The 10 “Must-Have’s” in your Landscape: #1 Foundation Plants

Foundation ShrubsThis is the first in a series of articles on the Ten “Must Have’s” in your Landscape. Have you ever passed by a house that doesn’t have any – not one – foundation shrub? It definitely looks out of place, it looks lonely, and it is just not right! Foundation shrubs serve the purpose of joining the house to the land. They provide symmetry, perspective, softening and beautification. There are several things to consider when you are selecting what shrubs to use for the foundation planting.

What Make’s a Good Foundation Shrub?

It is simply, the right plant in the right place. Firstly, it should be evergreen. Therefore it won’t go away in the winter time and the landscape always looks “put together”. When we are preparing a landscape design, we always think about what is the landscape going to look like in the winter? Secondly, it should be an appropriate size. Often shrubs look awfully cute at the Nursery, but you bring them home and give them some lovin’ for a few years and they turn into a giant! Read labels carefully and select shrubs that are not going to cover your windows or doors.

Is Color important to you?

Some people don’t like a lot of color in their front yards, but instead prefer the landscape to be completely green. This is perfectly o.k. but it you go with only green foliage shrubs, you should change it up a little by selecting shrubs that have some textural differences so that the landscape doesn’t become boring. If you are not afraid of a little color, there are many wonderful foundation shrubs with colorful foliage, or foliage that changes color with the seasons. The secret to adding a little color is to add a “little” color. Don’t go overboard with a lot of different color choices as then the landscape becomes very busy and confusing on our eyes. Instead, pick one or two accent colors and repeat those colors throughout the landscape.

Do you like Meatballs?

Yes please, but not in my landscape. Meatballs (or continually pruning shrubs into balls) results from shrubs that outgrow their space and therefore we have to continually prune them to keep them in bounds. Over the years the plant industry has developed many size appropriate shrubs, so we have a lot more choices these days to select the proper plant. 

Some of our Top Foundation Shrubs

Below is a list of the foundation shrubs that we use over and over again.  These are tried and true, and don’t have many issues, and tend to do well in our climate.  This is just a small selection of the shrubs we offer at the Nursery, so come on in and see the vast array of colors, textures, and shapes that are available.

Soft Touch Holly
Naturally forms a rounded shrub that stays
small, 2′ tall x 3′ wide.  Can take full sun.
Also look at Carissa Holly, Dwarf Yaupon Holly,
and Compact Japanese Holly
Crimson Fire Loropetalum
A fairly new Loropetalum that only reaches
2-3′ tall x 2-3′ wide.  It keeps its burgundy
color year round!  Can take full sun.  If you
need a larger version, look at Purple Diamond
Creeping GardeniaCreeping Gardenia
Another low growing shrub reaching 2′ tall
by 2-3′ wide.  It flowers in July with fragrant
white blooms.  Can take partial to full sun.
Another great Gardenia is Frost Proof if you
need a taller shrub.  It gets about 5′ tall.
Georgia Petite Indian Hawthorn
Another small shrub that flowers in the
spring.  It reaches 2.5′ tall x 3.5′ wide.  It
can also take full sun.  It does have one
drawback, the deer seem to like it!
Kaleidoscope Abelia
Great colorful foliage and it only reaches
2.5′ tall by 3.5′ wide.  It can take full sun and
looks great with Loropetalum.  Also look at
Mardi Gras Abelia which is a newer
 Winter Gem Boxwood
One of the hardiest Boxwoods.  Makes a great
small hedge and will reach 4-6′ tall by 4-6′
wide.  Winter Green Boxwood is another
one that stays slightly smaller at 2-4′ by 3-5′
 Vintage Jade DistyliumVintage Jade Distylium
Only reaches 2′ tall but will spread 5′ wide.
Adds great texture to the shrub border and
adds another shade of green.  Can take full
sun also.  Also look at Blue Cascade
Distylium and Coppertone Distylium.
 Flirt NandinaFlirt Nandina
A great low growing groundcover type
Nandina that turns Red in the winter.  Drought
tolerant, loves the sun, and low maintenance.
Also look for Blush Pink Nandina and
Obsession Nandina.
 Sasanqua CamelliaSasanqua Camellia
The dwarf varieties of Sasanqua Camellia
make excellent foundation shrubs when you
need a little bit more height.  They have the
added bonus of flowers in the winter time too!
Check out the October Magic series.

If you are still not sure where to begin, come in and see us at the Family Tree.  We also offer a free Quick Sketch or a full Landscape Design Service that will help you get started.

Happy Gardening!
Tracy Davis

Check out the rest of Tracy’s list of the top 10 ‘must-haves’ for your landscape!

#1 Foundation Plants
#2 Trees
#3 Screening
#4 A Welcoming Front Entry
#5 Pops of Color
#6 Focal Points
#7 Nooks
#8 Hardscaping
#9 Entertaining Areas
#10 Animal Friends