. By fall, the flowers become berry-like clusters of edible fruit.
  • Mountain azalea (Rhododendron canescens): Native azaleas are Georgia’s state wildflower, and this cultivar is a familiar southeastern native. The lush, velvet-like leaves and stunning pale pink blooms with distinctive stamens appear in the spring.
  • Scarlet maple (Acer rubrum): This shade tree brings color to your landscape year-round. Green stems morph into red in winter, and new leaves are tinged with red but later turn green. The fall color is deep red or yellow. The flowers are also red. Acer rubrum is fast-growing, reaching up to 20 feet in five years, and tolerant of many soils.      

4. Water Wise With Xeriscaping

low water garden
Photo Credit: Rexness / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

The University of Georgia Extension says, “A water-wise landscape is more than just a drought-tolerant landscape. It’s a landscape that has been carefully designed, properly installed, and managed to assure year-round beauty in addition to being drought-tolerant.” 

In other words, there is still landscaping, even in xeriscaping. Using drought-tolerant grasses and plants to use less water is a clever trick. You don’t have to cover your yard in cacti and rocks to participate in this water-saving design.

  • Autumn Joy sedum (Hylotelephium spectabile ‘Autumn Joy’): Less is more with Autumn Joy sedum, formerly Sedum spectabile. A drought-tolerant and easy to grow succulent, it thrives in poor soil with good drainage. In early to midsummer, flower buds appear in rounded clusters at the tops of the stems. They begin pale, steadily darken, and are a pinkish copper color by late summer.
  • Red hot poker (Kniphofia uvaria): This perennial is a must-have due to its ease of growth, hardiness, and stunning, distinctive flowers. Red hot poker, aka torch lily, blooms from late spring through summer, providing color and texture. They are ideal for full-sun planting sites.
  • Swamp sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius): A native perennial of the aster family, swamp sunflower can reach a height of 8 feet with golden yellow blooms from mid to late summer through fall. Tall and versatile in terms of growing conditions, it draws bees, birds, and butterflies but is deer-resistant.

5. Recycle with a Rain Garden

Rain garden in a ditch with trees, bushes, and grasses
Photo Credit: EmilyBlueGreen / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Georgia averages 47.12 inches of rainfall yearly over 113 days, and the Georgia Adopt-A-Stream program recommends rain gardens. Rain gardens catch and restrict runoff. This uptake helps to reduce erosion and keeps rainwater runoff from clogging storm drains and polluting waterways.

A good rain garden takes a little effort to plan and install. Still, it requires substantially less upkeep over time than a conventional lawn. With the right plants, your rain garden can also become a natural habitat that attracts wildlife and pollinators such as birds and butterflies.

  • Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis): Buttonbush can be grown as a deciduous shrub or a small tree. From June through September, pollinators love the white, fragrant, pincushion-shaped flowers. The blossoms mature into beautiful red, ball-shaped fruits that birds love throughout the winter.
  • Royal fern (Osmunda regalis): This fern has a unique look and feel, created by long fronds with lance-shaped leaflets and a slow-spreading habit. On reddish-purple stalks, delicate, bright green fronds with silvery undertones, crowned with golden leaflets.
  • Scarlet rose mallow (Hibiscus coccineus): Also known as swamp hibiscus, this Georgia native typically grows 3 to 6 feet tall and has spectacular red flowers up to 6 inches wide. The thick, hemp-like, deep green leaves add to the dramatic effect.

6. Embrace the Evergreens

Photo Credit: Pixnio

Because evergreens come in a range of sizes, from small shrubs to large trees, they are easy to include in any landscape design. No matter if you want privacy, easy upkeep, or a pop of color, there is an evergreen plant for every need.

Living evergreen fences, sometimes called privacy hedges, can do more than keep nosy neighbors at bay. Evergreens make great barriers from the chilly winter winds. With strategically placed windbreaks, you could reduce your heating bill by up to 25%.

  • Highland doghobble (Leucothoe fontanesiana): This shrub, sometimes known as drooping leucothoe, averages 3 to 4 feet tall and adds interest to shady areas. It has a graceful growth habit, deep green leaves, and white vase-like flowers in the spring, partially hidden by the foliage.
  • Leyland cypress (Cuprocyparis leylandii): Leyland cypress trees work well as tall hedges. It has scale-like, flat needles that range in color from dark green to bluish-green and provide cover for birds throughout the winter. Homeowners can choose from more than 30 different varieties of this tree.
  • Carolina cherry laurel (Prunus caroliniana): Native to the southern U.S., the compact Carolina cherry laurel can grow to 40 feet as a tree or be pruned into a hedge or shrub. The fresh leaves have a maraschino cherry scent when crushed and are an excellent food source for birds. However, the fruit and all other tree components are poisonous if eaten by people.

7. Hardscape, Not Landscape

patio with teak furniture and stone flooring
Photo Credit: Pickpik

Hardscapes are non-living landscape components such as pavers, fire pits, and outdoor living spaces like patios and decks. A yard’s living and growing aspects, such as trees, plants, and flowers, are referred to as softscapes.

Even though they are separate elements, hardscapes and softscapes complement each other creating beautiful, low-maintenance backyard landscaping. The advantages of adding hardscape elements to your yard are:

  • Property value can rise as a result of home additions that increase the amount of usable living space.
  • Save water as hardscapes, unlike grass, flowers, or other plants, do not require irrigation.
  • Lower maintenance since hardscape elements need less upkeep, and you don’t have to mow.

8. Keep It Contained

three pots with flowers in a backyard
Photo Credit: Needpix

Even if you lack the gardening skills needed to maintain a traditional flower bed, you can enjoy an outside space packed with healthy plants. Grow your plants in pots rather than the ground to create a container garden.

Plants in pots are simpler to maintain than ones in the ground, especially if you have physical constraints that prevent you from bending over. Container plants are ideal for Atlanta locales since they require less upkeep, and you can:

  • Bring plants inside when it starts to get cold out. Your plants will not have to endure the freezing, rainy weather of winter.
  • Create your own version of the State Botanical Garden of Georgia inside for a private paradise.
  • Improve your productivity and mental well-being while conquering the winter blues. Indoor plants have been shown to reduce anxiety and depression.

9. Magic of Mulch

close-up of bark mulch
Photo Credit: Needpix

Mulching is a practice used to protect the surface of your soil by covering it with organic or inorganic materials, typically around plants, trees, and bushes. Mulch keeps the soil cooler in the summer, protects from frost in the winter, and allows the soil to warm slowly come spring.

Mulching is an effective long-term strategy for conserving soil resources and beautifying the landscape, plus you may be able to get the mulch for free! In your landscape, a layer of mulch can:

  • Shield roots from extreme weather and keep soil temperatures stable
  • Save water, thus protecting your landscape and your water bill
  • Stop weeds from sprouting and enhance soil quality as it decomposes

10. Grow Ground Cover

Sweet woodruff, named after the sweet smell of its deep green foliage, is an excellent ground cover plant for shady gardens.
Photo credit: Pixabay

A ground cover plant covers the dirt so you cannot see it. A decent ground cover will block out the light, thus providing natural weed control. Ground covers are practical tools for designing landscapes. They are multi-purpose, drought-tolerant, low-maintenance, and add curb appeal.

With the help of ground covers, you can achieve the lush landscape you want without the time-consuming work of routine lawn care. Growing ground cover plants in the place of grass can save your Saturdays.

Your Atlanta yard will be a hit with the University of Georgia’s recommended ground cover options:

  • Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans): Bugleweed spreads swiftly and can be used to fill empty spots where grass has failed. It can withstand various environments and features blue spikey flowers that bloom from May through June.
  • Lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina): Best known for the velvety look and feel of its leaves, lamb’s ear is a hardy perennial that quickly spreads in full sun conditions. In the summer, Lamb’s year produces tall spires of purple flowers.
  • Sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum): Sweet woodruff is an excellent ground cover plant for shaded areas and gets its name from the sweet aroma of its deep green leaves. This mat-forming creeper with tiny white flowers enjoys moist soil but can survive drought conditions in the shade. Overall, it needs little attention.

11. Rock It Out

rock garden
Photo Credit: Pixabay

In terms of minimizing demands, a rock garden is similar to a hardscape. It fills vacant spaces with gorgeous stones or other features that require less time and effort to maintain. The distinction is that rock gardens have a more natural appearance and are usually easier to set up.

Using a combination of stones, drought-tolerant plants like succulents, and focal points, a rock garden can enhance your landscape by:

  • Saving time with less maintenance than a conventional lawn.
  • Creating interest year-round without waiting for winter to pass so your flowers can bloom.
  • Providing space in your landscape for a peaceful oasis. Add statues or water features for a calming, zen-like garden.

Plan Your Plot

To get started, you must understand two important things about gardening and landscaping in Atlanta: the soil and the climate. If you’re willing to work with the soil and Georgia’s humid subtropical climate, you’ll have fewer problems and more thriving plants.

Test the Soil: TLC for Good pH

Soil in and around Atlanta is classified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as “Southern Piedmont.” It tends to be clayey but has suffered badly from erosion and can vary greatly. You may want to test your soil to see how much garden lime or other soil-amending material you should add to give your garden the right start.

You can get a soil testing kit at the UGA Center for Urban Agriculture. For $15, they’ll mail you a test kit and a postage-paid envelope to mail the sample so they can send the results back to you. Make sure you include the type of flowers and produce you want to plant so that the Extension service can make recommendations accordingly.

Choose Plants Wisely

You want to choose plants that thrive in Atlanta’s humid subtropical climate. That means hot, muggy summers and winters that can get cold, but not for long. Plants, especially native ones, are adapted to Atlanta’s temperatures, so you won’t spend as much time fighting the climate to achieve a beautiful landscape.

Group Plants Together By Water Needs

That means keeping the thirsty roses and the drought-tolerant bougainvillea in different areas. This technique creates stronger, lower maintenance plants and saves water — which is good for the Earth and your wallet.

“Do not rely on normal rainfall; irrigate if necessary… Frequent light waterings are not advisable. They wet only the upper soil depths and result in shallow root growth and wet foliage and flowers, [which invites] diseases,” writes UGA Extension professors Paul A. Thomas and Bodie V. Pennisi. “Soaker hoses and drip irrigation systems work well with perennials.”

Take the time to do your homework, improve your soil, and choose plants that won’t flinch in the heat of Atlanta’s summers or die off in the few weeks of “real” winter we have. You’ll reap the rewards all year long.

FAQ: Low-Maintenance Landscaping In Atlanta

1. What Type of Landscaping is Easiest to Maintain?

Rock gardens are one of the most effortless landscaping features to maintain. Using drought-tolerant plants and strategically placed stones can create a yard that pops with very little upkeep.

2. Are There Cheap Ways to Improve My Landscape?

You don’t have to spend all your money to improve your yard. A beautiful landscape can be inexpensive yet have an expensive appearance. You can recycle materials from your home as planters, hang decorative lights, or try one of these low-cost landscaping projects.

3. How Do I Block a Nosy Neighbor’s View of My Yard?

A fast-growing hedge works for privacy, protection, or to define a section of your lawn. Living fences, often known as privacy hedges, are more than just a screen from nosy neighbors; they can also enhance curb appeal, provide a habitat for wildlife, and offer you a quiet retreat.

What is a Living Fence and How Do You Grow One?

What Are the Best Living Fence Plants for Your Yard?

How Much Does a Privacy Fence Cost?

When to Call a Landscaping Professional

If designing and building a low-maintenance landscape seems daunting, no worries. This is where local professional landscapers with experience and ideas can help you. Professionals can manage all aspects of the landscaping process, including routine upkeep.

Main image credit: Daniel X. O’Neil / Flickr / CC BY 2.0


Raven Wisdom

Raven Wisdom is a screenwriter from West Texas and a proud mom of two in an autism family. Self-described as "half-feral but mostly harmless," Raven loves houseplants, a good laugh, and furry friends.