What is Foundation Planting?

Mary McMahon

Foundation planting is a type of landscaping which is designed to hug and frame a house with plants, shrubs, and trees. A number of functions are served when a foundation planting is established thoughtfully and well, and this type of landscaping is very common around the world. As with any landscaping project, people should always create a plan before they begin so that they can create a holistic and pleasant final product.

Man mowing the grass
Man mowing the grass

As the term implies, foundation plantings surround the foundations of a building, and one of their key roles involves the concealment of structural elements which may be less than thrilling, such as the edge of a perimeter foundation. These plants also create a transition between a building and the surrounding natural environment, and they can be used to smooth the lines of a house to create a more unified appearance. Good foundation plantings look natural and complementary, and they enhance the curb appeal of the structure.

There are a number of things to think about when designing a foundation planting, starting with the style of a house. A highly elegant mock Tudor, for example, would look rather silly surrounded by artfully disarrayed succulents. Likewise, a casual ranch-style home would feel stiff and overly formal if it had a foundation planting of box hedges and precisely trimmed shrubs. In addition to the feel of the house, gardeners may also want to think about prevailing colors, as colorful flowers can enhance or clash with the paint, depending on how they are chosen.

There are also some important structural concerns. Keeping plants too close to a home can contribute to rot, and also make it hard to work on the home when the time comes. Large shrubs and trees can also create extensive networks of very strong roots which may damage the foundation, or cause water intrusion in a basement.

It is also important to be aware of final size. A shrub which looks excellent as a foundation planting when it is first installed may grow to cover a window, for example, or an elegant tree which complements a home can become a monster in only a few years. Some other concerns include the way in which the foundation planting will look over the course of the year. Many people like to create a strong base of evergreens so that there is always something attractive to look at, and they mix their plants so that at any given time, something of visual interest will be occurring, whether it be vivid foliage, delicate blooming bulbs, or colorful creeping vines.

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