Fan-shaped leaves of the ginko tree

Slow-growing plants

These slow growers are totally worth the wait.

A plant is often slow growing because something’s wrong – it could be in the wrong place, in the wrong type of soil, exposed to too much sun or shade, inadequately fed or watered, or suffering from a pest or disease attack.

Some plants, though, are simply naturally slow to mature, and may take several years to flower or to reach their desired size. In the meantime, you can enjoy the small victories such as new leaves, or the first flowers.

A plant is often slow growing because something’s wrong – it could be in the wrong place, in the wrong type of soil, exposed to too much sun or shade, inadequately fed or watered, or suffering from a pest or disease attack.

Advertisement

Some plants, though, are simply naturally slow to mature, and may take several years to flower or to reach their desired size. In the meantime, you can enjoy the small victories such as new leaves, or the first flowers.

If it’s quick colour and fast growth you need, browse our selection of vigorous plants.

In them meantime, here are 10 slow-growing plants that like to take their time.

Hakonechloa macra grows in slowly expanding clumps that look beautiful beneath the shade of shrubs and trees.

Acers

Japanese maples are well-established slow-growers. This combined with their small stature makes them particularly suited to small gardens. You’ll find plenty of acer species in our Plant Finder.

Red Japanese maple leaves
Red Japanese maple leaves

Royal ferns

Royal ferns (Osmunda regalis) are deciduous, dying back to the roots each year. Clumps take a while to expand, but once they have, the display is one of magnificent, lush greenery. Discover more advice in our grow guide to ferns.

Lush green royal fern foliage
Lush green royal fern foliage

Daphne

Daphnes are slow-growing, but in time in they’ll produce some of the most richly scented flowers you can find. Plant them somewhere that they can remain indefinitely; they resent any root disturbance so will be tricky to replant.

Daphne 'Pink Fragrance' in bloom
Daphne ‘Pink Fragrance’ in bloom

Cacti and succulents

Most cacti and many succulents are slow-growers, originating from places where growing conditions are much harsher, making fast, vigorous growth harder to support. It makes it all the more rewarding when you sustain them for years to produce marvellous globose or columnar specimens. Take a look at these houseplants for sunny spots, for ideas.

A cluster of globes of <em>Notocactus magnificus</em>
A cluster of globes of Notocactus magnificus

Conifers

Most conifers are slow-growing, with the exception of leylandii and thuja. There are some lovely examples to consider, including the Korean fir (pictured) or our native yew.

Korean fir bearing cones
Korean fir bearing cones

Azaleas

These acid-loving plants are renowned for their colourful flowers. They can be deciduous or evergreen, plus, many have fragrant blooms to enjoy. If you prefer something less showy, check out species like Rhododendron viscosum and Rhododendron serpyllifolium.

White azalea 'Midsummer Wedding' flowers
White azalea ‘Midsummer Wedding’ flowers

Hakonechloa

Hakonechloa macra grows in slowly expanding clumps that look beautiful beneath the shade of shrubs and trees, eventually becoming a carpet of green. Discover more foliage plants for shade.

Golden clumps of <em>Hakonechloa macra</em> 'Aureola'
Golden clumps of Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’

Ginkgo

Ginkgo biloba trees are considered living fossils, having been on the planet, unchanged, for at least 270 million years. Though they can eventually reach a very large size, its slow-growing habit and disease resistance make it a popular tree.

Fan-shaped leaves of the ginko tree
Fan-shaped leaves of the ginko tree

Berberis

Barberries (berberis) are some of the least demanding shrubs you can grow. You’ll find evergreen and deciduous types offering colourful berries and flowers that only get better and better as plants mature. They make good burglar-proof hedges, too.

Pink and burgundy tiny leaves of barberry 'Harlequin'
Pink and burgundy tiny leaves of barberry ‘Harlequin’

Thalictrums

Thalictrums are elegant perennials, many of which enjoy growing in shade. Lots of thalictrums have pretty flowers that look like miniature starbursts – Thalictrum ichangense and Thalictrum filamentosum will give you a good idea of this.

Advertisement
Starry pink flowers of <em>Thalictrum delavayi</em> 'Splendide'
Starry pink flowers of Thalictrum delavayi ‘Splendide’

Peonies

Once planted, peonies have been known to take years to establish and flower, particularly if they have been planted too deeply. The flowers are fabulous, though, and make them more than worth the wait. Find out how to plant peonies.

A beautiful coral-pink bloom of peony 'Coral Charm'
A beautiful coral-pink bloom of peony ‘Coral Charm’

Don’t neglect your plants

These plants might grow slowly, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need any care. Keep them fed and watered, and keep an eye out for any pests, to be rewarded with healthy, albeit leisurely, growth.

A plant is often slow growing because something’s wrong – it could be in the wrong place, in the wrong type of soil, exposed to too much sun or shade, inadequately fed or watered, or suffering from a pest or disease attack.

Some plants, though, are simply naturally slow to mature, and may take several years to flower or to reach their desired size. In the meantime, you can enjoy the small victories such as new leaves, or the first flowers.

This is Secret Garden content

This content is exclusive to subscribers. If you are not a subscriber you can access this content by subscribing to Gardeners' World.

Unlock now