15 best foundation plants for your home's facade

15 best foundation plants for your home's facade

Foundation plantings are often overlooked and underappreciated, but they don't have to be utilitarian and boring. The right foundation plants add instant appeal by providing color, texture and structure. A mix of evergreens and deciduous plants including small shrubs, perennials and ground covers can make a foundation planting base interesting rather than monotonous.

Factors to consider when choosing foundation plants

Although there is no set rule, planting approximately one-third to one-half evergreen plants with deciduous shrubs and remaining perennials sets you up for year-round appeal. Plant taller items at the back of the bed, then graduate to shorter items at the front of the planting area closest to the walkway. Place plants in a suitable location so that there is at least one plant width between the house and other plantings.

Most importantly, read plant tags and descriptions, and pay attention to the overall size of your mature plant. That quart or two-gallon bowl doesn't take up much space now, but you don't want to create a maintenance nightmare in a few years. Overgrown growth is never a good look, and you don't want to plant something to prune back if it gets too big. Finally, make sure the plant is suitable to survive conditions found in the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone (find your plant here).

Here are our favorite foundation planters for the front of your home:

Carex

  • Zoya life can be appreciated: Carex spp.
  • Sun exposure: Shadow to part shadow
  • Soil type: Medium, well-drained, moist
  • Soil pH: 5.5-7.5

Carex, or Sedges, are grass-like plants that provide year-round interest and color. Most sedges adapt well to shade or partial shade and look best when grown as an edging plant or in group plantings. There are many different cultivars, but 'Everillo' has attractive green and gold foliage, while 'Everest' has beautiful white markings.

Spirea

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  • Zoya life can be appreciated: Spirea spp.
  • Sun exposure: Complete, partial
  • Soil type: Average but drains well
  • Soil pH: 6.0-7.0

Spireas are some of the easiest flowering shrubs to grow because they tolerate many different soil types and conditions. They are fast-growing, and many can become very large, reaching 10 feet in height. Find a dwarf variety for foundation plantings. Southern Living Plant's Little Bonnie variety has blue-green foliage and lavender-pink flowers, while Monrovia's Double Play series includes varieties with blue or gold foliage. Most spirea species can be grown in zones 4-8, with some adapted to zones 3 or 9.

Catmint

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  • Zoya life can be appreciated: Nepeta x fascini
  • Sun exposure: Complete, partial
  • Soil type: Well drained
  • Soil pH: 6.5-7.5

You'd be hard-pressed to find a plant more powerful than mint. These perennials, which range from 10 to 20 inches tall and wide depending on variety, bloom for months, rarely need watering, and attract pollinators all season long. It has a pleasant, spicy minty scent that deters deer and rodents from eating it. It is grown in groups, and is a center or front border plant for any foundation planting in Zones 5-9. Look for well-behaved varieties that maintain an upright shape, such as 'Cat's Pajamas' and 'Cat's Meow'.

Abilia

Southern Living Plant Collection
  • Zoya life can be appreciated: Lenyaformerly known as Abilia
  • Sun exposure: Complete, partial
  • Soil type: Well-drained yet moist and organically rich
  • Soil pH: 5.0-7.5

These handsome Abelia hybrids often have colorful, variegated foliage and a beautiful shape that ranges 2 to 6 feet tall and wide. The original plant, Chinese Abelia, is much larger and less restricted in its growth. Abelia blooms profusely, attracting pollinators, but deer tend to avoid it. 'Miss Lemon' is particularly pretty with its yellow-green variegation and pink flowers, while 'Kaleidscope' is a gorgeous orange-red with white flowers. Hardiness depends on variety, but many can be grown in zones 5-9.

Daylily

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  • Zoya life can be appreciated: Hemerocallis spp.
  • Sun exposure: Complete, partial
  • Soil type: Good drainage with organic materials
  • Soil pH: 6.0-6.5

If you can't grow anything else and live in zones 3-9, try daylilies. These tough-as-nails perennials don't mind poor soil and come in every color imaginable, ranging from 1 to 4 feet tall. The flowers can be as small as 2 inches in diameter and up to 8 inches across. If you have a scorching southern summer, daylilies will benefit from light afternoon shade and consistent watering. It's a favorite of deer, so choose a different plant if deer frequently visit your garden. 'Happy Returns', 'Dragon's Eye' and 'Barbara Mitchell' provide dependable blooms in the heat.

Agapanthus

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  • Zoya life can be appreciated: Agapanthus
  • Sun exposure: Full
  • Soil type: Sandy loam, well-drained
  • Soil pH: 5.5-7.5

Also called the lily of the Nile, this is a beautiful perennial with narrow evergreen leaves and pretty blue, purple or white flowers that attract pollinators from spring to fall in frost-free climates. Agapanthus is particularly attractive when planted in groups at the front of borders. Its length ranges from a foot to 18 inches, depending on the species. Hummingbirds and bees love it. Look for 'Ever White' and 'Ever Sapphire' as real highlights in your foundation planting bed.

Panicle hydrangea

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  • Zoya life can be appreciated: Hydrangea paniculata
  • Sun exposure: Complete, partial
  • Soil type: Well drained
  • Soil pH: 5.0-8.0

Hydrangeas are some of the most reliable bloomers, thriving on new growth (this year), so you won't risk having the flowers cut off if you prune them in the spring. They are more tolerant of heat, soil type, and sun than other hydrangeas, making them less demanding on care. Some cultivars such as 'Limelight' can also be grown in zone 9. Hydrangeas come in a dizzying array of cultivars, but the newer dwarf varieties are well suited for foundation plantings. Give them four to six hours of sun for best blooms, with afternoon shade in hot climates (Zones 7 and warmer). Water during hot weather for the best plants.

boxwood

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  • Zoya life can be appreciated: Buxus spp.
  • Sun exposure: Partial, spotted, whole
  • Soil type: Medium, well-drained but moist
  • Soil pH: 6.5-7.5

These shrubs are classic for a reason: they are evergreen, less flavorful to deer than many other species, and there are many different cultivars available in different sizes. Some boxwood species can be cut to shape, while others can be left natural. Consider 'Baby Gem' which reaches 3 to 4 feet tall and wide, or 'Sprinter' which grows quickly and holds its shape, reaching a maximum height and width of 2 to 4 feet. Most varieties can be grown in zones 5-9.

Deutzia

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  • Zoya life can be appreciated: Deutzia
  • Sun exposure: Bright sun
  • Soil type: Fertile, moist, well-drained
  • Soil pH: Acidic to neutral (6.0 – 8.0)

Deutzia is a show stopper in the spring with beautiful bell-like flowers that pollinators love. Some species of this deciduous shrub get very large, but others reach only 2 feet tall and wide. 'Yuki Cherry Blossom' is a particularly beautiful, low-growing variety.

Inkberry Holly

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  • Zoya life can be appreciated: Alex Glabra
  • Sun exposure: Complete, partial
  • Soil type: Clay, sandy, well-drained, moist
  • Soil pH: 4.5-6.0

Inkberry holly is a native alternative to boxwood that can handle heat throughout the South. This evergreen shrub is a good choice for coastal homes because it tolerates salt and sometimes wet soil. The beautiful, glossy, evergreen foliage forms a soft, dense, rounded mound that can be pruned or left to grow naturally. The berries are dark, not red. Newer varieties like 'Gem Box' stay 2 to 4 feet tall and wide, while 'Strong Box' grows up to 3 feet tall and wide for the perfect compact foundation planting.

Stonecrop

Andrew Wu/Getty Images
  • Zoya life can be appreciated: Helotelephium
  • Sun exposure: Full
  • Soil type: Clay, sandy, well drained
  • Soil pH: 6.0-7.5

The old standby, “Autumn Delight,” has been popular for decades for a reason. Give this perennial succulent sun and well-drained soil, and you can practically walk away. Stonecrop also attracts all the pollinators around it and blooms strongly in late summer or fall. New stone crop varieties such as 'Lime Joy' and 'Midnight Velvet' have expanded the available foliage and flower colors and can be grown in zones 3-9.

Wiggle

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  • Zoya life can be appreciated: Weigela Florida
  • Sun exposure: Full
  • Soil type: Well-drained, moist
  • Soil pH: 5.5-7.5

Spring is when this deciduous shrub blooms, covered in trumpet-shaped flowers for a few weeks (some varieties bloom again in sporadic waves). Prune weigela immediately after flowering because it forms buds on old wood. Some of our favorite varieties have burgundy foliage and intense pink flowers, like ProvenWinner's 'Fine Wine'. You can also find variegated varieties and flowers in lavender or white. Varieties can reach 6 feet in height, 3 feet, or even shorter, depending on whether you want to plant them in the back or front of the border.

Hosta

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  • Zoya life can be appreciated: Hosta
  • Sun exposure: Partial shade, full shade
  • Soil type: Well-drained yet moist and organically rich
  • Soil pH: 6.0-7.0

Hostas come in a wide range of sizes, shapes, and colors, and you can create a beautifully planted base using these foliage plants alone. Place some evergreen shrubs in the background, then layer blue and lime or striped white, gold and green foliage. Experiment with heart-shaped, cup-shaped, long and curled leaves. Many cultivars come in the 18-24 inch range, while miniatures named 'Mouse' are quite charming at the front of the border. Hostas can be grown in zones 3-8 but need more shade in southern gardens.

Azalea

Van Chaplin, Ralph Anderson
  • Zoya life can be appreciated: Rhododendron spp.
  • Sun exposure: Partial shade, dappled or filtered shade
  • Soil type: Well-drained yet moist and organically rich
  • Soil pH: 4.5-6.0

For many gardeners, blooming azaleas are what define a Southern spring. Azaleas can be long-lived and reach enormous proportions. Popular Encore azaleas stay 2 to 5 feet tall and have the advantage of blooming again in the fall. Azalea hybrids do not thrive well in deep shade, but can burn in full sun. The temperate zone is filtered from the sun's rays under a tall tree. They must have well-drained, acidic soil to thrive.

Yew plum

Courtesy of Southern Living Plant Collection
  • Zoya life can be appreciated: Cephalotaxus harringtonia
  • Sun exposure: Partial and complete shade
  • Soil type: Well-drained but moist
  • Soil pH: 5.0-7.0

The plum yew is an ideal evergreen for the Southeast because it can tolerate heat and humidity that other yews cannot. It should only be planted in full sun if you experience cool summers. The soft, fine-needled shrubs come in a variety of shapes and sizes and can be grown in Zones 6-9. Plant 'Prostrata' along the front of the foundation planting or more upright varieties such as 'Yewtopia' and 'Duke Gardens' in the back. Both grow slowly to about 4 feet tall.

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