Brightly colored plants contrast with the neutral-colored stone.

Plants for Narrow Beds With Stone Walls

by Paul Schuster

Along with the natural beauty of a stone wall comes gardening challenges, especially if the planting beds at the base of the walls are narrow. No worries, you can still have your dream landscape without tearing up lawn or other landscape fixtures. Plants with shallower root systems, vining or upward growing habits will let you make the most of your limited space. If your stone wall is a dry one, opposed to one with stones cemented in place; for the safety of children and your plants, routinely ensure stones are snug. Wear gardening gloves when planting and caring for your plants to avoid infection from the soil or scrapes.

Partial Sunlight

With the reflected heat and light off of the stone wall, a garden bed that receives partial sun provides good growing conditions. Choose a spot with full morning sun and shade during the hotter afternoon periods. Dwarf English boxwood (Buxus sempervirens “Suffruticosa”) grows to 1 or 2 feet tall, and its tightly growing branches make them well suited to the narrow confines of a smaller garden bed. Their compact foliage means they are easily pruned and trained into fun topiary shapes. Planting a low-lying ground cover such as the blue periwinkle (Vinca minor) will reduce the amount of weeds that compete with other plants. Periwinkle thrives in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 4 through 9.

Direct Sunlight

If your garden bed receives between 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight each day, the soil can quickly dry out, leading to parched soil and plants unless you water regularly. Choose plants that are drought tolerant or just generally need little watering to reduce the chances that your plants becomes stressed. Succulents, which store water in their leaves, are able to tolerate extended periods of dry weather. For low-lying plants to fill in cracks between stones in the wall or the ground, consider the “Angelina” stonecrop (desum rupestre “Angelina”), which has yellow-tinted green stems that reach up to 6 inches high and spread up to 36 inches wide.

Full Shade

If the configuration of your landscape in combination with the wall provides full shade, a groundcover that complements nearby shrubs or trees and does well in the shade might work nicely. A relative of the fern, the Peacock spikemoss (Selaginella uncinata), is often seen cascading from hanging planters, but it also adds a lushness to the understory with its blue-green leaves. When cooler weather chases summer away, the leaves changes to warm red-brown. The Peacock spikemoss thrives in USDA plant hardiness zones 6 through 10. One drawback -- its invasive nature means regular pruning. For a bright splash of color, consider the Bush lily (Clivia miniata “French Hybrid”). Thriving in USDA hardiness zones 9 through 11, the bush lily has bright orange flowers that blossom during the late winter and early spring, lending an exotic air to any garden bed.

Filtered Sunlight

When sunlight filters through nearby plants before falling on your plant bed, choose plants that enjoy this dappled light and don't need full sun. For a showy, almost otherworldly-colored plant, the Mountain plu pine (Podocarpus Lawrencei “Red Tip”) produces needles that change with the seasons from dark dreen to golden-red and provides pine cones. It does best in USDA hardiness zones 7 through 10.

About the Author

Paul Schuster began writing in 2006 and has published in "Gardening Life" and "Canadian Gardening." Schuster is the director of the Toronto Botanical Garden, and holds a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture and Horticulture from the University of Guelph. He leads gardening workshops for elementary school children.

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