Hardy Garden Plants: Best Plants For Forgetful Gardeners

Craftsman style wood shingle home with shrubs planted at side. Lattice on side of house. Wood chips on ground. Railway ties as garden feature. small green succulent plant in foreground.
Image by Solidago

By Karen Boness, Owner of Wild Willow Landscape Design, ISA Certified Arborist, Certified Permaculture Designer

For many of us life is just too busy. It is a challenge to keep up with everything. Work, kids, errands and household chores all beckon for our attention. Something has to give and it is often the garden – all that watering, weeding, pruning and plucking. Who has time for that? On a given crazy-busy day, we don’t even remember the garden exists. What all of us busy people need are plant and forget gardens.

What is a Plant and Forget Garden?

As a landscape designer/contractor, I’m cautious about the promotion of plant and forget gardens. When you install a new landscape, plants need attention. Their root system is young, the irrigation system is untested and growing conditions under the mulch are mysterious.

You should really keep a close eye on new plants for that first year and make sure everything is working properly. Nevertheless, I acknowledge that many people need hard-to-kill garden plants.

Best Plants for Forgetful Gardeners


There are a number of hardy garden plants to choose from. The most common feature of plants that thrive on neglect is their drought tolerance. Plants don’t care whether you prune or deadhead or weed, but if you withhold water from thirsty plants for an extended period of time, you’ll end up with dead plants.

There are loads of drought tolerant plant lists online. Keep in mind that many specimens on these lists are not really drought tolerant until they are mature and established. Also, what is drought tolerant in Georgia might not be drought tolerant in San Diego. Even the toughest hardy garden plants perform better with some water, especially if they are newly installed.

All that being said, I’ll highlight a few of my favorite hardy garden plants below. I also recommend that you contact your closest plant nursery or cooperative extension service and get their recommendation on local water-wise plants.


  • Oaks (Quercus sp.) – Fantastic habitat plants
  • Chinese Pistache (Pistacia chinensis) – Great fall color
  • Deodar Cedar (Cedrus deodar) – A majestic evergreen conifer



  • Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) – 4’ shrub with lovely lavender flowers
  • Yarrow (Achillea sp.) – This perennial has cultivars in just about every color
  • Stonecrop (Sedum sp.) – Low growing succulent with tiny leaves and many cultivars

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