Maybe it’s not as much fun as planting a cutting garden or garden full of romantic flowers, but foundation plantings matter. Foundation shrubs are those that you plant near the base of your house to soften the hard edges of the building and screen the sometimes-ugly concrete block or other building materials from view. An attractive bed of plantings adds curb appeal, but it should also be about planting what you love, not just throwing in the same old boring shrubs you see at any big box retailer. Foundation plants are a design statement, and they should reflect your personal style.
To ensure your shrubs thrive, read the plant tag or description so you know if it will survive winters in your USDA Hardiness zone (find yours here). Also, choose those suited for the amount of light the area near your house receives. For example, full sun is considered 6 or more hours, part sun is about half that, and full shade means no direct sunlight, or only some mild morning sun.
Most importantly, pay attention to the shrub’s mature size, and plant shrubs at least one full width away from each other and the house. We know that quart-sized plant looks tiny now, but in a few years, it can create a maintenance nightmare! Overgrown is never a good look, so save yourself (and the plant) some stress, and give it plenty of space to grow. While you’re at it, don’t forget to plant perennials and both evergreen and deciduous shrubs, which drop their leaves, so you’ll have an interesting display year-round.
Here are the best foundation shrubs to add beauty, texture and interest to your home’s entry:
1. Globe Arborvitae
These evergreens come in many different sizes, and the round forms are great for foundation plantings because you’ll have year-round color. Look for dwarf types that max out at 1 to 3 feet tall if you have windows that are low to the ground.
2. Panicle Hydrangea
Panicle hydrangeas are the easiest type to grow. Their gorgeous blooms start mid-summer, gradually changing colors as the weather cools. In many climates, the papery blooms stay intact on the plant until spring to provide winter interest. Look for dwarf types that stay 2 to 4 feet tall and wide.
While old varieties of spirea can become tall and gangly, new reblooming types stay neat and tidy, with some maxing out at just a few feet tall. Some types have foliage that emerges orange or pinkish, then changes to green, with white or bright pink flowers all summer long.
4. Shrub Rose
Shrub roses, which actually are quite hardy and un-fussy, add a pop of color and bloom from spring to frost. Plant as an accent or in a grouping of 3 or more for maximum impact.
5. Dwarf Reblooming Lilac
Lilacs have spikes of purple, pink or white flowers with the sweetest, most romantic scent, so it’s a great plant for near an entryway where you can enjoy their fragrance. Look for reblooming dwarf types, which top out at 2 to 3 feet tall and wide, for small spaces or beneath windows.
This classic shrub, which pairs well with most architectural styles, can be sheared into formal shapes or left in a more naturalized form. Look for dwarf types that stay small and newer types that are not as vulnerable to disease.
7. Siberian Cypress
If you want a low-growing evergreen that could care less about the cold, plant this hardy gem! Its lacey foliage looks great all year long, and it can withstand temperatures as low as -50 degrees F.
8. Inkberry Holly
This native holly with shiny, oval leaves maintains its cute round shape without pruning, so it’s a great low-maintenance substitute for boxwood. It’s great as a low hedge because it maxes out around 2 to 3 feet tall and wide.
This lesser-known native shrub hugs the ground and has pretty white flowers in spring, followed by blue fall berries. The foliage also provides nice, bright autumn color.
10. Dwarf Viburnum
Viburnums can become giants, reaching 15 feet or more in height, but dwarf varieties have the same sturdy personality in a more compact form. Most types also boast fragrant spring flowers, glossy foliage, and pretty fall berries.
This glossy, dark green evergreen shrub has clusters of red, pink or purple flowers in late spring. Pair it with low-growing evergreens that have a slightly different hue for an attractive contrast.
Need something to liven up your lawn on the darkest days of the year? Plant Pieris—this pretty evergreen shrub has little bell-shaped flower clusters that appear in late winter to early spring, providing much-needed color that time of year. It’s one of few shrubs that tolerates mostly shade. Look for dwarf varieties for small spaces.
This charming shrub with arching branches has the most exquisite bell-shaped flowers in late spring. Plant several together for best impact. Look for the low-growing types, which make a lovely groundcover.
14. Creeping Juniper
Creeping Juniper is a ground-hugging evergreen is great on slopes or at the front of borders. Look for varieties with a blue-green hue to mix up the colors in your planting scheme.
This shrub has shiny foliage and fragrant flowers that provide late summer and early autumn blooms, which is great for your curb appeal and for attracting pollinators. It also tolerates some shade, so it’s a good choice up against buildings. Read the plant tag so you’ll know its mature height, because some varieties reach 4 to 6 feet tall, while others top out at 2 to 3 feet tall.
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