Midwest Plant Recommendations for a Drought-Proof, Hardy, Rabbit Proof and Low Maintenance Landscape

We worked with Brian’s brother, Chris, who owns W Landscapes, to help us not only create a beautiful yard but also practical for our Midwest Minnesota climate. Considering drought-proof, hardy, rabbit proof and low maintenance plantings with long blooms were top of mind.

Front door of our 1927 Tudor home

Similar Urn Planters (ours are no longer available)

Our 1927 Tudor home has a cottage feel. We wanted the landscape design to reflect it with some extra privacy since we don’t technically have a true backyard. Our backyard is a narrow spot where we have our low maintenance garden (read about that here). We have a patio to the right, small side yard to the left and a front yard. When we first moved in back in late 2011, the front and side yard were not useable due to the sloping.

BEFORE: Listing Photo of the front yard prior to installing the retaining wall

Once we added a retaining wall, it felt much more private and best of all, we can actually hang out in our yard!

AFTER: with the retaining wall

Our home is north facing. Over the years, we’ve worked with Chris, including building our retaining wall to create usable space for our growing family. Chris has been landscaping for over 3 decades so we trust him! Below are plants, trees and blooms that he recommended for our yard. Please take into consideration your amount of sunlight and type of soil when making your selections. I also asked my Instagram community for their recommendations which you will find at the very end.

Plant Recommendations for a Drought-Proof, Hardy, Rabbit-Proof and Low Maintenance Landscape with Long Blooms

Note: Even with plants labeled as rabbit-proof, it’s not 100% a guarantee. Chris said that rabbits have been a big issue this year. If you notice them snacking on your yard, you may consider spraying with this repellent that is safe for people, pets and plants.

1) Russian Sage

Russian Sage is super low maintenance. You just cut back each year because they can grow to be really tall. But their color and fragrance is delightful!

Photo from Plant Addicts

Photo from Plant Addicts

2) Arborvitae

Arborvitaes help give our landscape a traditional classic look. They also help with privacy when lined up. You’ll want to make sure you cover them with burlap for the first 2-3 years when winter approaches to protect them from the cold and rabbits gnawing at the bottom. Once they’re more established, you won’t need to cover them but may still want to wrap the bottom from the rabbits or use this repellent that is safe for people, pets and plants.

*This is one plant that is not rabbit proof on our list but we really wanted them for their look and privacy.

Photo from The Tree Center


Photo from The Tree Center

3) Allium

These are super easy to maintain and will come back year after year. Their bright purple colors give life to our yard.

Photo from White Flower Farm


Photo from White Flower Farm

4) Prairie Dropseed Grass

Prairie Dropseed Grass are perfect for mulched areas where you want greenery but don’t want the hassle of mowing it.

Photo from Winnipeg Free Press


Photo from Winnipeg Free Press

5) Nepeta Cats Pajama aka Catmint

I love the lush purple lining our steps leading to the front door! They are growing so well and we didn’t have to do anything. Easy and pretty!


Photo from Nature Hills

6) Heuchera Carmel

If you want some warm color in your yard, these are perfect. I’m still trying to decide how I feel about this autumnal color around our Miss Kim Lilac.

Photo from Fine Art America


Photo from Fine Art America

7) Autumn Joy Sedum

While I wanted our front yard to have a more purple color scheme, I didn’t want the design to look flat. I love the beautiful blush color of the Autumn Joy Sedum. They’re basically tall flowering succulents. You can deadhead them after the winter.

Photo from Horlings Plants

Photo from Horlings Plants

8) Balmy Rose Monarda aka Bee Balm

If you’re looking for ground covering plants with bright pink, these will do great!

Photo from Vans Greenhouse


Photo from Vans Greenhouse

9) Hellen von Stein Stachys

In areas where we’ve mulched, we have these spread out to add variety.

Photo from Rare Roots

Photo from Rare Roots

10) Boxwood

Boxwood seems to have a bit of a mixed review amongst my Instagram community. A few had a hard time having them come back the year after it was planted. However, lots had success with them including us. We have a row of these planted in our front yard along the fence and all but one flourished. The one isn’t completely dead so there’s still hope. Boxwoods are simply classic.

11) Miss Kim Lilac

Here in Minnesota, true spring starts for me when I see and smell the lilacs! We have two Miss Kim Lilac trees planted right up front and they are doing amazing this year. They are beginning to bloom and are so lovely!

Photo from Spring Hill Nursery

Photo from Spring Hill Nursery

12) Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangeas

My love for hydrangeas run deep! These won’t bloom until later in the summer and go into late fall. I loved clipping them from our neighbor’s yard and now we have our own! These can really grow in size so I’m excited! Plus they look magnificent when dried and make the perfect natural fall decor.

Photo from Gareden Gab


Photo from Garden Gab

13) Limelight/Little Lime Hydrangeas

Limelights or Little Limes are simple beauties. We have these along the side and front of our home and they nicely cover the water meters and water spigot. Their blooms are slightly smaller than the Vanilla Strawberry hydrangeas.

Photo from Fast Growing Trees

14) Creeping Phlox

This was recommended to us from Chris to plant out front outside our fence as a ground cover trailing over our stone retaining wall. I was unsure of the bright pink with all the purple so we decided to hold off. Although I’m now reconsidering!

Photo from Gardenia


Photo from Gardenia

15) Lamium orchid frost

These are another easy great filler for mulched areas. Like the Hellen von Stein Stachys, they act as fillers to give color and variety on the ground.

Photo from Centerton Nursery


Photo from Centerton Nursery

16) Blackbeard Penstemon

These provide color and height in mulched areas. I love the deep moody green from their stems and leaves.

Photo from Walters Gardens


Photo from Walters Gardens

Recommendations from My Instagram Community of Tried and True Plants that are Drought-Proof, Hardy, Rabbit Proof and Low Maintenance for the Midwest

  • Limelights Hydrangeas**

  • Hostas (the most low maintenance of all)**

  • Lenten Roses

  • Peonies**

  • Azaleas

  • Sedum**

  • Daylilies/Lilies*

  • Astilbe (we have a few of these)**

  • Clematis

  • Ferns

  • Delphiniums

  • Annabelle, Limelight Hydrangeas**

  • Coneflowers**

  • Knock Out Roses

  • Burning Bush

  • Boxwoods**

  • Japanese Maple

  • Catmint**

  • Salvia**

  • Bleeding Hearts**

  • Phlox

  • Climbing Roses

  • Knockout Roses

  • Rudbeckia

  • Russian Sage**

  • Begonias

  • Lily of the Valley

  • Heuchera

  • Anemone

  • Alliums**

  • Echinacea

  • Arborvitaes

  • Autumn Joy**

  • Lilacs

  • Bee Balms**

  • Spirea

  • Iris

**Multiple Recommendations

Choosing native plants will help your yard thrive. Your local nurseries and garden center will also have a ton of knowledge. Yard work can take up a lot of time. Choose plants that are drought-proof, hardy, rabbit proof and low maintenance so you can spend more time enjoying your yard.

Most of these plants were put in last fall. The hydrangeas and alliums have not bloomed yet but it’s nice to see the Miss Kim Lilacs, catmint and caramel heuchera show their colors.

The key to a beautiful yard in the Midwest is to have a variety of plants with blooms throughout the season. That way you’ll have some color from early spring all the way to late fall. Make sure to properly water your yard. We invested in a sprinkler system with rain sensor and that has really helped.

I’ll share updated photos of our yard once our plants are more in bloom. Hope this post is helpful to you so you can be confident to tackle your yard!

Yard Essentials

Sweetest Regards, Patti