8 Low-Maintenance Landscaping Ideas for Birmingham

Living in a warm climate means maintaining plants year-round, which can be exhausting, especially when you’re boiling in the blaring Birmingham sun. So, many homeowners choose low-maintenance landscaping ideas for Birmingham, including native plants, succulents, and grass alternatives.

Spending a lot of time working on the yard is a shame when you could be dining at Saw’s BBQ or hiking at Red Mountain Park. So we break down the best ways to achieve a low-maintenance yard, including prices and examples.

In this article:

  1. Plant Perennials 
  2. Cultivate Native Plants
  3. Mulch Garden Beds
  4. Add Sustainable Hardscaping 
  5. Conserve Water With Xeriscaping
  6. Mow Less With Groundcover
  7. Eliminate Mowing With Artificial Grass
  8. Savor Southern Succulents 

1. Plant Perennials

Purple Color Flowers with green leaves

Photo Credit: PxHere

All flowering plants go through similar life stages, but perennials repeat their life cycle, living for at least three years. In contrast, annual plants only live one year, so you must continuously replant your garden. Furthermore, many perennials can thrive even when only given well-drained soil and sunshine.

However, because perennials live for years, proper planning is crucial. Dividing a single plant into multiples controls the size of the plant, so its roots spread out and take in more water and nutrition. Smaller plants also provide greater flexibility with plant placement and garden design. The best time to divide your perennials is in the fall, about six weeks before the first frost.

Examples of low-maintenance perennials that thrive in Birmingham’s climate include the following:

  • Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida)
  • Azure Blue Sage (Salvia azurea)
  • Sweetbay Magnolias (Magnolia virginiana)
  • Sweet Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia subtomentosa)
  • Luna Red Hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos)

Advantages of perennials:

  • Better soil: Perennials live longer, growing deep roots that improve the soil’s structure.
  • Improved moisture:  Perennials often grow fuller than annuals providing shade to the soil and keeping it moist.  
  • Low budget:  Many perennials grow from seeds and live for several years.  
  • Time-saving: Think about all the time you’ll save when you don’t have to replant your garden annually. 
  • Beauty:  You can choose from a colorful cornucopia of exquisite plants that thrive in the Birmingham area.  

Estimated cost: Perennial plants tend to cost more than annuals, typically costing $10 to $100 per plant. However, many perennials can grow from seeds, and a package of single plant seeds is usually less than $2. To start a wildflower garden, you can buy a bag of mixed perennial wildflower seeds for $10 to $25.

2. Cultivate Native Plants

Alabama is home to some of North America’s most magnificent trees, flowers, and vines. Native plants require less maintenance than foreign species because they naturally thrive in Birmingham’s environment. As a result, flower beds filled with native perennials require minimal watering, fertilization, and soil amendments.

Native plants are also fantastic for Birmingham’s ecosystem because they support local wildlife and don’t disturb their habitat. Pollinators like butterflies and bumble bees prefer native nectar, while birds feast on native seeds. Birmingham’s native herbivores, such as white-tailed deer and eastern cottontail rabbits, enjoy native leaves, nuts, and fruit.

Examples of Birmingham’s best native plants include the following:

  • Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia W. Bartram)
  • Wavyleaf Purple Coneflower (Echinacea simulata)
  • Largeflower Tickseed (Coreopsis grandiflora)
  • Southern Sugar Maple (Acer floridanum)
  • Yellow Honeysuckle (Lonicera flava Sims)

Advantages of native plants:

  • Pollinator-friendly: Flowering native plants attract local pollinators, making them ideal for butterfly gardens or simply sustaining local bee populations.
  • Low-maintenance: Because they naturally thrive in Birmingham they need less care. 
  • Improved air quality: Native plants reduce CO2 better than foreign species.  Furthermore, because they require less care you won’t rely so heavily on gas-powered equipment.
  • Drought tolerant: Many native plants are drought tolerant.
  • Wildlife support: Native plants provide food and shelter to local wildlife.
  • Reduces pests and diseases:  Native plants tend to resist damage from local pests and diseases.  This makes them easier to care for by reducing the need for pesticide and fungal treatment.
  • Low budget:  You can collect native plant seeds from existing plants or join a local garden group that does native seed exchanges.  Birmingham Botanical Gardens has a seed exchange program, and you can find Birmingham Seed Bank/Exchange on Facebook.

Estimated cost: Most native Birmingham plants cost $20 to $150, but the cost depends on the type of plant, its stage of maturity, rarity, and desirability. For example, immature native trees typically cost $35 to $200, but a mature tree can cost as much as $1,850. In contrast, vines and shrubs are usually less than $50 each.  Many native plants also grow well from seeds, which can be taken from existing plants for free.

3. Mulch Garden Beds

Brown Color Pine Straw

Photo Credit: Pxhere

Mulch can save you time in the yard while dramatically improving the curb appeal of your Alabama landscape. Because mulch shades the soil, less water evaporates, allowing you to water less often. Additionally, mulch prevents weeds from sprouting by barricading the earth.

There are organic and inorganic mulch options, but in most cases, organic mulch is superior. As organic mulch decomposes, it adds nutrients to the soil. On the other hand, some inorganic mulches, such as rubber mulch, deteriorate the soil’s quality. Although both types block weeds and look pretty, organic mulch is better at retaining soil moisture.

Examples of organic mulch include:

  • Pine straw
  • Grass clippings
  • Wood chips
  • Hay

Examples of inorganic mulch include:

  • Rubber mulch
  • Gravel
  • River rocks
  • Landscape fabric

Advantages of mulch:

  • Improved soil: Mulch helps soil retain moisture, and organic mulch adds nutrients. 
  • Strong roots: It protects roots from extreme heat and increases root activity.
  • Reduced watering: Save time and money by watering your beds less frequently.
  • Less weeds:  When fewer weeds sprout, you can spend less time weeding and use fewer chemical herbicides.
  • Beautification: Both organic and inorganic mulch can be a visual delight, adding color, texture, and curb appeal. 

Estimated cost:  Most mulch costs $45 to $130 per cubic yard or $3 to $7 per bag. Organic mulch typically costs $50 to $150 per cubic yard, while inorganic is usually $20 to $400 per cubic yard. Straw, pine bark, gravel, and plastic are some of the most affordable mulches, while rubber mulch, crushed sea shells, and pine needles are among the most expensive.

4. Add Sustainable Hardscaping

Hardscape includes all the non-living, man-made structures in your yard, so adding more reduces yard work and improves your outdoor living experience. For example, some Brummies enjoy sipping sweet tea beneath the partial shade of a pergola, while others prefer gathering around a fire pit on a cool November night. 

Examples of hardscaping include the following:

  • Water features
  • Fire pits
  • Decks
  • Pergolas
  • Walkways

Advantages of hardscape:

  • Inanimate: Because they aren’t alive, they don’t need food, water, or sunshine.
  • Larger living space: You can use the extra living space to host a party, read a good book, or enjoy a family dinner.
  • Less work: Most hardscapes only require occasional cleaning and perhaps some annual maintenance.
  • Increased home value: Well designed hardscaping increases curb appeal so your home sells quicker and at a higher price.
  • Defining space:  When thoughtfully incorporated into a landscape design, hardscaping can visually or structurally define portions of your yard.  For example, you may have a dining area beneath a gazebo.
  • More time outside: Hardscape features make it more comfortable to spend time outside, any time of year. For example, you can cuddle by the warming flames of a fire pit or have a cold beer out at dusk while being protected from mosquitos by a screened-in patio.

Estimated cost: The cost of hardscape varies depending on the structure. For example, most fire pits cost $250 to $2,200, while you can expect to pay $2,100 to $6,000 for a pergola. A typical walkway ranges from $335 to $2,840, and a composite deck usually costs about $8,850.

5. Conserve Water With Xeriscaping

Derived from the Greek word “xeros”, which means dry, xeriscaping is a style of landscaping that requires little to no water. Examples include replacing a portion of the lawn with a rock garden and selecting native plants and succulents that require minimal irrigation.

By reducing water usage, xeriscaping saves you money and time watering the yard. Furthermore, xeriscaping typically requires no fertilization and very little pruning

Examples of xeriscaping include the following:

  • Gravel
  • Drought-tolerant cultivars
  • Native plants
  • Succulents
  • Rock gardens
  • Silt and sand

Advantages of xeriscaping:

  • Irrigation system:  It reduces your dependence on irrigation. For example, you won’t have to install front sprinklers if you xeriscape your entire front yard.
  • Conserve water:  You can reduce your utility bills and help the environment. 
  • Save time:  Xeriscaping is low maintenance, saving you time by decreasing your workload.
  • Less pollution:  The less you use gas-guzzling outdoor tools, the fewer pollutants enter the environment. 

Estimated cost: Including labor and materials, most xeriscaping costs $5 to $20 per square foot. Expect xeric plants to cost $9 to $70 and ground cover to cost $10 to $25. The average drought-tolerant tree costs about $300, and rocks typically cost $40 to $140 per cubic yard. Most landscape architects charge $60 to $175 per hour.

6. Mow Less With Groundcover

Even Birmingham’s best grass types require a lot of maintenance, but groundcover is a low-maintenance alternative to traditional lawns.  Groundcovers, like creeping thyme, add beauty, color, and fragrance to your landscape.  Best of all, the groundcover doesn’t have to be mowed and rarely requires fertilization. 

Examples of groundcover include:

  • Bugleweed (Ajuga)
  • Daylily (Hemerocallis)
  • Candytuft (Iberis)
  • Creeping phlox (Phlox stolonifera)
  • Shore juniper (Juniperus conferta)

Advantages of groundcover:

  • No mowing:  This is particularly helpful in areas that are difficult for a lawn mower to reach or too sloped to mow safely.
  • Erosion prevention: Groundcover reduces runoff, helping the soil stay in place.
  • Flood prevention:  Groundcover improves soil drainage and reduces the risk of soil compaction, which lowers the risk of flooding.
  • Save time: It doesn’t need mowing, aerating, and most other time-consuming lawn maintenance tasks. 

Estimated cost: Groundcover typically costs $10 to $25 per plant.

7. Eliminate Mowing with Artificial Grass

Is caring for the grass bogging you down? Natural grass requires regular mowing, fertilization, sunshine, well-drained soil, and much TLC. In contrast, artificial grass just needs occasional cleaning, allowing you to have a beautiful lawn that requires next to no work. 

However, artificial grass isn’t an exact match, and some homeowners prefer the feeling of natural grass between their toes. Although replacing your existing turf with artificial grass requires a hefty upfront investment, you’ll save time and money on maintenance. 

Advantages of artificial grass:

  • Inanimate: Because it’s not living, artificial grass doesn’t need food, water, or sunshine.
  • Eliminate pests:  Pests aren’t attracted to fake grass.
  • Conserve water:  Because it requires no water, you are helping the environment and saving money on your water bill.
  • Save time:  Artificial grass only needs occasional cleaning.

Estimated cost: Expect to pay about $3,000 to $7,000 to replace your lawn with artificial turf, which is about $5.50 to $20 per square foot.

8. Savor Southern Succulents

Succulents are fleshy plants (e.g., cacti) that store water in their leaves or stem. Because they stockpile water, they are drought tolerant and require minimal care. They can thrive indoors or outdoors and are standard features in xeriscaping. 

Succulents are also very forgiving, making them great for new gardeners. I grew my first succulent in the second grade, took it home, put it on the window sill, then forgot about it for months. Finally, I came back to a sickly brown plant, added a little water, and it flourished. That plant survived to see me graduate high school, even with inconsistent care.

Examples of succulents for your Birmingham landscape include:

  • Aloe vera (Aloe vera)
  • Jade plant (Crassula ovata)
  • Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera)
  • Stonecrop (Sedum spp.)

Advantages of succulents:

  • Drought-resistant: Succulents collect water from minimalistic sources, such as the morning dew, and store it for a dry day.
  • Easy care: Although giving them water in times of heat and drought is best, and they thrive in well-drained healthy soil, there is little else to do. 
  • Beauty: Known for hearty variegated leaves, succulents are very attractive.
  • Versatility: There are many shapes, sizes, and colors to choose.
  • Air quality:  They add oxygen to the air.

Estimated cost: Most succulents cost $10 to $75 per plant, but prices vary depending on the size and species. For example, most aloe vera plants cost $10 to $20 per plant, but large aloe plants can cost $30 to $150.

FAQ About Low-Maintenance Birmingham Landscaping

1. What is a cheap ground cover for landscaping?

Creeping phlox is an attractive yet inexpensive ground cover that thrives in Birmingham’s soil.

2. How do I beautify my yard on a budget?

Planting perennials and native plants from seeds is the cheapest way to start a garden.  Most seed packs cost under $2, and gardening groups often have seed exchanges.  You can save more money by using DIY fertilizers made from existing organic material, such as grass clippings or a compost pile. 

However, if growing it from seed isn’t an option, save money by buying less mature plants.  For example, purchasing a small tree that won’t produce fruit for years is much more affordable than buying a mature fruit tree.

3. What is a low maintenance plant for a butterfly garden?

Butterflies are attracted to the colorful petals of Birmingham’s native Azaleas, such as pink azaleas (Rhododendron periclymenoides). In fact, nearly 20 species of azaleas are native to Alabama, and these plants don’t require a lot of care. However, they attract swallowtails, grey commas, and several other butterflies. 

Professional Landscaping Services in Birmingham, AL

If you want to eliminate yard work, hire a landscaper to do it for you. Experienced professionals know how to maintain a lush lawn and gorgeous garden beds. However, even low-maintenance landscaping requires heavy lifting upfront, so contact a Birmingham lawn care pro to take that weight off your shoulders. 

Main Photo by: PxFuel

About Wikilawn

Wikilawn’s mission is to provide the best resources and information to help you enjoy your outdoor spaces the way you want. Whether you are a DIY, lawn-loving, gardening guru, or someone who wants help in picking a local lawn care professional, we can smooth your path to a beautiful backyard!

About Wikilawn

Wikilawn’s mission is to provide the best resources and information to help you enjoy your outdoor spaces the way you want. Whether you are a DIY, lawn-loving, gardening guru, or someone who wants help in picking a local lawn care professional, we can smooth your path to a beautiful backyard!