Low-Maintenance Foundation Plants (15 Ideas + Planting Plan)

Let’s face it; your home would look stark without foundation plants. As a homeowner, you should consider planning and prioritizing landscaping- which encompasses the construction of structures, hardscaping, foundation plantings, plant installation, etc. 

Foundation plantings are considered the bedrock of every landscaped property, transforming the front yard and entryway into a dynamic garden space.

These plants will beautify, improve the landscape, and make your home more hospitable and inviting. They also create a warm, welcoming impression for visitors and complement home aesthetics. With these benefits, foundation planting is an excellent idea for any home. 

But there’s more to uncover, and in this article, you’ll learn about:

  • What foundation plants are
  • Examples of foundation plants
  • How to plant around a foundation
  • The principles that should guide your foundation planting, and more! 

First, let’s walk you through foundation planting and what it entails.

What is Foundation Planting?

Foundation planting is a collective term for plants used for landscaping and flower beds installed around the house to conceal undesirable features of the building.

This complements the home and blends with the surroundings while creating a welcoming ambiance for guests. 

What Are Some Good Foundation Plants?

Catmint

catmint plants

Belonging to the mint family, Catmint, also known as Nepeta, is perennial with aromatic grayish-green foliage and erect flower spikes in shades of pink, white and lavender-blue. Catmint blooms in late spring and fall and are highly irresistible to bees, hummingbirds, and insects. 

As a drought-resistant plant requiring little care, Catmint is a perfect choice for individuals new to gardening and landscapers.

This foundation plant thrives best in partial shade to full sun, is hardy in Zone 3-8, and is free from diseases. You can plant Catmint alongside ornamental grasses, lavender, rosemary, and others.

Spirea

white flowers spirea shrub

Fine textured foliage, long-lasting bloom time, and good fall color are some reasons to grow Spirea.

While Spirea thrives in USDA zones 4-8, many species do well in zones 3-9. Spirea got its name from its spiral nature, which refers to its wreath-like display of small flowers.

This hardy, deciduous shrub isn’t only low maintenance; it’s deer resistant and tolerates cold, heat, drought, and poor soil conditions. Spirea has good foliage varying from pink to mauve and red.

Juniper

juniper plant

The evergreen shrub is coveted for its scent, which gives your home a refreshing smell. Its foliage color varies from light green to dark green, yellow, blue, and silver.

Depending on the species, junipers are suitable for ground covers, hedges, screens, foundation plants, etc. 

Low-growing junipers that stay in the ground make the best foundation plant.

Like Spirea, junipers are easy to maintain, requiring little water and nutrients to survive in the most challenging situations like drought and alkaline soil conditions.

Smooth Hydrangea

smooth hydrangea plant in white blooms

If you want to add a pop of color to your landscape or yard, Smooth Hydrangea makes an excellent foundation plant.

Thanks to its colorful flowers, many gardeners plant this in their gardens. However, in Greek, hydrangea, which means water vessel, requires consistent watering and rich soil conditions. 

Boxwood

boxwood plants

The popularity of this classic shrub has increased in recent years because it’s easy to shear into formal shapes and fits most architectural designs. In addition, boxwoods are usually used as a backdrop for landscaping, surrounded by colorful plants. 

This evergreen shrub ticks all the boxes, including easy growing, tolerance to conditions, and versatility. Its dense foliage makes it a perfect match for hedging and topiaries.

Planting Basics

Evaluate Growing Conditions

Typically, this should be the first factor to consider during foundation planting.

  • What’s the growing condition for the plant?
  • Does your front yard receive adequate sunlight or full shade?

Check plant requirements before purchasing them or installing them in your home. 

For example, roses need 6 hours of constant sunlight to bloom, while some hydrangeas flower in partial or full shade.

Consider the number of hours of sunlight your plant requires before shopping. For yards or fronts that receive less than 6 hours, it’s best to opt for plants that thrive well in partial shade, and those with less than 2 hours of sunlight will suit full shade plants.

Assess the Architectural Design of Your Home

Foundation plantings need to complement the style of the home.

What’s your home design? Knowing this will guide your plant selection. 

Neat, pruned plants blend with contemporary or classical homes, while sheared plants suit homes with formal themes. 

Provide Proper Spacing

There’s a need to prioritize proper spacing in foundation planting.

First, ensure there’s enough room for plants to grow. Don’t plant trees too close to each other, as this can create a messy look.

To achieve this, it’s best to plant trees or bushes that grow to about 6 feet or more. 

Also, you can plant shrubs about 3-5 feet away from the house since this ensures that the foliage doesn’t grow and overshadow the home.

Proper spacing between plants also reduces the risk of disease and maintenance. 

Create a Foundation Planting Plan

landscape planting plan drawing

Sketching a picture or image of your home enables you to plan your foundation planting, saving cost and time.

Try visualizing how combining foundation plants will improve the visual appearance of your home. If you run out of ideas, you can look up magazines, books, or catalogs for inspiration. 

To create a planting plan:

  1. Take pictures of your house and garden from a distance. Then, enlarge the photograph to 8½ by 14 inches, with a black and white background.
  2. Get pictures of plants you want to add to your landscape, photocopy them, trim the edges of the photocopies and paste them on plain paper.
  3. Ensure the pictures are proportional to the photo of your home.

Consider Symmetry 

Typically, foundation planting should add to the aesthetics of your home, especially the entryway. Little wonder, many landscapers install dogwood or crabapple close to the front door.

This brings more balance to your landscape, giving it a formal appearance. 

Symmetry is an attention-grabbing strategy in foundation plantings. To attain a symmetrical arrangement, you can use containers in plants, dwarf Alberta spruces, or butterfly bushes for your foundation planting.

How to Plant Foundation Plants

planting a foundation plant - hydrangeas

Before planting, it’s best to contact utility companies to mark the areas. Here’s a step-by-step guide to planting foundation plants.

Remove the Old Plants

Identify plants that have died or need pruning. Discard the dead plants to create room for the growth of new ones.

For old plants that you intend to keep, you can put them in pots, transplant them in a new area or incorporate them into your new foundation planting design.

Conduct a Soil Test and Make Amendments

Generally, the soil around foundations or homes is of poor quality, so you might need to add nutrients to the soil. But, first, test the soil for nutrients and NPK levels and learn how to amend it. 

Performing a soil test determines the type of plants to grow. You can amend your soil by adding organic matter like peat moss, leaf mold, etc.

You should also test the ph to know if the soil is alkaline or acidic. You can leave as-is and plant accordingly or add amendments to make the soil more acidic or alkaline.

Cultivate the Soil

Besides foundation soil having poor quality, they’re compact due to the impact of heavy building equipment, making soil cultivation difficult.

Meanwhile, loose, fertile soil stimulates the growth of new plants. You’ll need to cultivate the soil and define your turf and bed lines. 

Tilling the soil does not only mix the nutrients; it also prepares the soil for planting. In addition, ensure you level the soil around the house to prevent waterlogging and moisture issues.

Create Your Design

Properly lay out your design, so you don’t have to redesign your foundation planting in the future. 

Furthermore, ensure all you need for the foundation planting is available. 

Start With the Focal Plants

Focal plants give a good backdrop for your landscape, so you might want to give it more attention. 

Shrubs, perennial plants, and climbing vines are suitable anchor plants for your space. However, regardless of your choice, ensure your focal plant suits the place.

Plant in Layers

By now, you’ve selected your focal plants, the size, and where they will be placed. Next, layer your other plants to create room for space and growth. 

You’ll need to place the tallest plants at the back and layer each row to give room for the shorter plants. After placing the plants, measure the space between the plants and the house to prevent overcrowding. 

Keep Watch

Take a break, maybe a week or a few days after spacing and layering. During the period, study the front yard and visualize the design when plants are fully grown. 

This exercise is crucial because it helps you keep things in perspective while making room for changes.

Start Planting

Proceed to foundation planting. Generally, foundation soil is compact, so you must ensure it’s well leveled before planting. 

This is crucial since it helps establish the roots. 

Adopt Mulching

After planting, add mulch to conserve soil moisture, improve soil nutrients, control erosion, and suppress weeds. 

A natural hardwood mulch may be a better option than rock as it can burn leaves, making digging and replanting difficult. Consider choosing a wood mulch that complements the house and plants.

Foundation Planting Design Principles

The principles of foundation planting encompass how you should use design elements and guidelines to follow for foundation plantings. 

Simplicity

Let simplicity be the core of your foundation planting. Opt for simple designs that are aesthetically pleasing and easy to care for.

Only incorporate a distinct specimen plant in your foundation planting, as adding different plants and colors in your landscape may be confusing and not attract attention.

Balance

This explains how design elements complement one another. Balance may be formal (symmetrical) or informal (asymmetrical).

You will achieve symmetrical balance when you incorporate the same plants, which are mirror images of one another.

Asymmetrical balance integrates different sizes, colors, and textures of plants in foundation plantings.

Unity

Foundation plants must be harmonious in color, form, and texture to create an uncluttered design while providing space.

To achieve unity, you need to focus on the dominant features since these are attention-grabbing. Choose different specimen plants and architectural elements like garden sculptures or waterfall for your landscaping.

Scale

In foundation planting, you must consider how proportional the landscape is to the house and its surroundings. That said, smaller paintings blend more with small and one-story buildings than large structures. Ensure you use plants that are in scale with your home.

Foundation Plants for the West Side of a House

Typically, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west., which means that the west side of a house receives little sunlight in the morning. 

Further, a west-facing house receives approximately 4-6 hours of direct sunlight, especially afternoons. As a result, plants grown on the west side of the house should be able to tolerate the afternoon sun. 

Below are plants perfect for a west-facing patio or garden.

Phlox 

garden phlox in bloom white and pink color

Famous for its fragrance and showy flowers in summer and fall, Phlox thrive best in partial shade and west-facing gardens. The flowers, which range from 1.5 to 2.5 cm in diameter, are white, red, rose, and pink hues. 

Due to its refreshing fragrance, it’s best to plant Phlox next to a window where the scent can stream into your living space. In addition, Phlox serves as a focal plant for landscaping.

Elderflower

elderflower plant with white blooms

This is a robust shrub with fern-like leaves and glossy blackberries. The elderflower is famed for its distinct-looking bark and scentful flowers, making it popular among landscapers.

The shrub-like tree is easy to grow and prune, and its unique green leaves and blooms add beauty and style to parks and yards.

Tulips

red tulip plant in bloom

A staple of a west-facing garden, tulips are a good choice if you want to add spring color to your space. Showy and brightly colored, tulips are available in white, pink, red, and yellow. 

Growing tulips in autumn will give you a spring garden bursting with color. To give your guests a warm welcome, you can plant a bed of tulips along the front yard. Whether planted in groups of 10 or 1000, tulips have an impressive look that attracts passersby.

Geranium

pink geraniums

Geranium, also known as cranesbill, is a long-time favorite of gardeners and is colorful and easily grown. Due to its ability to tolerate sun and shade, it’s a suitable choice for a west-facing house or garden. 

The perennial plant has saucer-shaped flowers in various colors like pink, blue and purple. In addition, Geranium has earned itself the moniker “hardy plant” due to its ability to withstand hot weather and dry conditions.

Campanula (Bellflower)

Campanula plant in bloom

Campanula got its name from the bell-shaped flowers, which means “little bell” in Latin. The plant species is usually beautiful, with blue flowers attracting pollinators.

In addition, these easy-to-grow plants do well in part shade or full sun, average, and well-drained soil. 

Campanulas are an excellent choice for the west-facing border, especially Campanula for the middle border, Kent Belle for the back, and Campanula carpatica for the front.

Foundation Plants for an East-facing House

If you’re an early riser, you’ll know that the east side of the house receives the first sun rays of the day. Plants that grow best under these conditions are shielded from harsh winds and cold temperatures and don’t require more than 4-6 hours of sunlight for the day.

Polemonium caeruleum Brise d’Anjou (Jacob’s Ladder)

jacob's ladder plant in a garden

Jacob’s Ladder blooms in late spring to early summer with bright green variegated and creamy-yellowish white edges.

Prized for its foliage, the perennial is excellent for woodland settings, borders, or containers, making the plant stand out from the rest. Planting Jacob’s Ladder in an east-facing garden gives it a burst of color. 

Azaleas

white azalea flowers

Azaleas are slow-growing, making good foundation plants. The evergreen shrubs are in all shapes and sizes, suitable for different purposes. However, it’s best grown in dappled shade with morning sun because the hot sun can harm the plant, making it susceptible to pests. The best time to grow azaleas is in early fall or late spring.

Acanthus mollis’ Oak Leaf’

Acanthus mollis' bears breeches plant

The fast-growing plant is popular among gardening enthusiasts around the world. Oak leaves are a good backdrop for borders and look stunning when planted close to a wall or fence. The plant boasts a classical appearance with bold spikes, large, glossy leaf-shaped foliage, and multi-colored flowers.

Early Scout Fernleaf Peony

peony flower

As its name implies, the early scout peony is the earliest hybrid peony grown in late spring and early summer.

This herbaceous perennial is a fine choice for a specimen plant, gardens, borders, and beds. Also, peonies enliven your space with numerous blooms, beautiful flowers, refreshing fragrances, and ever-changing foliage.

While peonies thrive in full sun, they can withstand light afternoon shade.

Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Monmar’ (Enchantress Hydrangea)

blue hydrangeas in bloom

For hydrangeas to grow, they need protection from the afternoon sun, so they’re a good plant choice for the west side of the house.

The shrub’s color varies from blue to violet and pink depending on soil acidity. Enchantress hydrangeas produce sky blue flowers grown in acidic soil and pink blooms in alkaline soil. 

Final Thoughts

From complementing the home to increasing curb appeal and reflecting personal style, foundation planting scores high in all areas. Foundation planting may be tedious, but following the steps and guidelines will make it hassle-free. 

While you may need to add more color, move plants or remove old overgrown plants, foundation plants are worth investing time and effort. It’s okay not to get the hang of the whole process; even seasoned pros still evaluate their work.