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Update Your Home with New Foundation Plants

Written by Rhonda Ferree, retired horticulture educator

Are plants around your house foundation old, overgrown and in need of a change? Rhonda Ferree, Horticulture Educator with University of Illinois Extension, provides the following tips for updating your homes foundation plantings.

"Foundation plantings are the combination of plants around the front door, the front corners, and a transition area that joins them," says Ferree. Plants along the front of a house serve many purposes. A properly designed front landscape can greatly enhance the appearance and market value of your property. Use plants to blend the structure of the house with the general surroundings so that the house looks natural on its site.

Ferree suggest that you get started by standing in front of your house and drawing a rough sketch that shows the front door, windows, and roof lines. Then draw a "V" from each corner eave down to the front door. The "V" serves as guidelines for plant heights along the front of the house. The tallest plants at the ends of the "V" should be no taller than two-thirds the height of the corners of the house. Select plants for the entrance that don't become too large.

"Think of your front door as the center of interest and focal point." The entrance planting should help direct attention to the door. Use plants with year-round interest, because they are seen closely and many times.

Do not think you have to put plants all the way across the foundation. The main idea is to soften the homes features, not camouflage. Only if this space is exceptionally long may some plants be used to break up the long line. Avoid long rows of the same type of plant to fill these areas. In some situations a bed of groundcover or mulch may be all that is necessary to tie the entrance planting and corner plantings together and also make maintenance and mowing easier.

Don't locate plants within 1 ½ feet of the foundation where the soil is often too dry for good plant growth. Plants should be far enough from the house to avoid growing against the house and to maintain good air circulation. For spreading shrubs, allow for width equal to the eventual height. Good spacing is important to prevent later crowding and excess pruning.

Unfortunately, not all homes and lots fit the situation described here. Since houses come in all shapes and sizes, there is no "cookbook" recipe for landscaping. Every situation is unique and different. Regardless of your situation, remember these key points: the house is the focal point, focus on the front door, and soften architectural features so that the house blends in with its surroundings.

For more information on this or other horticultural issues, contact your local Extension office by visiting You can also post questions on Rhonda's facebook page at



As horticulture educator, Rhonda Ferree inspired citizens in local communities to grow their own food and improve their home landscapes. She focused on high quality, impactful programs that taught homeowners how to create energy-efficient landscapes using sustainable practices that increase property values and help the environment.

After 30 years with University of Illinois Extension, Rhonda retired in 2018. She continues to share her passion for horticulture related topics as “Retro Rhonda” on social media.

ILRiverHort is a blog that helps people connect to nature and grow.