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Low Maintenance Shrubs for Foundation Plantings
We all want to have a beautiful landscape to enhance our home and improve the curbside view. If you find yourself with little time to be out in the garden but still need your landscape to have a tidy appearance, consider growing these low-maintenance shrubs in your home’s foundation beds.
All of the plants described here require very little pruning or fertilizing annually to thrive, but even low maintenance plants need water to grow, especially the first year while their roots are becoming established. Those described here will grow well with average amounts of water. If you use an irrigation system to water your lawn and garden, it should be sufficient for these shrubs once they are established. Remember to mulch your garden beds to help the soil stay cool and retain moisture.
BEST IN FULL SUN (6+ HOURS OF DIRECT SUN PER DAY)
This shrub sure is a Doozie! It’s the first spirea we’ve seen that blooms the entire season, from spring all the way to frost. Its incredible reblooming ability is due to the fact that it is sterile, which means it puts all of its energy into making more flowers, not seeds. That means there won’t be any nuisance seedlings to weed out either. This shrub will grow in part sun, but it blooms best in full sun. Pruning isn’t necessary but can be done after the first flush of flowers is finished if desired.
Size: 2-3’ tall and wide. Hardiness: zones 3-8.
Dark and smooth like a fine wine, this weigela sets a dramatic backdrop for flowering annuals in foundation beds. Plant a row under your windowsill and pop in some vibrant or in front and you’ll be good to go all season. Fine Wine is a smaller, denser form than the popular Wine and Roses® weigela. Both are grown for their dark burgundy foliage and pink flowers in late spring. Pruning isn’t necessary but can be done right after it is finished blooming if desired.
Size: 2-3’ tall and wide. Hardiness: zones 4-8.
You know spring has officially “sprung” when the forsythias start blooming. Their cheerful yellow flowers express the promise of warmer days ahead. While older varieties of forsythia grow quite large and need extensive pruning to keep them in bounds, the Show Off series is far lower maintenance. There are , and varieties available, with Show Off Starlet being the mid-sized version. Its 2-3’ tall stature means it won’t block your windows when used as a foundation plant. It shouldn’t need pruning to keep its tidy appearance.
Size: 2-3’ tall x 3-4’ wide. Hardiness: zones 5-8.
Like Fine Wine weigela, this burgundy foliage shrub will create a beautiful dark backdrop along your home’s foundation. In comparison, Sunjoy Mini Maroon’s shape will be more cushion-like and its smaller leaves will provide a finer texture. Barberries are commonly planted below windowsills for an added measure of home protection since their branches are quite thorny. This naturally neat selection rarely needs pruning and won’t seed around the garden due to its sterility.
Size: 2-3’ tall and wide. Hardiness: zones 4-8.
If you thought you’d never have enough space for a lilac in your garden, you may be surprised to know that Bloomerang Dwarf Purple and Dwarf Pink grow just one-third the size of conventional lilacs. Their short, rounded shape is just the right size to grow in the middle of your home’s foundation bed without blocking the view. You’ll also love their amazing reblooming ability, flowering first in spring, then again throughout the summer and fall. They don’t need to be pruned to rebloom or keep their petite shape, so just sit back, relax and enjoy their sweet perfume.
Size: 2 ½ – 3’ tall and wide. Hardiness: zones 3-7.
BEST IN SUN OR PART SHADE (4+ HOURS OF DIRECT SUN PER DAY)
There are lots of good reasons to plant azaleas and rhododendrons up near your home’s foundation. These understory shrubs enjoy the protection of something overhead, whether it’s the overhang of your roof or the shade of a tall tree nearby. Such protection is especially welcome in winter when cold winds can dry out their evergreen foliage. Planting them up close also brings brilliant spring color right up to your front windows where you can enjoy it fully. Azaleas and rhododendrons come in many colors and sizes, so read their descriptions carefully before you buy.
Size and hardiness: varies by variety.
This petite globe arborvitae forms a dense, rounded ball of dark green evergreen foliage you won’t need to trim to keep its shape. You might plant several close together to make a short hedge along a pathway or grow them in front of taller deciduous shrubs near the front of a foundation bed to provide structure in winter. No matter how you decide to use them, you can be sure they will look perfect year-round without any fuss, and you’ll be wondering why you didn’t plant more!
Size: 1-2’ tall and wide. Hardiness: zones 3-7.
Conical evergreen shrubs like this beauty are ideal for using as an accent plant at the corner of your home’s foundation bed, but they are also useful for masking the view of gas meters and well heads. Soft Serve Gold has bright gold to chartreuse foliage that can handle full sun without burning and shines in part shade, too. If most of your foundation plantings are green, consider adding a few golden foliage plants like this for contrast. If green is more your style, check out the original false cypress.
Size: 6-10’ tall x 5-6’ wide. Hardiness: zones 4-8.
It’s no secret why Little Lime is one of our most popular hydrangeas—it’s just the right size and blooms reliably every year with very little maintenance required. Like its taller cousin ‘Limelight’, Little Lime blooms prolifically with light lime green flowers that age to an antique rose in fall. Since it blooms on new wood, you can count on flowers every year, no matter how hard your winter was. Simply trim the whole plant back by one-third each year in spring.
Size: 3-5’ tall and wide. Hardiness: zones 3-8.
If you’re looking for a carefree native shrub for your home’s foundation planting, consider aronia. This easy to grow, hardy shrub provides a lush green background of healthy foliage, dainty white flowers in spring, black berries in summer, and brilliant orange-red fall color. (Birds enjoy the berries, but you wouldn’t eat them since they are extremely sour.) Low Scape Hedger has an upright, narrow form; it can be left to grow naturally or pruned into a formal hedge. If a shorter, more groundcover-like shape would fit your space better, consider growing or aronia.
Size: 3-5’ tall x 2-3’ wide. Hardiness: zones 3-9.
Lining pathways, bordering patios and framing windows across America are classic boxwood shrubs. Shiny, evergreen foliage, an ability to tolerate both sun and shade, and good deer resistance makes them extremely popular for today’s landscapes. If your arms get tired just thinking about pruning hedges, you will appreciate that North Star boxwood is a very low maintenance variety that requires little to no pruning to keep its low, dense shape. It also has excellent resistance to boxwood blight.
Size: 2-3’ tall x 3-4’ wide. Hardiness: zones 5-9.
If you’re looking for something a little different than boxwood but enjoy that tidy evergreen look, consider growing Strongbox inkberry holly. Its foliage appears nearly identical to boxwood but is darker green. This is a cultivar of our native evergreen holly that grows in the same kinds of conditions as boxwood but is somewhat less tolerant of full shade conditions. It does not need to be pruned to keep its neat appearance but won’t mind if you shape it into a formal hedge or specimen.
Size: 2-3’ tall and wide. Hardiness: zones 5-9.
Winter interest may be the furthest thing from your mind now, but you will be so glad you planted winterberry hollies when the snow flies later this year. Winterberries absolutely glow in the garden from fall to spring. Their bare branches become covered in red, orange or yellow berries (depending on which variety you grow) which persist through the coldest months of the year. Birds devour the berries after they’ve fermented and dropped. Plant one male winterberry holly for every five females to ensure fruit set. is the pollinator for Berry Poppins.
Size: 3-4’ tall and wide. Hardiness: zones 3-9.