Top 5 – Low or no Maintenance Plants

I’m feeling a little swamped with work at the moment and have very little time to garden at the moment.  In light of that I felt it appropriate to celebrate those plants that reliably produce no matter what.  These are the plants that don’t need much of a feeding regime, that will forgive difficult conditions, erratic watering and general neglect.  Some of them even conveniently replant themselves for you, saving even the bother of sowing seed.

In no particular order they are:

Chervil – I bought a chervil plant once – that was 3 years ago, and ever since I’ve had chervil.  Its growing amidst the strawberries at the base of an aging passionfruit, so its not without competition for nutrients or water.  It doesn’t seem to mind, instead it grows happily there in the shade and once a year it flowers, goes to seed and thus the next chervil plants are born.  There are many more of them now than when I started 3 years ago.  If only everything was this easy.

Rosemary – I actually don’t like rosemary much so I tried to kill the plant I do have.   I dug it up taking cuttings for friends all of which conveniently struck.  Then the original plant re-shot from some roots I must have missed so now I have rosemary again.   I never water it, I never feed it, I do prune it occasionally to give to visitors who enjoy it but otherwise it just goes happily about its business.  Really its the perfect plant, I just wish I could develop a taste for it.

Swiss Chard/Silverbeet – As long as you choose a green or white stemmed variety the growing experience goes something like this: Sow seed, seed grows, plant out seedlings if you sowed seed in punnets/pots.  Watch it grow.  Harvest leaves.  Enjoy eating leaves.  And that’s about it.  Now I’m sure you would get bigger and better plants if you gave it useful things like food, water and sun but I find it grows pretty well without much in the way of either fertiliser or sun.  It does need a bit of water though but you can’t have everything.

Parsley – Now I know that not everyone seems to have the same success with parsley but for me it just grows and grows.  Eventually it does go to seed (some of my plants are looking as though they are about to send up seed heads as we speak).  After it goes to seed it helpfully scatters said seed onto ground and new plants grow, and so on.  Once again its happy in sun or shade, doesn’t need much soil enrichment and as long as its got a reasonable amount of water its happy enough.

Rocket – There are quite a few salad leaves I could have included: sorrel, some types of lettuce, beets etc but for me rocket is the easiest mainly for its prolific self seeding qualities.  It also seems to need less water than many lettuce varieties.  Funnily enough I actually don’t have any rocket in the garden at the moment due to a conscious decision to remove it from the areas it had been growing the last few years.  Luckily this should be easily rectified as it tends to germinate fairly easily and grow quickly.  Hopefully I will find the time to sow the seeds.

What plants grow best for you in your garden?

The New Goodlife should have a Top 5 to explore, if not now then soon, so head over to check.

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45 Responses to Top 5 – Low or no Maintenance Plants

  1. Katie says:

    Dill has seeded everywhere at my place, ditto to Borage (and Parsley, but you mentioned that). I give my tomatoes very little care and they do really well. My rainbow chard was planted 2.5 years ago from a bought punnet. I assumed it wouldn’t last very long, but the original plants are still growing strongly and I harvest from them regularly, and it’s seeded everywhere as well (though most seedlings were killed indiscrimantly as they were growing with the soursobs I have resorted to spraying with glypho in desperation), and spring onions seem to live for ever and ever and ever until I pull them up and use them in cooking.

    • Liz says:

      I have never tried borage – what do you use it for? I wish my dill self seeded – it has occasionally but lately I have struggled to even grow decent sized plants let alone get them to happily reproduce. I love how long your chard plants have lasted – I usually pull mine when they produce seed heads but perhaps I should try and keep them going?

      • Nina says:

        I’d be interested to know some uses for borage, as well. Mine self seeds, year after year (the original I would have bought over 25 years ago!). The only thing I use it for is adding the flowers to a salad or decorating a cheese board or dessert. The flowers are a gorgeous blue and have a hint of sweet nectar and a light cucumber taste. When my daughter was little she would pick and eat just about all of them. It’s a wonder it ever got the chance to self-seed! The leaves are awfully hairy and I can’t imagine how they would be used.

  2. Patsy says:

    I have to admit with a shamed face that I have no idea what chervil tastes like! But do love rosemary; I use it in chicken soups and stews. You are right about “silverbeet” which we in the US call chard, it is usually quite easy to grow and gives a large harvest!

    • Liz says:

      Chervil tastes a bit like tarragon, lightly aniseedy. I enjoy it but its the type of herb I generally use in fairly small quantities and in combination with other herbs.

  3. Mark Willis says:

    Don’t forget Mint! The only maintenance you need to do for that is to restrain it.

    • Liz says:

      I grow my mint in pots so I do have to repot it a couple of times a year so for me it does require some work. Having said that I’ve planted some out in a spot that I actively want it to invade so I am hoping that it will make this list next year.

  4. Nick says:

    +1 to swiss chard. I put in the rainbow variety, and it just keeps giving and giving. It doesn’t seem to care about the weather, dry spells, extreme heat, or anything.

    Basil, tucked under my tomatoes, also tends to perform without a care. I’ll let a few flower for the bees, but otherwise a weekly razing is all that’s needed.

  5. For me, it is lemon balm and oregano and thyme. These three are super easy for me.
    I just got my Magenta Sunset swiss chard in the mail yesterday for fall planting. I bought it because you seem to like it so much, but now it seems that you don’t like the colorful ones? Is that true? I like a little bit of color and I have a spot that is part shade where I want to try it.

    Well, we will see. I hope to grow the red variety. If I have no success, I will go back to the green or white stemmed variety.

    • Liz says:

      I do like the colourful ones very much, its just that occasionally I have problems with them like mildew that I don’t have with the green or white stemmed varieties.

  6. Andrea says:

    4 of your 5 survive well in my garden with little attention, I also haven’t tasted Chervil either so thats another one to try.
    I LOVE rosemary and over the years(about 14) i have planted many different varieties,I have a large hedge that runs along our drive way and another along a old dairy wall also other plants dotted around the garden beds. In our climate(very hot over summer)they soldier on without a care,provide a safe home for wrens,and are a magnet for lots of bees so they help with pollination.
    A huge bunch of flowering rosemary sits in a lovely old white jug in my kitchen as we blog! Oh and asparagus is pretty care free too !

    • Liz says:

      My lavendar performs the bee magnet function that your rosemary does – I have to say I do enjoy the smell if I accidently brush against the plant.

  7. I agree with parsley, silverbeet (which I don’t even water!), rosemary. I don’t grow the other two. I tried rocket once, but it was decimated by some bug or other. I love it, so I should give it another go.

  8. Agree with your top 5 except like the others I haven’t tried chervill. I’d add sage. I’ve had a plant for five years in an old tin can and I do nothing with it. Come to think of it, don’t even eat it!

    • Liz says:

      Sage and onion biscuits are nice, otherwise I have to admit I use mine in meat based dishes so I understand why yours would see much chopping action. I have to admit I have managed to kill sage in the past so your doing well with your five year old plant.

  9. Louise says:

    Rosemary I agree is easy peasy! But I like it and often use it to flavour things… one favourite thing is to strip a hard wood branch leaving a few sprigs on the top and threading lamb onto the rosemary ‘stake’ and BBQing. But you do have to have lots of rosemary to do this but the flavour goes thru the meat.

    Rocket too is something that just does what it wants without any help.

    I agree with Crafty Cristy’s suggestion about thyme above and I’d like to add spring onions and eggplant. In any normal year I’d add parsley but I have had a lot of trouble with it this winter.

    I wish I had dill like Katie!

    • Liz says:

      I want her dill too. It must prefer the dry I guess. Eggplant is an interesting one and thinking about it it usually does well for me too. I just wish it would fruit a bit earlier.

  10. Nina says:

    My ‘toughies’ are: woody herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano, bay, sage), parsley, rocket, lemons, and of course, silverbeet! I don’t really think of borage as a herb but I’ve been reminded that it is and it looks after itself very well. Oh, and chives. They just keep coming back without any encouragement or pampering.

    • Liz says:

      I suspect I’m the only person in the world to not be able to grow chives well – I’m onto my 5th attempt – damn the black fly…

  11. I seem to have best of luck with the alliums — chives, walking onions, welsh onions, garlic chives. Have yet to figure out how to get things to reseed, it’s survival of the fittest out there…

    • Liz says:

      I do like alliums and in retrospect I probably could have included one, except for the problems I have with black aphids (or perhaps its black fly – is there a difference?), glad they do well for you in your extremes.

  12. rowena says:

    We planted rosemary not only for their resilience but also to separate our property from the neighbors! Great post, as it shows how different a plant behaves for each gardener. Chervil and parsley do their minimum best for me but perhaps it’s because I grow them in pots? The first rosemary that we planted 7 years ago serves as a hideout for my pups who love to crawl under the low-lying branches. Rocket, or rucola as it’s called here, get eaten up by bugs although when I lived in Hawaii, it grew like weeds! The only thing I haven’t tried is chard, and again this is because I fear that the bugs will wipe me out. What really grows without any help are my shiso plants. They keep reseeding themselves every year and end up in places where they never were before. I just wish I had more ways of using them.

    • Liz says:

      Shiso grows really well for me too. I have never had bugs attack my chard – they are more than happy to help themselves to everything else, so it may be worth a go.

  13. Hi Liz, I have a few plants that are thriving in this heat: basil (grows like crazy!), parsley (on the north side in the shaded area), rosemary, sage, thyme, and sorrel. Hot peppers are doing well, but the rest of my garden is dead. I planted dill two weeks ago, and was painfully watching how new seedlings died in the heat (I watered it and planted it on the north side, but still was too hot for it to survive). So my only garden now is actually indoor sprout garden…

  14. Leanne Cole says:

    That is a great post Liz, always good to know what you can grow without much trouble. Thanks. I hope you get some time soon.

  15. Katie says:

    Borage to attract pollinators to the garden 🙂 You can eat the flowers too, though I haven’t tried them yet, I’ve seen them used as a garnish by chefs. It’s a super pretty plant when in flower, though I am a bit concerned it’s going to take over my front garden within a year at the rate it’s growing!

  16. Wendy says:

    too bad you couldn’t manage to kill your rosemary – ha ha!! Those are the biggies for me too. I generally do really well with peppers, but everything is doing very poorly this year. I’m only now seeing a couple of green cayennes.

  17. kitsapFG says:

    Potatoes and swiss chard are two of my all time dependable and reliably productive food producers in the garden. Both are no fuss and can be ignored when needed. Raising my glass to honor the low maintenance champions of our food production gardens!

    • Liz says:

      Potatoes – great suggestion. I harvested some today and you’re absolutely right I’ve done nothing to them at all since I planted them about 4 months ago…

  18. The Shroom says:

    I always have trouble with parsley – I have to replace it continuously, probably overwatering it, which is quite easy given our dry climate (tend to think it as thirsty as the other vegetables when it ain’t) 🙂

  19. Jo says:

    I think curly kale is really easy, just pop it in the ground and it produces without many problems. The best thing is that it’s rarely attacked by pests. Just to let you know, I’ve awarded you the One Lovely Blog Award, details on my blog. I hope you will accept it but understand if you’d prefer not to. I just want to let you know that I enjoy reading your blog.

    • Liz says:

      I haven’t grown curly Kale before but I have to admit that the types I have grown – Cavolo Nero and a Russian red type have both been easy too, something I managed to overlook compiling the list… Thankyou so much for the award I really, really appreciate it.

  20. Kale does very well for us in Northern California. As does rosemary. Our oregano is out of control.

    Add me to the list of people who have never experienced chervil.

    Chard is easy to grow, but we struggle with leaf miners.

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