Author: Alex Delaney

Landscaping is a major indicator of how long an A or B list property stays on the market. If your rental property looks shabby in comparison with the surrounding properties, a rental prospect will likely go to the house around the corner.

But you don’t have to spend a fortune to make your property look great. There are landscaping tricks that allow you to put out an initial outlay, but will keep the property looking great for years.

Properties go on the market all year round. But winter rentals look drab and dreary. Make sure your landscaping includes evergreens to keep the property looking fresh even in the dead of winter. And more importantly, utilize slow-growing evergreens that don’t require trimming.  You don’t have to create a yearly budget for buying and maintaining plants if you chose carefully.

Basic terms:

Annuals:  Not useful for rentals unless they freely reseed themselves, annuals produce a lot of color for the season, and then are gone for good. If you are selling a property, they may be worth the investment as the blooms will last from spring on into the fall. But their water and weeding needs make them a liability with rentals.

Bulbs: Daffodils, scilla, and grape hyacinths come back every year, becoming thick groups that can be divided and spread. Hyacinths create colorful beauty but do weaken after a few years. Tulips, with the exception of wild tulips, are only useful for one Spring. The short life span of bulb blooms makes these an unreasonable cost for rentals.

Perennials: Perfect for rentals, these come back year after year, often becoming thick enough to divide over the years to spread into new places, although many don’t need any maintenance at all.

Evergreens: These bushes provide relief in the drab winter-scape and a nice backdrop for other plants the rest of the year. These plants are the best investment a property owner can make to ensure a property shows well all year round.

Ornamental Grasses: While these plants die back in winter, they create dramatic backdrops to your landscape during the summer and fall.  From the 6 foot tall Pampas Grass to the 3 foot tall Pennisetum, these plants will survive the worst neglect a tenant can offer.

Vines: There are a variety of vines that thrive in sun and shade, producing a variety of colors. Vines tend to cost more than other non-shrub plants, but they can be useful in areas that need to be covered, such as an aging chain linked-fence. Be aware of the difference between annuals and perennials and know that most vines, even perennials, lose their leaves in the winter.

Useful Plants for Sunny Areas in Rental Yards:

Sedum: This low growing perennial creates a thick mat that keeps weeds out and creates a carpet of bright color in early spring. Once the blooms are spent, its’ usefulness continues with light green leaves. Plant this on hills, along walkways, or in front of beds. Once planted, they require no upkeep.

Phlox: Similar to Sedum, this plant has a low growing and taller varieties that produce a profusion of blooms in the spring, but keep their green leaves all year round. For rentals, choosing the low growers as they create a thick mat like the above Sedums and require no further upkeep.

Aesculus Parviflora: (or Bottlebrush Buckeye), blooms in early to mid-summer and creates a green backdrop all year round. Taking up a lot of space, this useful plant is great on hills and at the back of the gardens. While it likes sun, it will still bloom in part shade.

Rosemary: While this isn’t the prettiest plant at the garden center, it’s dark green foliage creates interest in the dead of winter and it spreads over a 3-4 foot area covering bare hills and creating a nice backdrop.

Useful Plants for Shady Areas:

Pulmonaria: This useful perennial has gorgeous speckled leaves all year long, and blue to pink blossoms in early Spring. It should be divided every 5 years or so but it will be okay if left alone.

Ferns: They will die during the winter. But these perennials give years of beauty in shaded areas and need no upkeep whatsoever.

Hostas: A very useful plant in the deepest shade. It dies back in the winter but creates a luscious look to a garden. While the flowers are inconsequential, the range of green to green/white varigated to solid white is perfect for dark corners. In addition, these plants can handle the dryness found at the base of many greedy trees and their thickness keeps out the weeds.

Hydrangeas: These common southern plants add color and sophistication to any garden area. Mature plants can grow up to 5 feet high and wide. They bloom in early summer, with intermittent blooms throughout the season. They lose their leaves in winter but will be back every spring with a vengeance.

Azaleas: Another southern favorite, these plants bloom in the spring, with some varieties producing a second bloom in the fall.  Some keep their leaves through the winter, creating year-round color.

Thuja: This is a rental property’s best friend.  Low maintenance, this bush has lush, dark green leaves all year round and rarely, if ever, needs pruning. Use larger varieties for a wind-break, or divider as some will get up to 50 feet tall. But smaller varieties grow slowly, only reaching 3-4 feet tall, some rounded, some columnar, and are perfect for rental property.

Cedar Bushes: Like Thuja, this plant has a wide variety of growth patterns. But the smaller bushes only reach about 3 feet tall, so they are perfect for covering unsightly foundations and helping define a pathway.

The Bottom Line

Rental properties aren’t meant to be showpieces, and spending money on landscaping is rarely seen as profitable. But adding basic plants to cover unsightly areas, and add texture and color all year round will help your rental property stand out, making it move more quickly in a tight rental market.