Foundation Plants for Eye-Catching Front Yard Curb Appeal

by Chris Lambton

Real estate experts say that 20 percent of your home's value should be reflected in your landscaping. After all, the curb appeal of your house is people's first impression. If you're a new homeowner or just beginning to invest in landscaping, there's a way to do it cost effectively. Well placed foundation plants can transform your home's curb appeal and give you a starting place for other garden projects.

Foundation Plants for Eye-Catching Front Yard Curb Appeal

In this article, you'll learn:

What are Foundation Plants?

Foundation plants are the plants that frame your home and make it blend into your property. These key plants are what separate a new build from a beautifully established one. Traditionally used for landscaping next to house foundations, foundation plants seem to transform into the "foundation" of your landscaping. The main purpose of today's foundation landscaping is to draw the eye towards your home. Think of foundation plants as the trees, shrubs and focal plants that create the base upon which you build your garden plan. Something as simple as framing your home with balanced trees and anchoring with foundation shrubs can create a unified and attractive picture.

Creating a Foundational Plant Landscaping Plan

Most homeowners are overwhelmed at the idea and costs associated with landscaping for their property. If you're looking for the best shrubs for front of house landscaping ideas, you could easily find hundreds of options. But if you start with a plan and have a strong vision for your finished project, you're more likely to make wise and targeted landscape decisions that will result in beautiful curb appeal that makes your landscaping the talk of the town.

Step 1

Look at your home.

The largest design element in your front yard is your house. When considering foundation landscaping ideas, first look to your home's architecture and style for inspiration. Think about a quaint little cottage – it won't look its best when plants and greenery are sleek and clean – this is an option better-suited for a modern, contemporary home. No matter the style, all homes feature doors, windows and other prominent features you can use as a starting point for balance and design.

Step 2

Take a step back.

When working with foundation plantings, you're investing in a long-term garden feature. I like to step back and take a look at the big picture. Consider the driveways, walkways, streets, existing trees and shrubs, background, fences and the style of the home.

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Step 3

Keep the balance.

You can often identify where there should be balance in your landscape. For example, if you have a large tree on one side of your yard, you may want to balance it with another tree, a grouping of trees or a garden bed. Perhaps your driveway leads straight to your house and would look perfect when traditionally lined with trees.

Step 4

Think about lines.

Look at the lines of your house and how plants can frame and reinforce those lines. You can add height with tall grasses or tall conical evergreens. Spreading trees and low foundation shrubs can help bring your eye down.

Step 5

Put it on paper.

You don't have to be a great artist to sketch your ideas out on paper. Having even an elementary sketch will help you identify what shapes and styles you want for your home. I have a notebook where I keep magazine clippings of ideas, a picture of my house and a few sketches.

Step 6

Become adventurous.

Foundation plants aren't simply boxed up shrubs, they can be colorful, unique plants that add to the beauty of your home. Look for plants with foliage or flowers to accent the color of your home. Seasonal color can add a special touch, as well. Many trees and shrubs feature colorful spring blooms, deep fall tones or ruby winter accents.

Step 7

Take it step-by-step.

Planting an entire landscape at once isn't always doable for many budget-conscience homeowners. To get the most impact, start with plantings that frame your main entranceway. Once this focal point is established, you can then choose a few key framing or corner plants. Then, you can spend your time and money filling in the areas in between.

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After you've decided on your space, begin by edging around the area using a Fiskars edger, creating a division between your lawn and your soon-to-be-planted area. Next, using a Fiskars garden pick, loosen the soil where you will be planting to give your plant roots room to grow.

Step 8

Plan for color all year round.

Different plants bloom at different times. Do some research to find out which plants will bloom in your area first, and make sure to seek out additional varietals that will have a later blooming date so that you continue to have color in your yard through the entire season.

Once you've selected your plants, place them on your prepared soil to create your ideal final look. After you feel confident with your design, use a Fiskars shovel to begin digging holes for each plant.

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Step 9

Think spatially.

Be careful not to plant too close to your house as you don't want plants crowding into the foundation or into each other. For the best plant growth, air should be able to circulate all around the plant. You also don't want plants that get too big to be close to the base of your house as the roots could do damage to your foundation or basement.

Once the holes have been dug out, place your plant in them and fill with soil and compost to encourage healthy root growth using a Fiskars transfer shovel. Using a Fiskars garden fork, add mulch on top of bed to help retain moisture and prevent weeds from growing. Be sure to water regularly and you'll be well on your way to creating some gorgeous curb appeal.

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The Best Front-of-House Foundation Plants

The most popular foundational plants are often those that grow easily with little maintenance. Choosing easy keepers allows you to focus your gardening time on annual flower beds and vegetable gardens—or, if you're more into a low-maintenance kind of yard—you can just sit back and enjoy your beautiful landscape!

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Boxwood is a traditional shrub that's often used as a foundation planting. Evergreen foundation plants provide year-round foliage. These broadleaf evergreens are compact by nature and grow well in full sun to partial shade. Full winter sun can cause damage, making boxwood varieties excellent landscape plants for north side of house planting.

Pro Tip
Adequate drainage, plenty of organic matter, regular fertilization and light mulch will keep your boxwoods rich and green. Heavy trimming can weaken a boxwood and introduce disease. You want to choose a variety that fits your height needs instead of trying to heavily trim to size. Pruning should be simply for thinning purposes.


Holly is a popular foundation plant due to its low maintenance. One of the best evergreen shrubs for front of house curb appeal, the pointed, shiny leaves seem almost indestructible and stay a brilliant green all year. Small flowers and bright berries create color. There are over 400 species of holly in a wide variety of sizes and shapes. The berries range in color from deep red to bright orange or golden-yellow.

Pro Tip
The key is to choose a variety that will fit your intended space. With options ranging from 5 to 60 feet tall, holly is quite versatile in terms of space. It takes pruning well, too, so if you want thick, low growing shrubs for front of house spaces, it can be perfect. It can even be shaped into creative, whimsical designs.


There are endless classes of roses, from groundcovers to climbing roses – you can choose from thousands of varieties, in every color and size imaginable. Roses are good landscaping plants that can form hedges, accent shrubs or climb up a trellis for height. I think roses are one of the best landscape plants for color, and they're incredibly versatile. They work well as an accent in almost any style of landscape – traditional, cottage, woodland, eclectic and many more.

Pro Tip
It's best to plant your roses in the spring or early fall. They thrive in well-draining and well-fertilized soil. It may be tempting to plant roses closely together to get an instantly full look, but this can lead to unhealthy, diseased roses. Give your roses plenty of room to spread out and grow. Most varieties require at least 3 feet of space.


As a front yard bush, this gorgeous showstopper is ideal. Hydrangeas add softness and color to your landscape. These woody foundation bushes feature large blooms in a wide variety of sizes, shapes and colors. Once established, hydrangeas are extremely easy to maintain. You can plant them in groupings, as a hedge or as individual focal plants.

Pro Tip
Hydrangeas thrive in full sun to partial shade, and they love rich soil with good drainage. The key is to provide enough room between them to allow plants to grow to their fully mature size.


This short perennial features thick, succulent leaves and clusters of star-shaped flowers. My favorite for four-season color is Sedum 'Autumn Joy'. Only growing 2-feet tall, this variety features tiny rose-colored flowers in late summer and early fall. The faded flower heads add an interesting touch during winter months.

Pro Tip
Cutting back in early spring encourages new, vibrant growth. Sedum grows vigorously in full sun but will tolerate light shade.


Depending on the variety, arborvitaes range in size from shrub to tree. A great option if you're looking for shrubs for front of house planting that will quickly fill in for maximized coverage, they're a fast-growing option offering year-round foliage. Many tree-sized arborvitae varieties grow in a unique conical shape perfect for evergreen foundation plantings standing alone or in hedges. Low-growing varieties can create an attractive mound. Many take on a bronze cast in the fall and winter.

Pro Tip
Despite being low-maintenance, arborvitae does not do well in dry conditions. Your soil must be moist, rich and deep.

Flowering Dogwoods

With blooms varying from white to pink or even red, flowering dogwoods provide a lovely touch to your landscape. The early spring bloom is followed by rich green foliage in the summer. Many varieties turn reddish purple as colder weather approaches. Brilliant red berries are a nice winter surprise.

Pro Tip
Foundation plants for shade can be difficult to find. But these compact trees grow best in partial shade. Well-drained, slightly acidic soil creates the best growing environment for this small foundational tree. Growing at the rate of one foot per year, dogwoods take a bit of patience to reach their full mature height of between 20 to 25 feet.

Japanese Maples

If you're looking for a unique texture and brilliant fall color with your foundation plants, front of house placement is perfect for the Japanese maple. From 3-foot dwarfs to slow-growing 15-footers, this foundation tree will tuck neatly into your landscape. Depending on the variety, fall introduces yellow, purple, red and bronze colors to your garden. Delicate, lacy leaves cascade over the low, graceful domes created by arching branches.

Pro Tip
Pruning for form can help create an open center and highlight the shape of the tree.