A typical foundation bed is long and narrow – just enough room to sink a line of squat evergreens in the ground. Break out of the mold by pushing the foundation bed out into the yard. A flowing, organic shape will offset the geometrical shape of the house and offer more room for planting. You might even slip in a charming bistro set (see above) to welcome guests.
The plants in this foundation bed include a mix of rugged grasses and shrubs, joined by perennials and annuals. Burgundy and chartreuse foliage ensure there’s something interesting to look at – with or without flowers.
- Purpleleaf sand cherry (Prunus x cistena),* Zones 3–8
- Golden privet (Ligustrum ‘Aureum’),* Zones 5–8
- Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii), Zones 5–8
- Sedum (Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’), Zones 3–10
- Zinnia (Zinnia elegans), annual
- Bigleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla), Zones 5–9
- Variegated Eulalia grass (Miscanthus sinensis), Zones 5–9
- Variegated wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei), Zones 5–9
- Stonecrop (Sedum kamtschaticum), Zones 3–8
- Peony (Paeonia spp.), Zones 4–8
- Joe-Pye weed (Eupatorium maculatum), Zones 5–11
* Prune annually to keep compact.
Good to Know: Avoid planting trees close to the foundation. Small trees, maturing at less than 25 feet, should be planted at least 8 feet from a house. Large trees, maturing at more than 25 feet, should be placed at least 15 feet from a house. Learn more about tree and shrub placement here.
Among the stars here is bigleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla). It’s an exceptional shrub, with large flowers that turn pink in alkaline soil or blue in acidic soil. Even when they fade, the flowers take on attractive hues of tan and buff. They can also be used in dried-flower arrangements. Learn more about hydrangeas here.
Stonecrop (Sedum kamtschaticum) is a tough, drought-tolerant groundcover that looks great spilling over stone edging. It grows only about 6 inches tall, and the thick, glossy leaves look lush even after the early summer yellow flowers drop off. It also tolerates dry soil. Learn more about stonecrop and other succulents here.
Big and bold blooms are hard to ignore, adding oodles of curb appeal. Yellow marigolds, right, and orange zinnias keep the show rolling through summer, continuing to add colorful zest if deadheaded. Or grow peonies — they show off huge flowers in late spring, then become supporting players the rest of the season.
Variegated wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei) offers a season-long splash of color with its bright foliage. Waxy leaves help it conserve moisture, and plants can grow anywhere from 1 to 5 feet tall, depending on cultivar. The best thing: Wintercreeper can be clipped back occasionally or allowed to spread — depending on available space.
Variegated Eulalia grass (Miscanthus sinensis) brightens the bed with its silvery white foliage. At 3–4 feet, it’s tall enough to command attention but not so big that it overwhelms neighboring plants. In addition to color, this grass distinguishes itself in shape — its upright fountain habit contrasting nicely with rounded and mounded shapes.
Purpleleaf sand cherry (Prunus x cistena) is a favorite for low-maintenance landscapes. All it really needs is an annual haircut so it doesn’t outgrow its space. In return, you get handsome purple foliage throughout the growing season. Consider echoing the color, as we did, with burgundy Japanese barberry, purple sweet potato vine, and Phormium. Learn more about using shrubs in the landscape here.