Does excessive lawn and landscape maintenance have you sleepless in Seattle on Saturday mornings? We might have the solution for you.
With these 12 low-maintenance landscaping ideas, you can have the stand-out landscape of your dreams without sacrificing your weekends to yard work.
12 Low-Maintenance Landscaping Ideas for your Seattle Yard
1. Make the rain work for you
Seattle is synonymous with drizzly days, so instead of letting the dreary weather rain on your parade, use it to your advantage with a rain garden. A rain garden runs on stormwater runoff, so you’ll never have to worry about watering it once it’s established.
Though a high-quality rain garden takes effort to design and build, it requires much less maintenance than a standard garden in the long run. Plus, a rain garden can help you manage flooding and erosion issues on your property.
When choosing plants for your rain garden, you’ll want ones that can tolerate periods of both drought and flooding, since Seattle has dry summers and wet winters. Some of the best rain garden plants for the Pacific Northwest are Oregon grape, beach strawberry, and daylilies.
2. Emerald City evergreens
Seattle’s sprawling, scenic evergreen forests have earned it the nickname Emerald City. Those same evergreens could be a key element in your low-maintenance landscape, too. Since evergreens keep their leaves year-round, you won’t have to spend your crisp autumn days raking and leaf-blowing if you plant these gems.
Evergreens aren’t all towering trees, either. There are many evergreen shrubs and ground covers that could find a home in your landscape. Douglas firs, western red cedars, and western hemlocks are some of Seattle’s most common evergreens.
3. Embrace Seattle natives
Seattle’s forests have a lot more to offer than evergreens. This area has hundreds of native flowers, shrubs, and trees adapted to the local climate, soil, and pests. If you use those natives in your landscaping, you’ll spend a lot less time on maintenance. Native plants need less watering, fertilizing, and pest control than non-natives.
You should be able to find the perfect native plant for any landscaping need. The diverse selection of Seattle natives ranges from colorful flowers like the clustered wild rose pictured above to ornamental grasses like blue wildrye.
4. Plant Pacific-friendly perennials
While you’re searching for the right evergreens and other native plants for your low-maintenance landscape, it’s a good idea to look for perennials, too. Perennials are plants that come back on their own every year after their dormant season.
With a garden full of perennials, you won’t have to plant new flowers every spring as you would with annuals.
The great news is that perennials come in all different colors, shapes, and sizes, and several of them thrive in the Pacific Northwest. Showy perennials that would do well in your Seattle flower beds include Pacific bleeding heart (pictured), red valerian, and milky bellflower.
5. Beat the dry season with xeriscaping
Even though most outsiders think of Seattle as the rainiest city in the country, locals know the summers here can actually be quite dry. Save yourself the trouble of frequently watering your landscape during the hottest months of the year with xeriscaping.
Xeriscaping is a landscaping method that uses drought-tolerant plants and hardscapes such as decorative stone to conserve water. Xeriscapes exist to survive droughts, so they’re some of the least thirsty gardens. By turning your regular landscape into a xeriscape, you can drastically reduce the amount of time you spend gardening in the summer and the amount of money you spend on your water bill.
Good plants for xeriscaping include succulents (yes, there are succulents that can survive Seattle winters) and drought-tolerant natives such as western wild ginger, western sword fern, and evergreen huckleberries.
6. Let automatic sprinklers do your watering
Automatic sprinkler systems are another helpful hack to get your garden through dry summers with little effort on your part. With an automatic irrigation system, all you’ll have to do is set a timer once, and your sprinklers will handle the rest.
Automatic irrigation is super convenient, but it has two major drawbacks: cost and heavy water use. You’ll have to shell out a substantial wad of cash to install a good irrigation system, and you can expect a much higher monthly water bill, too. Of course, using all that water isn’t great for the environment, either.
That being said, installing automatic sprinklers can still be worth the trouble. Automatic sprinklers will keep you from having to manually water your lawn and landscape, and they’ll increase your home’s property value.
7. Don’t underestimate the power of mulch
You’ve probably seen mulch in landscape beds all over the place — you might even have it in your own yard — but do you actually know what it does?
Hint: It’s not just a pretty backdrop for your plants. A layer of mulch in your garden can prevent weeds and help your plants retain moisture (yet another crutch through dry summers).
With mulch, you’ll spend a lot less time on your knees digging up weeds in the hot sun, or worse, in the rain. You also can install landscape fabric or an alternative weed barrier underneath your mulch for extra protection against weeds.
Keep in mind that organic mulches such as bark or wood chips will require more work, since they’ll break down into the soil and need replacement every spring. Inorganic mulches like rocks or rubber last a lot longer.
8. Hardy hardscapes
Do you like the idea of a landscape feature that can survive rain, drought, freezing temperatures, or whatever else Mother Nature throws at it? What about one that requires virtually no upkeep? If that sounds good to you, hardscaping might be the way to go for your low-maintenance landscape.
Hardscapes are elements in your landscape other than plants. Think paver pathways, stone retaining walls, or outdoor living spaces such as patios and decks. Hardscapes are great since they take up yard space you would otherwise fill with grass or plants that need tending.
Hardscapes are more durable than plants, they require far less maintenance, and they can increase your property value. The only downside? Installing them usually takes a lot of money and, if you choose the DIY route, a lot of work.
9. Rock your world
When it comes to low-maintenance landscaping, a rock garden serves essentially the same purpose as a hardscape. It fills up space with something aesthetically pleasing that you don’t have to take care of.
The difference is that rock gardens add more of a natural touch, and they’re typically easier to install than a hardscape made with pavers or a similar material.
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, a rock garden is a garden made up of various rocks, stones, and boulders instead of plants. A rock garden can have plants as accent features, too, but usually only a few. Naturally, a rock garden will require much less maintenance than a traditional garden full of plants.
10. Consider containers
Even if you don’t have the green thumb necessary to tend a traditional garden, you can enjoy an outdoor space filled with thriving plants. Instead of putting your plants in the ground, place them in pots to create a container garden.
Here’s why: Your potted plants will be much easier to take care of than plants in the ground, especially if you have physical limitations that keep you from working on your knees.
Aside from being low-maintenance, container gardens are perfect for Seattle landscapes because your plants won’t have to survive the cold, wet winter outdoors. Simply bring the pots inside when temperatures start to drop. That way, you won’t even have to worry about covering your plants for winter protection.
11. Stay grounded with ground cover
Ditch the lawn mower and take back your weekends by replacing your grass with a ground cover plant. Ground covers can give your lawn the lush, textured look you want without the hard work of traditional lawn care.
There are lots of different types of ground cover to choose from, some flowering with colorful blooms and some less conspicuous green varieties. Options suited for your Seattle yard include periwinkle, lily of the valley, and creeping sedum (pictured).
12. Artificial intelligence
If you aren’t opposed to “fakes” in your life, artificial grass is a great option for your low-maintenance landscape. It’s the most low-maintenance option on this list, actually, since it doesn’t require any care at all.
Here’s why: You won’t ever have to mow it, and you won’t have to ensure it gets the proper water and sunlight as you would with ground cover, either.
Another benefit of artificial grass? Your children and pets won’t be able to destroy it (unless they really try … which some would). Their precious little trampling feet can’t kill something that was never alive in the first place.
The downsides? You’ll pay a high price for artificial grass, and it isn’t the best for the environment, but it’ll definitely save you hours of lawn care for years to come.
FAQ About Low-Maintenance Landscaping in Seattle
What are the best low-maintenance plants for Seattle?
Native plants almost always will need less maintenance than non-natives. Other than that, the most low-maintenance plants for your yard depend on the soil type and the level of sun exposure.
The City of Seattle has developed a helpful guide for choosing the best low-maintenance plants for your property’s specific conditions.
How do you maintain your landscape in Seattle?
Without low-maintenance landscaping techniques like the ones covered here, your landscape will require regular watering, weeding, lawn mowing, and cleanup. Check out this Seattle landscape maintenance calendar for specific advice.
When to Call a Landscaping Professional
You might not be confident in your ability to design and install a low-maintenance landscape yourself, and that’s OK. This is where local pro landscapers come in, with expert tips and tricks. Pros can handle all parts of the landscaping process for you, including regular maintenance.
That’s right, the secret 13th method of low-maintenance landscaping is to hire a professional to take care of your yard for you. It might take a lot of work put in that paver patio, but you won’t be the one doing it, and that’s all that matters, right?
At the end of the day, the most important thing is that you spend your precious hours doing what you love most. Unless what you love most is yard work (in which case, why are you even reading this?), these 12 low-maintenance landscaping ideas for Seattle might be for you.
Main Photo Credit: Yinan Chen / Wikimedia Commons