Foundation Planting Ideas

Incorporate foundation plants into your landscape to complement your home. Plan thoroughly for the look you wish to achieve and know the requirements of plants before purchase for your yard--many different types and colors without regard for cohesiveness will result in a lack of landscape harmony. Most foundation plants are low-growing and spreading. Tall growing species may look great for a short time, but look overgrown later and hide the beauty of the home.

Chinese Juniper

Chinese juniper (Juniperus chinensis) is horizontal, spreading, evergreen coniferous shrub. Although this genus can reach 60 feet in height, most cultivars are 5 to 10 feet tall, or much shorter with dwarf varieties like, 'Nana' and 'Variegata.' Chinese junipers are hardy to USDA zone 4. Grow in full sun on nutrient-rich, well-drained soils. Chinese juniper needs space to accommodate its spreading form (variable with cultivar) and will not tolerate wet conditions.


Boxwood (Buxus microphylla) is a compact, dense, evergreen shub. Boxwood is hard to zone 5 and grows to 5 feet tall, but is commonly seen 2 to 3 feet tall with equal spread. Boxwoods have stiff, leathery, 1-inch, simple leaves and inconspicuous flowers. They are commonly used as hedges and as topiary material and for foundation plantings. Grow boxwood in full sun to partial shade, in nutrient-rich, acidic soils. Boxwoods have shallow root systems--avoid deep cultivation of other plants around their root system.


Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) and oak-leaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) are deciduous shubs suitable for foundation plantings where structures will accommodate their 8 foot height with equal spread. H. macrophylla has simple 9-inch leaves, and H. quercifolia has 12-inch lobed leaves. The flowers of H. macrophylla are large and showy clusters, called cymes, that are white when planted in neutral soils, pink in alkaline, and blue in acidic soils. H. quercifolia's blooms are white, turning purple-pink, and then brown. Grow hydrangeas in partial to moderate shade on nutrient-rich, well-drained soils.

Pampas Grass

Grow pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana) for its silvery white plumes of tiny flowers that grow above 5- to 7-foot-high clumps of perennial grass. Together, flowers and leaves reach 6 to 8 feet high, and make an attractive specimen plant. Pampas grass is well-suited to coastal landscapes with its look and salt tolerance. Grow pampas grass in full sun for the best performance, on moist (but not wet) soils. Pampas grass is hardy to zone 5 and tolerates drought. After blooms fade in late winter, cut pampas grass back to 18 inches tall.

Japanese Holly

Japanese holly (Ilex crenata) is a rounded, compact, evergreen shrub with dark green, 1-inch leaves, without the red berries usually associated with hollies (its berries are small and black). Japanese holly height varies with the cultivar, but its dwarf forms are used in foundation plantings. Grow Japanese holly in full sun to partial shade on nutrient-rich, well-drained, yet moisture-retentive soils.

Keywords: foundation plants, foundation planting ideas, foundation ornamentals

About this Author

Marie Roberts is a freelance writer based in north central Florida. She has a B.S. in horticultural sciences from the University of Florida. Roberts began writing in 2002 and is published in the "Proceedings of the Florida State Horticultural Society."