17 Best Foundation Plants for the Front of Your House

A strong foundation is the key to a beautiful landscape design. Read on as gardening expert Melissa Strauss shares some of the best plants for increasing your home's curb appeal.

foundation plants


When it comes to good landscaping, foundation plants are the bones. We’ve all heard the phrase “good bones” about a house. Good bones mean a house is structurally sound and well-constructed. If a house can have good bones, a landscape should as well. Foundation plants create the overall structure for a landscape design.

Studies show that good landscaping can increase the value of your home by as much as 20%. That’s a significant margin for most people. Even if you’re not worried about selling in the future, landscaping boosts curb appeal in general.

If your home landscape needs some good foundational plants, there are a few factors to consider when making your selections. It is important to remember certain factors if you want these plants to last and create a pleasing aesthetic. 


The most important consideration is climatic compatibility. Foundational plants should grow easily in your region, or you will end up replacing them. To determine which plants will last in your climate, begin by finding out your growing zone.

Home Style and Size

The style and size of your home is another factor to consider. You don’t want to plant species that will overpower your home. Likewise, you don’t want to wind up with plants that won’t fill the space sufficiently. Matching style is a matter of personal taste. However, there are some more traditional pairings to consider if you get stuck and need help deciding.


Decide what characteristics are important to you in terms of seasonality. Is it important to you that foliage be present year-round? Choose evergreen foundation plants. Do you prefer plants that bloom at different times of year? Vary plants according to the seasons.

Color and Texture

If you want your landscape to be traditional and manicured, you can choose plants that match this style. If you prefer varied colors and textures, this is a great place to start.


Determine the amount of sun exposure that your plants will receive. If the front of your home is often shaded, it is important to avoid plants that need full sun. If the sun is in this area all day, some plants won’t thrive there.


Finally, consider how much work you are willing to put into your landscape. Some plants require a lot of pruning or are more susceptible to disease and pests. There is often a trade-off, but there are also plants that are beautiful and low-maintenance. To ensure an attractive design, choose plants that you have enough time and determination to maintain.

Let’s take a look at a wide range of plant types that work well as foundational plants. Whether large or small, flowering or evergreen, use any of these plants to build a strong foundation for your landscape and beautify your home.  


Close-up of flowering Agapanthus plants in the garden in front of an old house. Agapanthus is a striking perennial known for its tall, slender stems crowned with clusters of trumpet-shaped flowers, which come in a soft blue-purple color. Its lush, strap-like leaves form dense clumps, making it an excellent choice for borders.
Enhance your landscape with vibrant Lily-of-the-Nile blooms.
botanical-name botanical name Agapanthus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 1’-4’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 8-11

Lily-of-the-Nile is an attractive plant with clusters of long, grass-like leaves. Some varieties have smaller leaves, while others can grow taller. This plant produces tall flower spikes with showy blooms in summer and fall. This adds a lot of color and interest to the landscape. 

Agapanthus flowers are blue or white and appear in large, round clusters at the top of tall stems. They are low-maintenance plants that thrive best with full sun. They prefer soil that is rich, moist, and well-draining, and they handle salt very well. These are a great choice for coastal areas in warm climates. 


Close-up of flowering Hydrangea bushes in front of a large brick house with large white framed windows. Hydrangea is a popular flowering shrub admired for its large, showy flower heads composed of numerous tiny blooms. These blooms range in color from pink and blue. The leaves are large, heart-shaped, dark green with finely serrated edges.
Add elegance to your garden with versatile, long-lasting hydrangeas.
botanical-name botanical name Hydrangea spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial shade
height height up to 15’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-9

Hydrangeas are a versatile type of flowering shrub that works well in many climates. Some varieties have excellent cold tolerance, and others are heat tolerant. Hydrangeas also produce some truly wonderful, large bloom clusters. The flowers are long-lasting and will dry on the plant if allowed. These plants require a moderate amount of maintenance.

These are great shrubs for partial shade environments. They prefer rich, moist soil and dappled sunlight. Choose a variety that will thrive in your climate. The only drawback to hydrangeas as foundation plants is that they are not evergreen. They will spend several months of the year without foliage. Hydrangeas are a Southern garden classic.


View of the flowerbed in front of the large cream-green house. Round-shaped boxwood bushes grow in the flowerbed. Buxus, commonly known as boxwood, is a versatile evergreen shrub prized for its dense, compact growth and small, glossy leaves.
Create timeless elegance with low-maintenance boxwood shrubs in your landscape.
botanical-name botanical name Buxus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height up to 20’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-9

If you like a manicured landscape, you can’t go wrong with boxwood shrubs. They vary in size from small dwarf varieties that remain low to the ground to large cultivars of 20 feet. All varieties have similar small, neat, and easily maintained foliage. They are one of the more versatile plants in terms of planting and care. 

Boxwood shrubs can thrive in full sun or partial shade locations. Once established, they are drought tolerant. They are also evergreen, so their dense foliage remains on the plant all year. This is a great low-maintenance option for homeowners who prefer a neat appearance without a lot of actual work. Boxwood shrubs do flower, but the flowers are small and inconspicuous. 


Close-up of a blooming Gardenia in the garden. Gardenia is a fragrant evergreen shrub renowned for its exquisite, waxy white flowers and glossy dark green leaves. Gardenia leaves are glossy and dark green, oval-shaped with pointed tips. The flowers are characterized by waxy, trumpet-shaped petals that unfurl delicately, revealing a central cluster of yellow stamens.
Indulge in the exquisite fragrance of low-maintenance gardenias.
botanical-name botanical name Gardenia
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 3’-49’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 7-11

For a lower-maintenance shrub that flowers spectacularly, gardenias are in a class of their own. They require some yearly pruning to keep them from getting leggy. Otherwise, a little fertilizer and water during drought conditions keeps them happy. The best part of a gardenia, of course, is the flowers. 

Gardenia flowers are heavily scented and release their fragrance in the evening. During their long blooming season, they will greet you after work with the most wonderful perfume. Gardenias prefer full sun but can grow in partial shade. They just won’t flower as well. The ‘Frost Proof’ variety is very cold tolerant and can thrive as far north as Zone 7.


Close-up of Holly (Ilex) in a sunny garden. Holly is an iconic evergreen shrub or tree celebrated for its glossy, spiky leaves and vibrant red berries. These berries provide food for wildlife and add festive color to holiday decorations.
Effortlessly elegant, holly adds year-round beauty to any garden.
botanical-name botanical name Ilex
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 6’-50’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-9

Another hardy evergreen, holly plants are a group that basically takes care of themselves. Once established, holly plants are drought tolerant, pest and disease-resistant, and look great all year. Some types have spiky leaves, while others are smooth. They vary widely in size, and some can grow quite large, so be careful to choose one that will suit your space. 

Holly has glossy foliage that creates a wonderful backdrop for other plants. It retains its foliage all year, even producing pretty red berries in the winter. This plant really shows off during the cooler months. Your holly will be happiest in well-drained, slightly acidic soil. 


Close-up of a blooming Camellia in front of a house against a blurred background. Camellia is an elegant evergreen shrub cherished for its large, showy blooms of pink-red color. The flowers are saucer-shaped and consist of double petals overlapping each other, exposing the central golden stamens. Its glossy, dark green leaves provide a striking backdrop to the exquisite flowers.
Grace your landscape with year-round beauty.
botanical-name botanical name Camellia
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial shade
height height 6’-15’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 6-9

While they don’t have the widest climate range, camellias are stunning foundation plants if you can grow them. Some varieties are hardy to Zone 6, but most will grow best in zones 7-9.  Camellias have the advantage of being pretty year-round. Their broad, glossy, evergreen foliage makes a beautiful foundation. 

These are truly wonderful plants to have in the landscape. They will support many other types of summer plants as a backdrop. They show off most in winter, though. Camellias produce large, showy flowers between November and April, depending on the variety and species. These plants prefer well-drained soil and dappled sunlight. Most will not tolerate full sun. It will scorch their leaves.


Close-up of a flowering Azalea plant in front of a large brick house with large white framed windows. The Azalea 'Perfecto Mundo' is distinguished by its glossy, deep green foliage, which forms a dense shrub. The leaves are elliptical with a slightly serrated edge, providing a lush backdrop for the abundance of vibrant, trumpet-shaped flowers. The blooms are bright pink. These flowers are characterized by their ruffled edges and prolific blooming habit.
Versatile and resilient, azaleas flourish in varying light conditions.
botanical-name botanical name Rhododendron
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial to full shade
height height 6′-10′
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-8

Azaleas and their larger genus Rhododendron are a group of flowering acid-loving shrubs. Some are evergreen, and others are deciduous. These shrubs are very hardy and tolerant of differing conditions. They will grow and flower well in both partial and full sun conditions. 

These plants do need regular pruning to maintain dense foliage. Neglect will leave them with a leggy appearance. They bloom on old wood, so pruning is best performed immediately after blooming. A nice characteristic of this plant is its ability to rebound after a hard pruning. If you forget to prune or don’t have time, your plant may get scraggly. Just cut it down to six inches tall, and you will have a nice-sized shrub again in about two years. 


Close-up of Taxus in a sunny garden. The Taxus, commonly known as Yew, presents itself with dense, dark green foliage composed of linear, needle-like leaves arranged spirally along its branches. The leaves are glossy and evergreen. Among the foliage, small, round berries grow, displaying a vibrant red hue.
Quietly elegant, yew shrubs provide versatile foundation planting options.
botanical-name botanical name Taxus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height up to 40’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-8

Yew shrubs are not showy. In fact, they won’t interfere much in the summer except to provide a nice foundational backdrop for other plants. There are a wide variety of sizes when it comes to yew plants. Dwarf varieties fit well in many spaces, where full-sized types can grow very large. 

Yew shrubs are evergreen, so they will continue to do their job quietly and without complaint. In terms of pruning, they can go without or you can trim them into neat topiaries. Varieties span the exposure spectrum. Some are happy with full sun; others can survive in nearly full shade. Well-drained soil is a must, as they don’t tolerate soggy feet. 

Virginia Sweetspire

Close-up of a blooming Virginia Sweetspire in a sunny garden. The Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica) is distinguished by its graceful, arching branches adorned with elongated, lance-shaped leaves that emerge a vibrant green. Cylindrical racemes of fragrant white flowers cascade from the branches, attracting pollinators with their sweet scent.
Virginia sweetspire thrives in wet conditions, offering fragrant blooms.
botanical-name botanical name Itea virginica
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial to full shade
height height 4’-8’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-9

If drainage is an issue in your yard, Virginia sweetspire is a great option. This attractive, flowering shrub is highly tolerant of swampy conditions. It will grow in full sun to partial shade, but flowers best with more sun exposure. It spreads nicely, often wider than tall, creating a well-textured hedge. 

In the summer, this shrub produces long clusters of fragrant white flowers. It’s a great pollinator plant. Virginia sweetspire can have green or red foliage depending on the variety. It helps prevent erosion and is deer-resistant. 


Close-up of blooming Salvia on a blurred background. Salvia, commonly known as sage, displays distinctive lance-shaped leaves that are often silvery-green in color, with a velvety texture. Rising above these foliage are clusters of tubular flowers of deep purple color. These flowers are arranged in spiky, upright clusters.
Compact yet resilient, salvia delights with vibrant, long-lasting blooms.
botanical-name botanical name Salvia
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height up to 3’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-10

Salvia is a great option for the low-maintenance landscaper with a small-scale garden. Some types can grow up to six feet tall, but most grow to about four feet maximum. Salvia is deciduous but root hardy. Some types tolerate as cold as zone 5. It flowers for a long period from spring through fall and is a great pollinator attractor. 

Once you plant salvia, expect it to spread. This herbaceous perennial spreads by underground rhizomes and will fill in a large space in a few years. It is highly drought tolerant once established and heat tolerant as well. Salvia will flower best with full sun exposure but can grow in partial shade, too. 


Close-up of Thujas growing in a row in front of a house in the garden. Thuja, commonly known as arborvitae or cedar, is characterized by its dense, scale-like foliage arranged in flattened sprays. The leaves are a vibrant shade of green.
Elegant and adaptable, arborvitae thrives with minimal care.
botanical-name botanical name Thuja
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height up to 70’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-8

Arborvitae is a great, low-maintenance evergreen that thrives in full sun. These nicely shaped small trees or shrubs have an attractive growth habit and require little pruning. They are visually versatile and work well in formal or casual gardens. 

The height range of these plants is very wide. Dwarf varieties can top out as short as three feet, while some full-sized types can tower over the garden. Choosing the right type for your space is important with this plant. They have attractive, aromatic foliage with flattened, lacy leaves. Plant these in the fall as they establish better in cool weather. 


Close-up of Juniperus in a sunny garden. Juniperus, commonly known as juniper, presents itself with a needle-like foliage of bright green color. Among the foliage, small round berries develop, starting green and maturing to shades of blue. These berries are covered in a powdery coating.
Versatile and resilient, juniper adds effortless texture and beauty.
botanical-name botanical name Juniperus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 10’-30’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-9

Juniper is another attractive evergreen that comes in a wide variety of sizes. It adds great texture to the landscape and produces attractive blue berries. The foliage is lacy and aromatic, and birds love this plant. Plant juniper in full sun for the best foliage and growth. If given the space, some types can reach towering heights up to 50 feet. Most compact varieties stay closer to 15 feet. 

Juniper shrubs self prune and have sap that makes them resistant to rot. They are an excellent choice for the low-maintenance homeowner. These plants can tolerate partial sun, but they must have well-drained soil to prevent root rot. Give larger varieties some space between planting and the home to avoid root issues. 

False Cypress

Close-up of a Chamaecyparis branch in a sunny garden. Chamaecyparis, commonly known as false cypress, presents a striking silhouette with its pyramidal or columnar form, adorned with feathery foliage. The scale-like leaves are gray-green in color. The branches = exhibit a graceful, sweeping appearance. Chamaecyparis produces small, gray-brown spherical cones that contain seeds.
Elegant and low-maintenance, false cypress enhances landscape foundations beautifully.
botanical-name botanical name Chamaecyparis
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to full shade
height height up to 100’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-13

False cypress is an attractive option for landscape foundations. Evergreen and hardy, these plants are natives of Japan, Taiwan, and the United States. They require little maintenance and are appreciated for their excellent disease resistance.  

This plant has beautiful foliage that adds texture to the landscape. They grow in a visually pleasing pyramidal or columnar shape. It’s unusual to see a conifer with soft, fernlike foliage. From a distance, this shrub or small tree looks whimsical and frilly. Depending on the species, they can grow large. Be sure to select one that will not overgrow your space or overwhelm your other garden plants. 


Close-up of a flowering Hibiscus plant in a garden against a blurred brick house background. Hibiscus plants are characterized by their lush, deep green leaves, which are broad and ovate with serrated edges. The bloom is large, trumpet-shaped, and comes in a deep red color with a contrasting black center.
Adorn your garden with diverse hibiscus shrubs.
botanical-name botanical name Hibiscus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height up to 15’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-12

There are different types of hibiscus shrubs for different climates. The hardy types are deciduous and work very well in cooler climates. Tropical species are evergreen and grow primarily in zones 10-12. Both types are beautiful, blooming shrubs that make a wonderful foundation plant in the garden. 

Hibiscus shrubs have beautiful foliage that can be green or shades of red. The flowers they produce are some of the largest around, with some species producing dinner plate-sized blooms. These flashy flowers are ephemeral, but plants usually produce an abundance. Their blooming time is long and prolific. Plant your hibiscus in well-drained soil and full sun for the best flowering. 

American Beautyberry

Close-up of an American Beautyberry in a sunny garden with a blurred background. The American Beautyberry, scientifically known as Callicarpa americana, is recognized for its distinctive clusters of bright purple berries that adorn its arching branches. These berries, tightly packed together along the stem, create a striking visual display against the shrub's vibrant green foliage. The leaves are elliptical and serrated.
Welcome wildlife with vibrant American beautyberry shrubs in your garden.
botanical-name botanical name Callicarpa americana
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height up to 8’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 6-10

American Beautyberry is a great shrub to have around if you enjoy wildlife. The beautiful purple berries provide food for local bird populations. This is also a larval host plant for the snowberry clearwing moth and spring azure butterfly. It is deciduous, so the plant is less attractive in the winter. But, from spring through fall, it is a very pretty plant. 

A nice thing about American Beautyberry is that it is highly resilient. You can cut this plant all the way to the ground in winter if you don’t want to look at the bare branches. By summer’s end, you will have a large, attractive shrub once again. It flowers in the spring, followed by those bright and flashy berries in the fall. 

Sunshine Ligustrum

Close-up of Sunshine Ligustrum with mulched soil in a sunny garden. Ligustrum sinense 'Sunshine', is distinguished by its vibrant foliage, featuring glossy, ovate leaves that emerge a bright golden-yellow hue. Its branches are dense and compact, adorned with an abundance of foliage, creating a dense and bushy appearance.
Illuminate your garden with golden foliage of non-invasive Ligustrum ‘Sunshine.’
botanical-name botanical name Ligustrum sinense ‘Sunshine’ PP0379
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height up to 10’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 6-9

Ligustrum is a touchy subject in some circles because certain types are on the invasive species list. ‘Sunshine’, however, is a non-invasive hybrid that is simply gorgeous. The brilliant chartreuse foliage would be stunning against a brick facade. This compact variety doesn’t grow over ten feet, so it is easy to manage. 

‘Sunshine’ grows well in full sun or partial shade. In the summer, panicles of small white flowers bloom on the branches. The jury is out on the fragrance of these flowers, but I rather like the scent. This makes a striking hedge. The blue-black berries that come after the flowers are popular among birds.


Close-up of a flowering Viburnum opulus bush in the front garden. Viburnum opulus 'Roseum' is distinguished by its large, spherical clusters of creamy-white, sterile flowers that resemble snowballs. The foliage consists of deep green, lobed leaves that provide a lush backdrop for the stunning floral display.
Choose viburnum for versatile, fragrant, evergreen beauty in your garden.
botanical-name botanical name Viburnum spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 5’-15’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-8

Viburnum is another plant that isn’t right for every area, so check the local invasive species list. Still, it is an attractive evergreen and makes a great foundation plant. Viburnums vary greatly in size and foliage. Some are deciduous, but there are evergreen varieties that will retain their foliage. 

Although they prefer rich, moist soil, most viburnums are not picky about their location. They like full sun but tolerate some shade. Once established, expect good drought tolerance, but water newly planted shrubs. These are blooming shrubs that produce wonderfully fragrant flower clusters in shades of pink or white. 

Final Thoughts

If you are preparing your home for sale or simply want to increase its curb appeal, great foundation plants are a must-have. A good foundation is important not only in the home itself but in the landscape as well. Build your garden on a strong and beautiful foundation. These plants will endure for a lifetime. 

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