14 Fantastic Shrubs for Foundation Plantings

14 Fantastic Shrubs for Foundation Plantings

When planting shrubs around a foundation of your house, it’s smart to think of three things: foliage, flowers and the future. We focus on foliage because in most such beds it’s good to have a mix of some plants that keep their leaves all year (evergreens) and some (deciduous) that drop leaves in the winter. It’s also smart to have a variety of leaf colors and textures because flowers are fleeting, but the leaves are there before and after bloom.

After choosing plants with contrasting leaves, we next consider if a plant flowers, and when the bloom period might be. By choosing plants with different flowering times, you can have color in your foundation beds from spring into fall, and sometimes even in the winter months.

Because most people want their landscapes to be as low-maintenance as possible, it’s also desirable to think about the future growth of a plant. Shrubs that grow large will take more maintenance if you don’t want them to cover the windows. There are many low-growing varieties available now, however, that are less likely to need annual trimming to keep them from overwhelming the house. When shopping for foundation shrubs, it’s smart to pay more attention to the ultimate size of the plants than how they look in the garden center.

Foundation beds look good when they are planted with some single shrubs, and other groups of three of the same plant. Larger growing varieties can be planted singly, usually between the windows, and smaller, dwarf shrubs placed in triangles, in groups of three. Place plants with the center stem between 3 and 4 feet from the house; this might initially look like it’s too far, but you’ll be happy in a few years when the plants have grown but aren’t pressing against the siding. New foundation shrubs often look small and as if they are too far apart from each other, but don’t be tempted to crowd them. Planting perennials or annuals between the shrubbery will make the bed look fuller while allowing for the future growth of the bushes.

Here are 14 plants that bring color, texture, and appropriate size to foundation plantings.

There are several dwarf white pines that add great texture and evergreen color to the foundation bed. This one is Blue Jay, a soft needled variety that grows about 4 feet tall and 5 feet wide. The needles have a bluish color, so it contrasts nicely with darker green leaves. Dwarf white pines do well in full sun to half-day sun
Bobo is a short Hydrangea paniculata. It grows to about 4 feet tall and can be pruned in early spring without danger of limiting the flowering. Bobo does well in full to part sun, and is in bloom from late-July through September.
This Deutzia brings several desirable characteristics to your foundation bed. Short size, yellow foliage and white flowers in May-June are just three of its qualities. This low-maintenance shrub looks good in groups of three, and does well in full sun to part-shade
There are many varieties of Hinoki false-cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa) some that stay very short, some that are small, and others that grow quite large. They are all notable for dark green, fan-shaped foliage and wind-tolerance. Hinokis do well in full sun to part-shade. Find the variety that works for your location and you’ll enjoy it for years.
If you’re looking for a short Hydrangea macrophylla that has rich, blue flowers, look no further than City Line Rio. This hydrangea has the longest lasting flowers when planted in part-sun to shade, especially if the flowers are shaded in the afternoon.
With its natural round form, light-colored foliage, and small size, Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Cream Ball’ is perfect when an easy, low-growing shrub is needed. Plant this evergreen in full sun to part shade.
You say that you want more color? The Fire Chief globe arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘Congabe’) is the plant for you. This evergreen (or would it be “everbrilliant?”) grows to be between 2 and 3 feet tall and wide, and has the brightest color in full sun. It’s not as prone to splitting as some Thuja varieties, and this naturally round plant seldom needs pruning.
You say you want more native plants? This inkberry holly is native to the northeast, but unlike the larger cultivars this one stays small. Gem Box inkberry holly makes a good substitute for boxwood. It can be sheared to make a more formal shape, or left to be a bit looser as desired. Plant inkberry in full sun to part-shade locations.
One of my favorite short plants for full to part sun is this Magic Carpet Spirea. The foliage is coral to yellow in the spring, lime green all summer, and has nice reddish yellow fall color as well. Pink flowers in June are the icing on the cake! Magic Carpet grows to 3 feet tall and wide, and can be sheared right after flowering to stimulate new growth and a second bloom.
Another dwarf white pine that is perfect in foundations is the Minuta Pine. This one tops out at about 3 feet tall but can grow to 5 feet wide. So this is the perfect plant if you need a shrub to go to the sides to hide a window-well or irrigation equipment. Great needle texture contrasts well with other plants.
In sun or shade, the Otto Luyken cherry laurel is perfect for fragrant flowers in May and dark, shiny foliage the rest of the year. Otto Luyken grows to about 3 to 4 feet tall, and if unpruned to 5 or more feet wide after ten to twelve years.
Ninebark shrubs (Physocarpus) are popular because they are native, have colorful foliage, and flower in June. This one, Petite Plum, has the advantage of staying small! Note that ninebarks look best when they are not sheared – the only pruning should be the removal of dead wood.
Most Viburnum shrubs grow large but this one, Viburnum opulus Nanum stays small. It is a great plant if you want a low hedge along a garden or walkway, since it only grows to 1 or 2 feet. It’s also a good plant for making a group of three in front of a taller shrub.
The Yuki Snowflake Deutzia is another early-to-flower, low shrub. Growing to about 2 feet tall and wide, Yuki Snowflake flowers in May and June.
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