7 Low-Maintenance Landscaping Ideas for Little Rock 

Close-up of a white sweetbay magnolia flower

The last thing you want to be doing during a hot Arkansas summer is laboring away in your backyard. Turn your landscape into a low-maintenance oasis with our tips for saving you money, energy, and precious afternoons. 

1. Xeriscape

When it comes to low-maintenance landscaping, xeriscaping is king. Keeping thirsty plants watered is one of the most demanding parts of maintaining a yard, so why not invest in a drought-tolerant, water-wise landscape design? 

A well-designed xeriscape can thrive on rainfall alone with no supplemental water. That doesn’t mean tumbleweeds are rolling across your front yard; xeriscapes can be lush and colorful.

Options for xeriscaping:

  • Drought-resistant or drought-tolerant plants 
  • Succulents and cacti
  • A rock garden
  • Mulch
  • Hardscaping elements like pea gravel, walkways, and patios
  • A dry stream

Advantages of xeriscaping: 

  • Lower water bill
  • Benefits the environment
  • Thrives in shady areas

Approximate cost: Labor and plants can cost between $3 and $15 per square foot. A landscape designer can help plan your xeriscape for an average of $3,300. 

2. Get rid of grass

We get it: A perfect green turf seems like the pinnacle of landscaping success. But your backyard can be just as beautiful (if not more so) without the headache of mowing and maintaining grass. A traditional lawn needs constant watering, fertilizer, herbicide, and manual labor. Put the mower away for good and replace it with artificial turf or ground cover

Artificial grass

Artificial turf is a fantastic replacement for grass if you like the look of a thick carpet of green without dealing with drought, pests, and diseases. You’ll spend more up front, but the time and energy saved in the long run will be worth it. 

Plastic heat-resistant fibers weave into a backing and attach to a shock-absorbing pad to make a layer of artificial turf. The only maintenance is weekly raking to pick up debris and semi-regular washing with an antibacterial solution. 

Advantages of artificial turf: 

  • Color and thickness are customizable
  • Will stand up to Arkansas heat
  • Fire-resistant options available

Approximate cost: A professional will install artificial turf for $3.50 to $15.50 per square foot including materials and labor. Artificial grass costs between $5 to $19 per square foot. 

Ground cover

Another great option is ground cover. Ground cover can give a wilder, more natural look than artificial grass while still providing plenty of verdant color. You can plant flowering ground cover and ground cover that will hold up to plenty of foot traffic. 

Ground cover options include: bugleweed, pachysandra, carpet sedum, creeping phlox, and dwarf Solomon’s seal.

Advantages of groundcover: 

  • Much more shade tolerant than grass
  • Stabilizes soil
  • Suppresses weeds 
  • Requires less water and maintenance than turfgrass 

Approximate cost: Expect to spend between $3 and $12 per square foot covering your lawn with ground cover. 

3. Choose native plants

A native plant is a wildflower, tree, shrub, or vine that grows wild in the Little Rock area. You might think that means they’re scruffy or unkempt, but Arkansas native plants are just as beautiful and elegant as imported cultivars. 

Because these plants have spent centuries adapting to the local environment, they generally require less maintenance. Many can survive on the area’s rainfall, in poor soil, and with no fertilizer. 

  • Native flowers: Try blue star, tickseed, and butterfly weed for a range of colors and heights. 
  • Native vines: Plant netleaf leather flower, yellow passionflower, or wild yam next to fences and trellises. 
  • Native shrubs: American beautyberry, azalea, and Florida anise are great options for shrubs and hedges.
  • Native trees: Sweetbay magnolia, winged sumac, and American holly will thrive in your Little Rock yard. 

For more information, check out Arkansas Native Plant Society’s collection. 

Advantages of native plants: 

  • Attract pollinators like bees, beautiful butterflies, and songbirds
  • Save money on water and fertilizer
  • More resilient to extreme weather

Approximate cost: Your only expense is the plants themselves if you install them yourself. Professional planting services range from $4 to $10 per square foot. 

4. Add hardscapes

Showy flowers draw people’s attention the most, but hardscaping is what pulls it all together. A vine-covered trellis, well-placed pathway, or handmade bench can take your landscape from good to magical. 

The best part? Hardscaping elements don’t need weekly watering. Wood elements may need annual staining, and patios and decks can benefit from a yearly pressure wash, but the nonliving parts of your yard need much less maintenance than plants. 

Hardscaping options: 

  • Fire pits
  • Concrete pavers
  • Pergolas and arbors
  • Patios

Advantages of hardscaping:

  • Helps define your space
  • Opportunity to weave in different textures and materials
  • Creates outdoor living spaces
  • Saves time and energy on maintenance
  • Increases your home’s curb appeal and value

Don’t forget about lighting, either. String lights set the mood for dinner parties in outdoor living spaces; spotlights showcase beautiful trees; lanterns offer diffused light in dark corners. 

Approximate cost: The cost of hardscaping depends on the project. A patio costs $3,500 on average while pavers cost between $1 and $15 per square foot.

5. Automate irrigation

Juggling work, family, your kids’ activities, and remembering to turn on your sprinkler? Take one thing off your to-do list by automating your irrigation system. 

Spraying a hose on your plants can be imprecise and wasteful. Not to mention, most plants don’t like getting their leaves wet. Sprinkler systems are a good choice for lawns, while drip irrigation is perfect for flower beds and vegetable gardens. Got a tree or shrub that’s nowhere near other plants? Try a bubbler. 

Sprinklers, drip systems, and bubblers have timer options available as well as seasonal adjustment features. That means they automatically decrease during colder months (when most plants aren’t actively growing) and increase during summer months (when plants are usually thirstiest). 

Advantages of automated irrigation:

  • Plants are watered before dawn to minimize water loss
  • Adjusts to seasons 
  • Better chances of plant survival means more money saved
  • Can increase the value of your home

Approximate cost: Professionally installed drip irrigation generally costs between $1.50 and $4.75 per square foot. A sprinkler system costs between $1,715 and $3,520 for the average home.

6. Plant perennials

If you’re looking to tighten up your landscape maintenance, perennials can’t be missed. The term “perennial” refers to plants that survive all seasons in your climate, compared to annuals which only last one growing season. Some perennials can survive for up to 100 years — that’s a pretty great return on investment. 

Perennials for Arkansas:

  • Hosta
  • Garden phlox
  • Clematis
  • Abelia
  • Crape myrtle
  • Hydrangea 

Make sure you choose perennials that thrive in your landscape’s available soil (quality and pH), sun, and USDA Hardiness Zone. Just because they can grow back doesn’t mean they will if they’re planted in the wrong conditions. 

Most perennials grow slowly from seed (and require more care during this phase), so you may want to spring for young plants. This will up your initial costs, but remember what you’ll save in the future. 

Advantages of perennials: 

  • More bang for your buck
  • Only one planting session (meaning time saved for you or money saved on labor costs)
  • Some provide multiple seasons of interest

Approximate cost: If you do the planting yourself, the only cost is the plants. Prices for perennials range widely, from $5 for a small flower to $150 for a young tree. Professional landscaping services cost between $4 and $10 per square foot. 

7. Mulch

Mulch is one of the easiest ways to get your landscape to do the work for you. Usually, mulch summons up images of wood chips, but it’s really anything that you can spread over your soil to create a top layer like the one that naturally occurs in forests.

Mulch helps retain moisture, meaning less supplemental watering, and tamps down weeds. Apply a 2-4 inch layer in early spring before weeds get established, leaving a few inches of empty space around the plant itself. Mulch’s temperature control abilities will especially help during hot Arkansas summers. 

Organic mulches have the benefit of breaking down and returning nutrients to the soil, while inorganic mulches won’t need to be replaced and are usually more fire resistant.

Organic mulch options: 

  • Straw
  • Grass clippings
  • Pine needles
  • Compost
  • Bark

Inorganic mulch options:

  • Rubber pellets
  • Brick chips

Advantages of mulching:

  • Visual boundary to prevent mowers from harming trees
  • Suppresses weeds
  • Prevents injury from extreme temperatures
  • Adds color to your landscape
  • Organic mulch increases the nutrient value and drainage capacities of soil 

Approximate cost: Mulch will only cost you $3-$7 per bag or $15-$75 per cubic yard if you spread it yourself. Professional installation costs $40-$70 an hour and $40-$145 for delivery

Work with your landscape

What really makes landscaping hard is when you work against your land instead of with it. What do we mean by that? A lot less work is required down the line if you take time to assess the characteristics of your property and design a landscape that uses those characteristics to its advantage. 

A good place to start is taking stock of the size of your landscape, its soil, the sunlight it receives, any slopes present, and what its climate is like.

For example:

  • If you have poor soil but want to grow a cutting garden or an edible garden (both of which require rich, fertile soil), consider building a raised garden bed where you can control the soil quality. 
  • If you have a north-facing yard, choose plants that can tolerate shade, and vice versa for a south-facing yard. 
  • If you have any slopes, plant water-loving plants at the bottom and plants that prefer drier roots at the top. 

Call a pro

Low-maintenance landscaping still requires time and effort to set up. You don’t have to take it on yourself if you don’t have the time. Hire a Lawn Love professional to install plantings, build hardscapes, replace grass, and perform seasonal lawn care. 

Main Photo Credit: Plant Image Library | Flickr | CC BY-SA 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.