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Shrubs for Foundation Plantings

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Foundation plantings are well-chosen plants that frame a building and tie it to the site and make it appear an intrinsic part of its environment. Foundation plantings are almost always shrubs that remain in the landscape for years.

Most often, shrubs that are evergreen are chosen for foundation plantings. Shrubs that do not lose their leaves work best to tie a building to the natural landscape. Foundation plantings can be used to hide a building’s foundation–thus the name, but this is not always the case.

Shrubs for foundation planting
Colorful shrubs mask the building foundation and tie the building to the landscape.

There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing foundation plants. First, the plants chosen should include both taller and shorter shrubs. Tall shrubs are commonly chosen first and are used at the corners. Medium-size and lower growing shrubs are then used to bring the planting mass down to the ground and outward from the building.

Foundation plants are commonly planted in mass. Plants chosen are not featured as specimens, but are planted as parts of the whole; it is the whole affect or picture that is important.

Generally, it is the outside corners of the building that furnish the starting point from which plantings advance along each of the walls. But it is not enough merely to set a row of plants from each corner each way along each wall. Instead, start at the corner with a group of plants pointing like an arrow from the corner outward. Never plant in straight rows anywhere along a foundation.

Camelia sasanqua
Camelia sasanqua
A-C Common NameBotanical NameZones
Abelia, glossyAbelia x grandiflora6-9
Arborvitae, EmeraldThuja occidentalis ‘Emerald’3-8
Arborvitae, Little GiantThuja occidentalis ‘Little Giant’3-7
Acuba, JapaneseAucuba japonica7-10
Barberry, JapaneseBerberis thunbergii4-8
Bayberry, northernMyrica pensylvanica2-6
BoxwoodsBuxus spp.6-9
Burning bush, dwarfEuonymous alatus ‘Compacta’3-8
Camellia, sasanquaCamellia sasanqua7-9
Currant, alpineRibes alpinum2-7
Gardenia jasminoides
Gardenia jasminoides
D-J Common NameBotanical NameZones
Dogwood, corneliancherryCornus mas4-8
Dogwood, grayCornus racemosa4-7
Fir, dwarf balsamAbies balsamea ‘Nana’3-6
FothergillaFothergilla spp.4-8
GardeniaGardenia jasminoides8-10
Hibiscus, ChineseHibiscus rosa-sinensis9-10
Holly, compact JapaneseIlex crenata ‘Compacta’5-8
Holly, low growersIlex spp.varies
HydrangeasHydrangea spp.varies
Indian hawthornRhaphiolepis indica8-10
JunipersJuniperus spp.4-8
L-R Common NameBotanical NameZones
Laurel, cherryPrunus laurocerasus ‘Otto Luyken’6-8
Lilac, KoreanSyringia patula3-7
Mountain laurelKolmia latifolia4-9
Pittosporum, variegatedPittosporum tobria ‘Variegata’8-10
Potentilla, shrubbyPotentilla fruticosa2-7
Privet, AmurLigustrum amurense3-7
Privet, golden vicaryLigustrum x vicaryi5-8
Rhododendrons, AzaleasRhododendron spp.Varies
S-Z Common NameBotanical NameZones
Spirea, LimemoundSpirea japonica ‘Limemound’4-9
Spruce, dwarf NorwayPicea abies ‘Pumila’3-8
Viburnum, compactViburnum trilobum ‘Alfredo’2-7
Viburnum, Korean spiceViburnum carlesii4-8
Viburnum, MohicanViburnum lantana ‘Mohican’4-8
Witch hazel, commonHamamelis virginiana3-8
Yew, low growersTaxus x media4-7

Also of interest:

Designing with Shrubs

Designing with Flowering Shrubs

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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