Foundational Plantings: Tips and Benefits for a Beautiful Yard

One of the easiest and most effective ways to improve your home’s curb appeal is with foundation plantings.

Foundation plantings are simply those plants (typically shrubs) that you plant along your home’s foundation.

The standard “classic” pattern of planting alongside a foundation includes 3 areas where plants are located:

  • ⬥ Along the entryway
  • ⬥ In the corner of the structure
  • ⬥ In between the corner and entryway (filling in the gaps)

You can opt for this standard way when doing your own foundational plantings, or choose it as a foundation to create your own style.

Benefits of foundational plantings

It used to be common in some regions to install shrubs along house walls to hide the elevated concrete foundations.

As home designs have changed, there’s less foundation to hide in houses these days, so some designers prefer to install only an entrance planting and corner plantings and so they feel there is no need to bridge the gap between them.

However, there are reasons foundational plantings in the classic style might be an appealing choice for your home.

  • ⬥ A long, blank wall of vinyl siding is just as unattractive as a long wall of concrete foundation.
  • ⬥ Planting shrubs helps to soften the hard lines of a home.
  • ⬥ Newly built homes often lack mature trees, so a shrub can quickly add appeal.
  • ⬥ Evergreen shrubs in particular can help improve the energy efficiency of your home by providing year round insulation from the elements.

They do this by creating an insulative dead air space around the foundation of your home. 

Before you buy any plants

Before digging, contact your local utility companies: They can mark off-limits areas, such as where power lines are located. It’s easy, it’s free, and it’s probably the law where you live.

Consider the mature height of the plant, not the height when you see it at the nursery. The cute shrub at the nursery might soon be tall enough to block your view. Small spaces may be a good choice for dwarf shrubs like Bobo hydrangea.

Which plants prefer the sun? What about those that prefer the shade? You should consider these factors when choosing what to buy and where to plant it (north, east, south, or west wall).

You should realize that, when creating traditional foundation plantings divided into three sections, the criteria you’ll use to select the landscape shrubbery for the foundation plantings will vary according to which part you’re working on.

Planting styles vary widely, but most people agree that the entrance planting should be the focal point of a foundation planting.

The Entryway Planting

As with the holiday decorations that adorn the front door, the entryway planting serves as a focal point to convey a sense of welcome into this critical transitional area between the outdoors and indoors.

Choose shrubs that compliment the entryway, and work well with the front door. These foundational plantings should stand out and work with the front door to create an eye-grabbing appeal.

Think symmetry when choosing your plantings. For example, whiskey barrels are a popular feature that can help create a symmetrical look that ties everything in your entryway together.

Common plants for an entryway include the dwarf Alberta spruce. This evergreen grows slowly and will remain small for several years. You can also plant it in a container or the ground, so it’s a versatile choice for any home.

Corner plantings

Using plants at the corners of a house is also important, as these plants can create a visual frame for the house. In order to achieve this, plant foundation shrubs (or small trees) far enough away from the corners of the house, so that, even at maturity, they will not obscure the corners.

The corner plantings should be taller than the rest. Consider the height of your house when adjusting the height of the plants.

Alternatively, if there’s something you’d like to change about the structure of your house, you can use plants to visually adjust these elements.

For example, if you feel that your home appears too “horizontal” (e.g. a ranch style home) you can use tall and skinny plants at each corner to offset this by leading the eye upwards.

Plant a small tree with branches that shoot out horizontally, such as a dogwood, to offset a house that is tall compared to its width. Choose a variety of tree that only reaches 12 to 15 feet in height, but is fairly wide such as the Pagoda Dogwood.

In between your plantings

In between the entryway planting and corner plantings, foundation plants fill in the gaps. These plants may not be as visually exciting as the other plantings, but they still play an important role in your foundational plantings.

They should work well with your corner and entryway plantings, not detracting from them, but adding to them.

Things to consider:

  • ⬥ For low maintenance landscaping, choose dwarf varieties that don’t need a lot of pruning.
  • ⬥ Ornamental grasses also work well as a taller (but not too tall) option when you want to add verticality to your landscaping.
  • ⬥ You can plant annual and perennial flowers in front of foundation shrubs to add texture and color to foundation plantings.

Where to plant

The shrubbery next to your house doesn’t benefit the shrubbery, the house, or you (because it complicates maintenance). So, consider these guidelines when planning your foundation planting:

Plant larger shrubs that will reach 6 feet in width at maturity at least 5 feet from the house. Shrubs that will be smaller can be placed closer to the house.

Consider your environment. If you live in a hot and humid area, you want more air to circulate between the plant and your home to prevent the plant from rotting.

It’s also important to provide enough spacing between your plants to make it easier to maintain them and to reduce disease.

Final tips

  • ⬥ Distance between your plantings and your house is also important so that you can easily access your house to work on it.
  • ⬥ Also, keep in mind shrubs that are planted under the eaves of your house wouldn’t receive as much rainfall, stunting their growth and perhaps even leading to disease or death for your plants.
  • ⬥ To reduce weed growth and help preserve moisture, add mulch to your foundation plants. The right mulch color can also add visual interest to your landscaping.

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