6 Low-Maintenance Landscaping Ideas for Memphis

moss covered rocks set in mulch and surrounded by bushes and plants

Be green in the Home of the Blues with a low-maintenance landscape. Don’t spend hours on landscape maintenance when you can be attending the Beale Street Music Festival or enjoying food and a cocktail at the Blues Hall. Make your yard (and your wallet) sing with these six easy low-maintenance landscaping ideas:

  1. Live more with low-maintenance perennials
  2. Bring visitors to your backyard with native plants
  3. Grow a drought-tolerant lawn
  4. Embrace xeriscaping
  5. Make it your space
  6. Be mindful with mulch

Want some help from an expert? Reach out to a Memphis Lawn Love pro.

1. Live more with low-maintenance perennials

light pink daylilys
Jim, the Photographer | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Your flower beds can be beautiful even if you don’t have the time or energy to maintain them. When planning what to plant next, keep an eye out for durable perennials that thrive in Memphis’ U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zone 7b. A durable perennial is one that requires little maintenance, is drought-resistant, and will return year after year. 

Advantages of planting perennials:

  • You only need to worry about planting them once.
  • You’ll save money that you would be spending on buying new plants.
  • You’ll save time that would otherwise be spent re-planting annuals.

Here we have compiled a list of three common low-maintenance perennials in the Memphis area: 

  • Daylily (Hemerocallis)
    • This wildflower is very easy to grow and is available in many colors. It blooms from spring through summer. While it is toxic to cats, it will draw hummingbirds and butterflies to your backyard. 
  • Yellow Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris)
    • This yellow-flowered perennial will make a bright addition to your yard. This succulent plant with heart-shaped leaves has buttercup-like flowers pop in spring. It grows best along streams and in marshy areas and will attract birds. 
  • Eastern Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) 
    • This easy-growing wildflower will attract many birds and butterflies to your yard. It has pinkish-purple flowers which bloom from spring to early fall. The eastern purple coneflower also has medicinal properties, such as acting as a mild natural antibiotic. 

While you look for more low-maintenance plants, be sure to check their water usage, if they’re disease- and pest-resistant, and whether they will thrive in USDA hardiness zone 7b. Instead of annuals, go for perennials. That way you will save money and time instead of worrying about replanting each year.

Estimated cost: You could save some money by planting these yourself, or you can save time by hiring someone to do it for you. The average cost of landscaping falls between $3.50-$15.50 per square foot.

2. Bring visitors to your backyard with native plants

After planting perennials, take it a step further and add some native plants. By planting flowers, shrubs, and trees that are native to the Memphis area, you are saving maintenance time and benefitting your local ecosystem. 

Advantages of Tennessee native plants:

  • Low-maintenance
  • Don’t require pesticides or fertilizers
  • Provide food and shelter to native wildlife
  • Add character and natural beauty to your landscape

Here are some popular native plants in the Memphis area to get you started:

  • Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia Hirta)
    • Black-eyed Susans are incredibly popular low-maintenance wildflowers. Their yellow flowers bloom in summer and fall. This ornamental wildflower will bring plenty of butterflies and birds to your back door.
  • Woodland Stonecrop (Sedum ternatum)
    • This is a creeping perennial with white flowers that thrives in damp, rocky woods. Once this plant is established, it requires almost no maintenance. 
  • Mountain Azalea (Rhododendron canescens)
    • Also known as wild azalea, honeysuckle azalea, and sweet azalea, this perennial shrub blooms beautiful pink and white flowers from March through May. Its native habitat is acid bogs but will grow in shaded, moist soil. 

Want to find more native plant options? Check out the Tennessee Native Plant Society or this list of native flowers, shrubs, and trees for the Memphis region.

Estimated cost: Again, you can save money by doing this yourself, or you can hire a pro to do it for you. The average cost of landscaping falls between $3.50-$15.50 per square foot, but since native plants are cost-effective you’ll end up saving more money in the long run. 

3. Grow a drought-tolerant lawn

close-up of centipedegrass
James Becwar | Wikipedia | public domain

While it may look simple, grass can be incredibly high-maintenance and water-intensive compared to other landscape features. You need to frequently water, mow, and maintain your lawn in order to keep it disease-free and looking good. However, there are a few other options to reduce the amount of time and energy spent maintaining your lawn. 

  • Low-maintenance grasses: The top low-maintenance grass types in the Memphis area are tall fescue, perennial ryegrass, and centipedegrass. 
    • Tall fescue: This cool-season grass is durable, adaptable, and disease-resistant. It requires little maintenance and can withstand a high amount of foot traffic.
    • Perennial ryegrass: This is a fast-growing, cool-season grass. While it does not do well in the shade, it can withstand drought and high levels of foot traffic. 
    • Centipedegrass: This is one of the best options for low-maintenance turfgrass. Centipedegrass requires very little watering, infrequent fertilizing, little mowing, and can do well in both sunny and moderately shady environments. 
  • Ground cover: A less-common alternative to turfgrass is planting ground cover. Ground covers are low-growing plants that spread horizontally. Ground covers require little to no mowing, less maintenance, and are less expensive than turfgrasses. Some of the best ground covers for Memphis include woodland stonecrop (sedum ternatum), leadwort (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides), and creeping raspberry (Rubus hayata-koidzumii)
  • No grass: Take your low-maintenance landscaping to the extreme by getting rid of your turfgrass entirely. Get creative with your new blank slate, and instead fill your lawn with native plants, rocks, mulch, or hardscapes. Initially, this renovation will be expensive, because you’ll probably want to hire a professional to help, but it will save you the cost of maintaining a lawn in the long run. 

Estimated cost: If you’re planting ground covers yourself, you will only need to pay for the cost of the plant. Otherwise, the cost of landscaping falls between $3.50-$15.50 per square foot. If you’re going with the grassless option and wish to do it yourself, you can rent a sod cutter for around $67 for four hours, not including a $150 deposit. If you’d like to hire a professional to remove your grass, it will cost about $1.50 per square foot

4. Embrace xeriscaping

A growing problem across the United States is an increasing demand for the nation’s water supply. Unfortunately, lawn care is a big contributor to this problem. Grass, flowers, fountains, and pools all use up a ton of water resources. Good thing there is a solution to this problem: xeriscaping

Xeriscaping (pronounced “zeriscaping”) is a type of landscape design that is focused on water conservation.

Elements of xeriscaping:

  • Landscape design

You might be juggling a lot when starting to reduce the water usage of your landscape. You’ll need to consider how you want your yard to look, how your backyard is used, the size of your budget, and how much effort you’re willing to put into the project. Don’t hesitate to reach out to landscaping professionals if you have any questions or concerns. 

  • Soil analysis

Soil testing is a very important step in taking care of your lawn. Soil testing tells you which elements are lacking in your soil, allowing you to make amendments and have the right information to pick the best fertilizer. Once you know your soil conditions, and whether it has the proper nutrients, you will be sure that your plants can stay healthy and thrive — avoiding disease and other expensive problems. 

There are two main ways for you to test your soil:

  • A DIY soil test kit is a cheap and easy way for you to test your soil at home. At-home testing kits are not as detailed, but they will usually tell you the pH level of your soil, in addition to the amendments you should make to correct the nutrient levels.
  • The best option is to send a sample to a soil testing laboratory. In return, they will send you a full soil analysis, allowing you a deeper understanding of what is going on beneath the surface. Reach out to the Shelby County Extension office to learn more about options for soil testing. 
  • Turf

Turfgrass is the most water-intensive element of your landscape. A more water-wise choice would be to replace your turfgrass with native plants or ground covers. However, if you enjoy having a lawn, do not fret. You can search for grass types with low water requirements. Opt for more drought-tolerant types such as tall fescue and centipedegrass

  • Plant selection

Look for native plants or drought-resistant perennials. If you can, plant trees and shrubs. They require frequent watering until established, and then require very little water. Succulents and ground covers are also great choices. 

  • Smart irrigation

Check your irrigation system to be sure that it is not wasting water. Water your grassy areas separately from other plants to conserve water. You’ll also be saving your plants from being overwatered. 

You don’t want to wastewater, so make sure that you’re not accidentally watering your driveway. Check that your irrigation system does not spray water outside of your lawn, such as on your driveway or the roadside. Use automated irrigation systems to get your watering done at the best time of day (between 2-8 a.m.) without having to get out of bed.

If you follow these xeriscaping guidelines, you will have a yard that you can feel proud of as you save time, money, and the environment.

Estimated cost: Cost largely depends on the size of your yard. If you have a large backyard, it’s a good idea to hire a professional landscape designer or architect to help. The average cost to hire a professional for xeriscape design is $3,298. For design implementation, the cost will range from $3.50-$15.50 per square foot.

5. Make it your space

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

Add some personality to your yard while reducing its maintenance with hardscaping. Hardscaping is considered to be any non-living element installed in your yard, such as walkways, outdoor kitchens, and firepits. Hardscaping will increase your home’s value and curb appeal and create a fun outdoor living or entertainment space for your family and friends to enjoy. 

Here are some popular kinds of hardscapes:

  • Decks
  • Patios
  • Fences
  • Gazebos
  • Outdoor kitchens
  • Fire pits 
  • Walkways
  • Water features

Organize your backyard with edging. Edging is a form of hardscaping that blocks off areas of your yard, such as flower beds and gardens. Installing edging around your garden is very beneficial, as it will help keep mulch in place, prevent invasive plants from spreading, and keep your grass from invading your garden. While it makes your yard look more organized, it also adds a touch of personality to your backyard and will increase your home’s curb appeal.

Advantages of hardscapes and edging:

  • Adds dimension and beauty to your yard
  • Edging keeps your garden in place
  • Decreases the need for lawn mowing
  • Add to your home’s value and curb appeal
  • Adds functionality and entertainment space

Estimated cost: The cost of hardscaping varies depending on the scope of the project. A large design and installation can cost thousands, or a small addition can cost a couple hundred. For instance, the average cost to build and install a fire pit is $700, while the average cost to install a patio is $3,595

6. Be mindful with mulch

Mulch is both a great aesthetic and functional choice for your backyard. It adds some character to your garden, while also adding nutrients, preventing weeds, and maintaining moisture.

There are two types of mulch:

  • Organic mulch: Organic mulch is the preferred mulch type because it adds nutrients as it decomposes in the soil. Popular kinds of organic mulch include wood chips, tree bark, pine straw, and compost. Since it decomposes, you will need to reapply mulch annually. 
  • Inorganic mulch: In contrast, inorganic mulch is made out of non-plant-based material and does not decompose. Common kinds of inorganic mulch include rocks and gravel.

Advantages of using mulch:

  • Adds personality and curb appeal to your garden
  • Organic mulch adds nutrients to the soil as it decomposes
  • Prevents weeds and invasive plants from spreading
  • Regulates moisture and soil temperatures

Estimated cost: The price of mulch is entirely dependent on the type of mulch you are installing. Pine straw mulch is on the cheaper side at only $40 per cubic yard, compared to wood chips which cost around $70 per cubic yard

Not sure where to begin? Reach out.

Low-maintenance landscaping is a great investment for Memphis homeowners who are looking to save time, money, and energy that they would otherwise be spending on lawn care services. Low-maintenance landscaping is great for the local ecosystem, your yard, and your wallet. 

Don’t waste your free time worrying about your lawn. Contact a Memphis lawn care professional to help create and take care of your low-maintenance landscape year-round.

Main Photo Credit: Pexels

Sav Maive

Sav Maive is a writer and director based in San Antonio. Sav is a graduate from the University of Virginia and is a loving cat and plant mom.