Some of the best foundation plants you can pick out are low-growing evergreen shrubs that provide both visual appeal and a little more security. They work well planted right around your home’s perimeter, and they can enhance your home. The foliage and the shorter heights on these foundation plants work wonderfully to enhance your landscaping, and they work well as entrance or corner plantings.
Your foundation plants can be anything from dwarf trees and smaller conifer bushes to low shrubs and ground cover plants. Using an evergreen option will give your home color throughout the year, especially if you live in a planting zone that gets snow. Flowering foundation plants will give you pops of color during the spring and summer into the fall months, and some smaller shrubs can add visual appeal by your door.
Even if you don’t have a lot of extra time to dedicate to babying these foundation plants along, we’re going to pick out ones that complement your landscape, are easy to grow, and that can even enhance your home’s security. This way, you can mix and match your foundation plants to suit your wants and needs while getting a pretty addition that can boost your home’s curb appeal.
Common juniper is one of the most low-maintenance and toughest foundation plants you can have. It’s native to the United States, and it’s an evergreen that will provide you with color all year-round. It will start to spread very easily, and it’ll eventually form a very broad, low mound under your windows in emerald green. As a bonus, this plant works very well when you plant en masse in thick sections to help fill in areas around your home. It also requires zero maintenance once it establishes itself, and it can survive very easily in a broad range of growing conditions.
This foundation plant will get up to two-feet tall and three to four-feet wide at full maturity. It can withstand pollution, drought, full to partial sun, and extreme cold. As a bonus, it’s also very resistant to grazing from rabbits or deer, so it’ll look nice even if you have these pests around. It will grow in zones two to seven, and it’s not picky about soil conditions. You can plant it in sandy loam to heavy clay-based soil and have it grow strong and hardy. You should water it every once in a while, but it can survive harsh droughts without a problem.
Juniper by Satrina0 / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
2. Rose of Sharon
Maybe you want to add a flowering foundation plant around your home. If so, this is a nice pick. The Rose of Sharon is a very low-maintenance plant that will bloom for months from the spring to the fall months. This plant tends to grow quickly, and it doesn’t require you to prune it. It also produces few or no seeds, and they come in several different sizes. However, most of these plants do come in larger sizes that can quickly grow up right to your home. They can easily get between 8 to 12-feet tall, and most of them get just as wide when they reach full maturity.
This foundation plant works well for hedging, screening, or planting against a wall where you need a fun pop of color. It does like a large amount of sun, and it can survive with reflected light and heat without damage. It grows best in zones five to nine, and it likes soil that is slightly on the drier side. So, water it sparingly and make sure the soil drains well. You can choose from a large range of colors from pink to lavender and white. The foliage is a deeper green to provide a nice contrast.
Blue Rose of Sharon by In Memoriam: Steve Burt / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
This is another very easy foundation plant to grow, and you’ll get a smaller dome-shaped mound that tends to stay lower to the ground. In full bloom, this plant will only get a foot tall. So, it’s more for aesthetics than security, and you want to keep this in mind. You could also situate it in the front of a larger foundation planting to create visual interest. This is another low-maintenance plant that requires very little in the way of care once you establish it, so it’s a good choice for busy gardeners or people who have a lot of plants to grow.
This is one foundation plant that grows best in planting zones three to nine. It requires you to plant it in a place that gets full sun, and the soil should stay on the drier side. Also, it doesn’t require any fertilizer applications to do well. Too much care can actually weaken this plant and eventually kill it. In the late summer month, this plant produces light pink flowers with deep green foliage that pops. Pollinators also love this plant, and it’ll attract bees and hummingbirds as long as the plants flower.
Stonecrop by Davina Ware / CC BY-SA 2.0
If you go out during the late spring months, you’ll find this foundation planting in large drifts. As the name suggests, this perennial is a type of mint, and it looks like a blue cloud that is closely hugging the ground. Many people grow this plant in large numbers, and you can keep it blooming from the spring through the summer months and well into the fall if you cut it back once the first round of blooms dies back. This isn’t a tall plant to grow, and it tops out between 14 and 20-inches tall. The variety you pick out will dictate the height, but it provides a pretty focal point.
This foundation plant thrives if you put it in a place that gets full, bright sun for six to eight hours a day. You don’t need to add any extra fertilizer either, and this makes it easier to care for. The soil should be on the drier side, and it does well right tight to your home’s foundation where the heat tends to reflect back on it. It stays a perennial in zones three to eight, but you can turn it into an annual in other zones.
Catmint by Gail Langellotto / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
5. Anglo-Japanese Yew
If you want a semi-dwarf foundation plant, this is a nice choice. This variety forms a very low-growing shrub that makes very dense foliage. The foliage is needle-like leaves with a glossy green coloring that is very attractive and difficult to get through. Depending on the variety you have, they usually prefer shady areas tight to your foundation. It’s ideal for growing in the front of your home, and it can easily get between three and four-feet tall. It’s also more dense than other choices, and this makes it great for security.
This is a very hardy foundation plant, and it’s very tolerant to drought conditions. So, if you skip watering it a few times, it won’t die or start to droop. It is well planted in partial shade to full sun, so you have some flexibility where you plant it. It thrives in zones four to seven, so you have a slightly more restricted area to plant it if you want it to do well. You won’t need to fertilize your soil, and it likes slightly dry, fast-draining and loose soil. Don’t saturate the ground when you do water it, and keep the pH levels close to neutral.
Taxus x media ‘Brownii’ by F. D. Richards / CC BY-SA 2.0
Rhododendron is a very common bush, and a lot of people like to use it as a foundation plant because it adds pops of color from spring through the summer months due to the flowers, and it has pretty green foliage. Depending on the cultivar you pick out, it’ll get between two or four-feet tall up to an impressive 100-feet tall. Also, it has a dense growth habit that can be difficult to get through, especially during the spring, summer, and fall months. There are evergreen rhododendron bushes that provide color and visual interest during the winter months too. They don’t spread out huge, so you can easily plant them close together.
Put this foundation plant in an area that gets full sun to partial shade. It can easily withstand any heat that gets reflected from your home. The woody stems make this plant more hardy, and it does well in a huge range of soil conditions from sandy to clay-based. It can do without a huge amount of water or even drought, and it doesn’t need fertilizer to thrive. You can water it once a week or every other week without stunting it, and this makes it a great low-maintenance option.
Rhododendrons by Jean Jones / CC BY 2.0
You can get full or dwarf arborvitae shrubs for your foundation plants, depending on how large you want them to get. They offer soft, evergreen foliage that is very pretty all year-round, even in areas that get extreme cold and freezing temperatures. They can grow in small mounds, or you can get ones that are more upright and tall that look good all around your home or by your entrances. The feathery leaves are extremely dense, and it’s hard to get through this plant if you put them close together. So, people will have a hard time getting through to your home if you get large enough cultivars.
This foundation plant does well in zones three to seven. This is slightly more restricted than other choices on the list, but you can find more hardy cultivars too. The soil should drain very well when you water it, and this means that it needs to be loose without being sandy. You may want to add a rich compost to the soil to inject nutrients as the plant establishes itself. Water it sparingly, and allow the soil to dry out slightly between watering sessions. It does well in full sun to partial sun.
Thuja occidentalis ‘Woodwardii’ 2014 by F. D. Richards / CC BY-SA 2.0
Hydrangeas are a very pretty and full foundation plant that has a huge range of sizes to choose from. So, it’s important to read the label carefully when you select your plant to ensure that it fits nicely by your house without taking over the space. Some can grow only three-feet tall while others can go over ten-feet tall. They also have a semi-wide spread to them. Each spring, this plant will produce a huge amount of very large flowers, and they only produce on new wood. The foliage is very green, and this can help the flowers stand out more.
This isn’t a picky foundation plant to grow, despite what several people may think. It doesn’t require any special soil as long as your soil drains quickly when you water it. They don’t like to sit in wet soil, and you can water them the same amount as you would any other shrub. Pick out a spot that gets full to partial sun for six to eight-hours every day. It should get morning sun and have protection from the afternoon sun. It’s hardy in zones three to eight.
Hydrangea by kamome / CC BY-NC 2.0
Although ornamental grasses aren’t something you usually think of when you’re trying to find foundation plants, they’re a surprisingly practical choice. Switchgrass is native to parts of the United States, and you can get very tall varieties that grow up to six-feet tall. This allows you to hide things like utilities, soften the corner of your home, or provide a living privacy screen in front of your windows. Since it has a columnar growing habit, you will have to plant them close together so there aren’t any gaps as it grows.
You’ll get steel blue or greenish-grey foliage that is very attractive on this foundation plant, and it goes well with any neutral colors or brick siding. You don’t need to perform any maintenance on this plant except to cut it down to the ground in the spring to encourage new, full growth. It is a perennial in zones four to nine, but it can be an annual in other zones. This is a very durable choice that can tolerate drought. It will also survive flooding impressively well, and it’ll withstand high winds and storms. It thrives in the heat and full, bright sunlight for six to eight hours a day. It’s not picky about soil either.
10. False Cypress
If you’re someone who struggles with keeping foundation plants alive due to deer or shade, consider this deer-resistant shrub. You’ll get surprisingly fragrant foliage that is pleasant to you but deer seem to want to avoid it. It has a pyramidal shape to it that is very appealing, and it can easily get between 6 to 10-feet tall at the peak. There are other cultivars that grow between 15 and 20-feet tall, and they get around 5 and 6-feet wide at the base. They do well in zones four to eight, again, this will depend on the cultivar.
This foundation plant can do well in full sun for hours every day, but it can also handle being in a partially shaded area very well. Plant this shrub slightly away from your home to ensure that it doesn’t interfere with your gutters while still providing privacy. It also isn’t picky about the soil conditions you plant it in, and you can add a thick layer of mulch to help with moisture retention while reducing the amount of times you have to water it. You won’t need to fertilize the soil, nor does it need pruning. This makes it a low-maintenance shrub that won’t drop leaves or needles.
False Cypress Confucius by Drew Avery / CC BY 2.0
11. Ornamental Onion
Again, if you’re looking for a foundation plant that is more for ornamental value than security or privacy, consider this option. Allium ‘Millenium’ has been showcased as the Perennial Plant of the Year every year since 2018 by the Perennial Plant Association. Butterflies and bees enjoy the larger flower this plant produces, and it’s highly fragrant. You can get cultivars that spread or that have a mounding habit if you want to keep them more contained, and they have pretty blue-green foliage with thin and long leaves and very long stems that the two-inch globe-shaped flowers sit on.
The flowers will stand between 15 and 20-inches from the ground with this foundation plant, and they bloom from the mid-summer months on. It does well if you plant it outside in zones four to eight, and it doesn’t require a lot to thrive. Plant them in a space that gets full to partial sun in well-draining soil. Make sure that it is very rich in nutrients too, and you may want to amend it with a compost. Water it lightly a few times a week, and avoid saturating the soil if you can help it. This plant doesn’t like to sit in soggy soil.
12. Upright Japanese Plum Yew
The Upright Japanese Plum Yew is a nice foundation plant that is a very skinny tree that grows in a columnar, upright pattern. It works very well planted around the corners of your home, but you can also easily space it out in front of your window to get a thick privacy screen that is difficult to get through. It produces very erect stems that grow upwards, and it has needle-like greenish-black leaves. They’re decently picky and uncomfortable to the touch, so they’re also unappetizing for deer. It keeps its color all year round, and this includes areas that get snow and very cold temperatures.
This foundation plant gets between eight and ten-feet tall at full maturity, and it provides a lot of visual appeal. You should put it in areas that get full sun or partial shade, and you want to avoid the hotter afternoon sun if possible. The soil should be slightly loamy and drain well, and you’ll want to loosen it up and amend it with a rich compost before you plant it. You won’t need to fertilize it or prune it to keep it looking neat and tidy, so it’s relatively low-maintenance. Make a point to lightly water it regularly.
If you’re someone who has a very shaded foundation with little sun, this foundation plant could be a nice alternative for ornamental value. Hostas come in a huge range of sizes from miniature or dwarf versions that are a few inches tall to huge specimens that are up to six feet wide and five feet tall. Several of the larger hostas are slower-growing, and they can take several years to reach their full maturity. Most hostas spread wider than they grow tall, so make sure you space them out to prevent crowding as they mature.
Hostas are one foundation plant that will return year after year in the same spot without any input from you. They’re perfect for filling in space by your home, and they’re short enough to plant flowers or taller shrubs behind them to fill the space in even more. Most hostas require partial to full shade with minimal water. They have a shallow root system, so the soil should drain well and be more loamy and loose. Fertilize them in the spring to encourage growth, and you can easily dig them up, split them in two, and replant them.
Hosta by Chiot’s Run / CC BY-NC 2.0
Boxwood is a low-growing ornamental shrub, but there are also cultivars of this foundation plant that can get 10 to 12-feet tall or higher. This is a very dense and compact evergreen shrub that thrives in zones five to nine, including harsh winter conditions without losing the foliage. You will have slightly more maintenance with this shrub as you’ll want to regularly prune it to your desired shape and keep it healthy and growing. They’re easy to trim with pruning shears though, and you can prune them at any point during the year.
There are several types of this foundation plant that grow in full shade, partial shade, or full sun. This gives you a little flexibility where you plant it, but be sure to double-check the label to get the correct cultivar for your sun conditions. Make sure the soil drains well when you water it, and it’s better to water lighter as this plant is tolerant of drought and dry conditions. They dislike soaked soil, and you don’t have to fertilize them to encourage continued growth. You can easily grow it in containers as long as they’re big enough, or it does well in raised planting boxes or in the ground.
Boxwood on Gravel Path by David Houston / CC BY 2.0
15. Cavatine Dwarf Japanese Pieris
This foundation plant is a flowering dwarf shrub that has thick evergreen foliage on it. It only gets around two-feet tall all full maturity, so you can plant it around taller shrubs to provide you with pops of color and pretty flowers throughout the spring and summer months. The dark green foliage with the pure white flowers contrasts nicely together, and many people see it as an informal hedge plant. It’s also called lily-of-the-valley shrub in some parts of the United States. The flowers grow in tight clusters that can completely take over the shrub too.
If you want this foundation plant to do well, plant it outside in zones six to eight. It has a restricted planted zone range, but it’s worth it if you live here. It can grow well in partial shade to full sun, and it’s very tolerant to drought conditions if you forget to water it. As a bonus, this plant isn’t picky about the soil you plant it in either as long as it drains semi-well. Water it lightly once a week or so and you don’t have to apply fertilizer to keep this plant happy.
Japanese pieris by Lorianne DiSabato / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
As a nice low maintenance shrub for your garden or yard, this fountain plant has several cultivares that will fit nicely in front of your home. This is an evergreen shrub that will produce flowers during the late spring and early summer months. These flowers will eventually give way to black berries in the fall months. You’ll see very thick leaves with a dark green coloring to them, and this allows you to have pretty year-round foliage in every weather condition. It gets between three and four-feet high, so this makes it a nice choice for a smaller home.
This foundation plant does well when you plant it in partial shade to full sun. It’s a very bushy foundation plant that can easily grow in a huge range of soil conditions without a problem. Also, this plant doesn’t mind wet soil, so you don’t have to worry about the soil draining quickly after you water it. You should plant it in zones four to nine, and it’s slightly more low-growing. It won’t spread out a lot, and it won’t take over the area where you plant it.
Inkberry by Jenny Evans / CC BY-NC 2.0
These 16 examples of hardy foundation plants can provide security or ornamental value to your home. You can even mix and match them or stagger them out from your home to make it more secure. Some of these foundation plants flower and attract pollinators, and some are purely for security purposes. They’re easy to grow, require minimal maintenance, and you can pick the ones that match your growing zones the best to ensure they thrive when you plant them.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.