Make your front door more welcoming with smart foundation planting.

Ideas for Foundation Plants for a Front Entryway

by Janet Beal

An entryway framed with attractive plants welcomes guests even before you open the door. Because your entryway is the face of your home, framing it with plants means balancing plants in terms of color, shape, texture, size and seasonal interest. Garden designers describe plantings close to the house as foundation plantings.

1. Architectural Style

Follow architectural cues when landscaping. The symmetry of a Georgian-style house suggests framing the entry with balanced but nearly identical beds on each side. Formal styles might welcome narrow conical evergreens like "Skyrocket" juniper (Juniperus scopulorum "Skyrocket"), which grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 9. Shrubs with tidy growth habits, like boxwood (Buxus spp.) and holly (Ilex spp.), and lush but restrained hostas (Hosta spp.), with varieties hardy in the same range of USDA zones, are compatible with a formal home entry style. Enhance the warm informality of a cottage-style house with a wider variety of plant shapes, sizes and colors. An entryway plan for a cottage home might cluster blooming perennials and shrubs under a small flowering tree. For example, small varieties of dogwood (Cornus spp.), which grow in USDA zones 5 through 9, or magnolias (Magnolia spp.), which grow in USDA zones 4 through 9.

2. Texture

Because you may not have year-round flowers, texture variations boost visual interest in your foundation plantings. Plants like bearded iris (Iris germanica), and yucca (Yucca spp.), both of which grow in USDA zones 4 through 9, add spiky foliage to a shrubby border. Mounding grasses, like "Little Bunny" (Pennisetum alopacuroides "Little Bunny"), which grows in USDA zones 5 through 9, contribute frothy, feathery texture.

3. Color

One way to bring a sense of cohesiveness is through color. Your design might emphasize touches of pale pink, from "April Blush" camellia (Camellia japonica "April Blush"), which grows in USDA zones 7 through 9, to the soft pink tones of Endless Summer series hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla), which grow in USDA zones 4 through 9, whose summer-long blooms can be nudged toward pink by adding ground lime to surrounding soil. While a paniculated hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata ), which grows in USDA zones 3 through 9, is too large for most foundation plantings, placing it nearby carries pink tones through into fall. Many plants fit into a gold-touched scheme, which could enliven a gray or brown house, or a blue-purple scheme to frame a warm yellow exterior. Include the color of your front door and exterior trim in your plans.

4. Seasonal Interest

While evergreens and long-blooming shrubs provide consistency to the look of your entryway, choose some plants whose changing attributes create long-season interest. Red-osier dogwood (Cornus stolonifera) maintains bright branches all winter, in USDA zones 8 through 8, after the leaves and flowers have gone. The foliage of oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia), which grows in USDA zones 3 through 9, turns bronze or wine-colored in fall, with deep tan flower clusters. The summer green foliage and purplish flower-heads of "Autumn Blush" muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris "Autumn Blush"), which grows in USDA zones 5 through 10, become straw-colored in fall.

5. Compatible Growing Needs

Because foundation plantings are part of long-term plan, it is important to choose plants that need similar growing conditions. Base your choices on plants that share a soil preference, whether clay, loamy or sandy. Test your soil's pH and select pants accordingly -- most evergreens, for example, grow best in soils with a lower pH. Similar water needs are critical. If your climate is especially dry or wet, choose xeric plants or those for rain gardens.

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