9 Low-Maintenance Landscaping Ideas for Charlotte

front house lawn with stone and drought-tolerant plants for xeriscaping

Whether your ideal afternoon includes an impromptu game of volleyball in Freedom Park, whitewater rafting with your family, or a stroll around the Mint Museum, we can bet it doesn’t look like you pulling weeds for hours on end. These low-maintenance landscaping tips for the greater Charlotte area will let you worry less about your lawn and enjoy more of that beautiful North Carolina weather.

  1. Shop local
  2. Zero in on xeriscaping
  3. Trade turf for ornamental grass
  4. Get grounded with ground covers
  5. Add winter interest plants
  6. Don’t miss mulch
  7. Automate your irrigation
  8. Define your space
  9. Plant perennials

1. Shop local

Native plants excel at growing in the North Carolina. They’ll still need some care, but they generally don’t need much human intervention to survive. They tend to be drought tolerant, pest resistant, and will do just fine without fertilizer, so you can spend more time stopping to smell the roses and less time wondering why they’re dying.

They also are wonderful habitats for your local wildlife, including butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees. It is a win-win!

Native flowers: For some seasonal colors, you might try black cohosh, butterfly weed, or wild hydrangea. If a pop of red would complement your landscape, go for cardinal flowers. All of these will thrive in the Charlotte garden.

Native trees: Redbud, American witch-hazel, and flowering dogwood are great options for small, native trees.

Advantages of native plants:

  • Less need for irrigation
  • Attracts pollinators
  • Lower risk of insect problems and diseases

Approximate cost: If you do the planting yourself, your only cost is buying the plants at your local nursery. If you need help, professional lawn care services for planting range from $4-$10 per square foot. 

2. Zero in on xeriscaping

xeriscape landscaping with a small fountain
Jeremy Levine | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Xeriscaping may sound like something out of a science-fiction novel, but it’s simple. It just means a landscape that’s extremely drought tolerant, doesn’t need a lot of managing, but will still add to your curb appeal. Though North Carolina gets a solid amount of rainfall, there are occasional dry spells that can take a toll on a normal landscape. 

The first step to xeriscaping is creating a good plan. Putting in more effort on the front end in the landscape design phase means less effort on the back end for maintenance. Consider how much sun or shade your yard gets, if you can use potted plants, and what kind of hardscape features you’d like to include.

Using native plants for your flowers and shrubs is a good choice because they’re generally more drought tolerant. Pea gravel is a popular feature, along with mulch and pavers. A dry stream can be a lovely addition to a xeriscape. 

Advantages of xeriscaping:

  • Low maintenance
  • Low cost
  • Thrives in shade
  • Uses less water
  • Provides natural beauty

Approximate cost: The labor and plants can cost you anywhere from $3-$15 per square foot. If you’re interested in xeriscaping and have a large area, a landscape designer can be helpful. They charge an average of $3,300 for planning, 

3. Trade turf for ornamental grass

The last thing you want to do on your day off is haul out the lawn mower. That’s where ornamental grass comes in. Ornamental grass is meant to grow long and carefree so you won’t have to worry about mowing, and most varieties are drought tolerant. Some sport lovely blooms in the summer and green foliage in the winter. 

Though they usually aren’t used to cover a lot of ground like turfgrass, they make excellent border plants for privacy, lining paths, and around water features like ponds. Try pairing them with ground covers (coming up next) for easy lawn maintenance. Most of these thrive in full sun, so consider that when deciding where to plant them. 

Ornamental grasses: Maiden grass, fountain grass, blue fescue, and pampas grass are a few options for low-maintenance grasses.

Advantages of ornamental grass:

  • Drought tolerant
  • Easy maintenance
  • Versatile
  • Requires less fertilization than traditional grass
  • Great habitat for wildlife

Approximate cost: The plants themselves range from $20-$100. 

4. Get grounded with ground covers

light pink flowers with green leaves as ground cover
Patrick Standish | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Ground covers are a fantastic way to fill space and add visual interest to corners with full to partial shade. They’re plants that spread horizontally and stay close to the ground. You can use them in garden beds, around trees or structures, or even to replace grass. Some will stand up to heavy foot traffic.

Not only is it useful aesthetically, but it also helps with erosion control too. Signs of erosion include bald patches, gullies, pavement cracks or exposed road edges, and excessive algae growth in ponds at the bottom of slopes. Ground covers work against erosion by clumping soil and stabilizing slopes with their roots. 

Ground covers: Beetleweed, Virginia sweetspire, broad beech fern, Virginia creeper, and lobed tickseed.

Advantages of ground covers:

  • Shade tolerant
  • Reduces soil erosion
  • Suppresses weed growth
  • Lower maintenance than turf

Approximate cost: If you decide to plant ground covers yourself, the plant is your only cost.

5. Add winter interest plants

No one wants to wait for spring to invite people over. With the mild winters in Charlotte, you’ll want to be able to sip hot chocolate with family and friends in a backyard you’re proud of. 

That’s where winter interest plants can make a big statement. You’ll want to look for trees labeled “evergreen” or plants that note they have multiple seasons of interest. “Interest” basically means the plant has something that makes it stand out during the winter months. This includes varieties of flowers, textures, branch colors, tree bark, and fragrances.

Vines: Carolina jessamine, coral honeysuckle, lanceleaf greenbriar, and sawbriar all keep their green leaves in the cooler months.

Flowers: Lenten rose, camellias, winter jasmine, and holly bush will bloom in spite of the cold. 

Trees and shrubs: Rosebay rhododendron, American holly, winter honeysuckle, and red cedar are all evergreen tree and shrub options. Japanese maple provides a particularly stunning show when temperatures drop and its leaves fall to reveal bright coral bark. 

Advantages of winter interest plants:

  • Appealing backyard throughout the seasons
  • Attract birds and other wildlife even when the temps drop
  • Way to incorporate native North Carolina plants

Approximate cost: Expect to spend anywhere from $20-$2,500, depending on the size and variety. 

6. Don’t miss mulch

If there’s a silent superhero of landscaping, it’s mulch. You’ll only need to replace it once a year, and you can go even longer if it still looks good. The triple threat adds color to your landscape, provides a helpful visual boundary for mowing, and feeds your soil with organic matter as it breaks down. 

Not to mention, it assists with weed control and locks in moisture. That means fewer afternoons pulling out unsightly weeds and running the sprinkler. Need we say more?

It helps to put mulch down in early spring before weeds get too established. Work a thin layer into the soil and then add 2-4 inches on top, being mindful to limit its direct contact with the plants themselves to prevent root rot. 

Advantages of mulching: 

  • Defends trees against harm from mowers
  • Adds dynamic color to your landscape
  • Retains moisture in the soil
  • Suffocates weeds
  • Reduces winter injury from low temperatures
  • Organic mulch adds nutrients to the soil 

Approximate cost: If you’re spreading it yourself, mulch will only cost you $3-$7 per bag or $15-$75 per cubic yard. Budget around $40-$70 an hour for labor from landscapers, though, and $40-$145 for delivery

Pro tip: Ask tree service companies in the Charlotte area if they give out free mulch. You might get lucky!

7. Automate your irrigation system

You leave town for a weekend just to come back and find your new flowers are looking a little sickly or your turf has all but dried up. Automatic irrigation systems mean no more tracking which plant needs what or remembering if it was the hydrangea or the hyacinth you watered. 

Using a hose can be imprecise, but a good irrigation system will only use as much water as necessary. 

Sprinkler irrigation is a popular choice for lawns and larger areas. Trickle/drip irrigation is great for home gardens. Both include timer options so you can sleep soundly knowing your lawn is getting the water it needs.

Advantages of automated irrigation:

  • Plants are watered at ideal times that minimize evaporation 
  • Precise and even application of water
  • Less cost down the road from reviving your lawn or garden
  • Can increase your home’s value

Approximate cost: Sprinkler systems can cost around $9,800 per acre. Drip irrigation systems range from $1,800-$2,500 per acre

8. Define your space

Arbor area of a backyard with a seats and a hammock
Patty Mitchell | Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Adding a defined space in your backyard is a low-maintenance option that makes entertaining easier and can increase your home’s value. Keep it simple by adding an elegant entryway like an arbor to help section your space while also displaying beautiful vines. 

Get creative with your hardscaping! An empty door frame with a trail of passion flowers around it can serve as a magical portal for your guests. If you’ve got a bigger budget, go for a pergola to add more real estate for climbing plants and shade during hot summers.

Vines: You can’t go wrong with native vines like wisteria, fox grape, Virginia creeper, or passionflower.

Advantages of defined spaces:

  • Easy space for outdoor living
  • Display for native vines
  • Simple way to section your yard and provide privacy 

Approximate cost: Pergolas range from $2,100-$5,900 on average. Arbors and trellises range from $100-$1,500 or more, depending on size and material. 

9. Plant perennials

What’s better than a plant that comes alive in the summer? A plant that stays alive year-round. Perennials are plants that regrow every spring, whereas annuals are plants that only live for a single growing season. Some perennials have a shorter bloom time than annuals, but it may be worth it to you if it means not having to worry about replanting every year. 

Perennials: Choose from daylilies, hostas, shasta daisies, lenten roses, and astilbe, and more.

Advantages of perennials:

  • Cost-effective
  • Only plant them once
  • Strong, deep root system 
  • Sometimes have multiple seasons of interest

Approximate cost: DIY perennial gardens will only include the cost of the plant. A professionally planted flower bed, on the other hand, will cost between $300-$1,500. Installing a new bed is an additional $1,000-$3,000.

The final word on low-maintenance landscaping in Charlotte

In landscaping, hard work doesn’t always mean better results. Charlotte homeowners can create a low-maintenance landscape without sacrificing your home’s curb appeal. 

These tips can reduce the need for pesticides and excess water, and make you the neighborhood hub for native wildlife. More importantly, you’ll have more time to actually enjoy your beautiful outdoor space.

Like these ideas but need some help implementing them? Find a Charlote lawn care pro to turn your yard into a low-maintenance landscaping wonderland.

Main Photo Credit: teofilo | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Rachel Abrams

Born and raised in Gainesville, Florida, Rachel Abrams studied creative writing at the University of Virginia. She enjoys volunteering at her neighborhood community garden and growing herbs in her New York City apartment.