Foundation Plantings

Asked December 1, 2019, 4:52 PM EST

I have been trying to find, without luck, photos of "basic" foundation planning ideas for the front of the house. I am specifically looking for shrub ideas and layouts, not hardscape ideas.. I could not find books on such at the Balt. Co. library or even on-line. Can you recommend a resource or do you have a pdf of this kind of thing? THANK YOU!

Baltimore County Maryland

1 Response

Foundation plantings take on many forms and designs based on the site conditions and the preferences of the gardener. "Basic" may be something as simple as a single row of evergreens nearest the foundation, but the choices made will depend partly on the function you want the plantings to serve - screening, year-round interest, wildlife value, fragrance, etc. Conditions such as sun exposure, moisture levels (and possible moisture deprivation from an overhanging roof), soil type, size limitations, deer browsing pressure, and so on, can narrow-down the choices from a long list of candidates to a more manageable list of options. Local nurseries/garden centers will know what plants are commonly used in your area and which plants are both widely available and perform reliably.

If you look again for library or web resources, a good way to narrow-down the references is to look for regionally-appropriate books - mid-Atlantic gardening in our case - or to bring sample photos of foundation plantings you like to a local nursery to see what they would recommend to achieve that look, especially if the photo is from a region with plants that would not grow well here.

In general, foundation planting typically takes on the following structure: evergreen shrubs closest to the home to provide year-round interest; flowering shrubs, perennials, bulbs, or annuals in front of them for seasonal color, and possibly further, shorter plantings in front of or between those. Layout depends not only on aesthetic preference but also proper spacing needed to the plants to mature and avoid over-crowding; this spacing will greatly depend on the plants chosen. Common layouts use the tallest plants in the back, with heights getting shorter as you move away from the foundation so the entire planting is visible from the front of the home.

If you wish to begin this project in spring, you could have a soil test done now so the results can help guide your plant selection when you're ready, as it's simplest to work with the conditions you have rather than trying to change them to suit particular plants. This page has some information on soil testing and a link to labs offering this service: