Low maintenance plants for partial shade and slopes

We all want a lovely garden but sometimes we are too busy with work and family, or we simply don’t have the inclination to garden incessantly, so the trick is to choose low maintenance plants such as easy shrubs and then to underplant them with ground cover plants suited to the site. These will get by without much help at all, and are excellent for those difficult to manage areas of the garden.

When planting up a low-maintenance area, try and plant in odd numbers as this always looks better than even numbers, so plant in threes, fives, sevens and nines (depending on the size of your garden) and avoid making blocks and blobs, as it is much easier to look after groups of the same plant rather than lots of individual plants. Create ribbons and, if you can, aim for five or seven of the same thing and then place one lone plant away from the main group - but following the same contour. This looks natural and extends the eye, making the area look larger.

Partial shade is versatile and you’ll get away with most things here. You’ll be able to grow flowering shrubs and many will be deciduous, forming a perfect overhead canopy for spring-flowering plants.

The early flowering, scented viburnums are some of the easiest. They include V. x juddii, a smaller rounded shrub with dark green leaves and rounded heads of pink-budded white flowers that typically appear in April and May. V. x burkwoodii is more evergreen with glossier foliage, and it’s larger, and it flowers earlier. Sometimes the flowers appear by January.

You could also use Ribes sanguineum, the flowering currant. ‘Elkington's White’ is a new one, with an irresistible hint of green to the flowers, and ‘Pulborough Scarlet’ is a strident pink-red with fresh green leaves that join in once the flowers begin. Eleagnus × ebbingei will do well too and this grey-green evergreen produces scented flowers in November. Spring woodlanders, low-growing plants that flower in April, and spring bulbs that naturalise, will all thrive under deciduous shrubs.


These are difficult to garden on, but if the slope gets a reasonable amount of sunshine, ground cover roses can work really well - and they are healthy and floriferous. They need trimming back once a year but many use a hedge trimmer. The Flower Carpet roses are all excellent and there are pink and white forms. The County Series, including the white ‘Kent’ and the pink semi-double ‘Surrey’ are equally good. No deadheading, feeding or spraying is required because all these roses are bombproof.