Plants for the Front of the House

I think these are the plants I’d like, though I’m not 100% committed to them yet. They all tolerate shade.

Plants for the Front of the House

Clockwise from top left: Karen Azalea, Ostrich Fern, Hostas, Green Velvet Boxwood, Astilbe, Asparagus Fern (an annual here), Hardy Cyclamen, and Pagoda Dogwood.

Sources & Paint ColorsNeed design help? Let's work together.

You Might Also Like...

  • ashley morgan
    February 16, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    I love the azaleas. We’ve had no luck with ours. We have two bushes and they don’t die, but they don’t produce flowers anymore either. I don’t know what’s up. Your choices are all beautiful.

  • Cate
    February 16, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    All of these are beautiful! My only tip would be to add in some different colors. Everything matches in a garden!

  • Erin
    February 16, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    Gorgeous! I especially like your use of unusual textures.

  • Susan
    February 16, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    Pagoda dogwood (aka alternate leaf dogwood) is awesome. Great choice.

  • Haley
    February 16, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    I’m always a fan of going native, which is convenient because I think the Asparagus Fern is lovely! Although it in no way reminds me of the vegetable.

  • Kerry
    February 16, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    The hostas are a brilliant idea — there are so many great textures and colours available. They will grow like mad (but not invasively) and they will have flowers (tall) pop out in the summer (mine are a soft purple colour). Best part is that you can dig them up and divide them.

    (Oh, and as a bonus, they choke out weeds around them with the big leaves!)

  • rachel
    February 16, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    these are so beautiful. before you plant, make sure that you know when each plant blooms or which ones are evergreen. also, make sure you know the water needs of some of those, because if my memory serves me correctly i think cyclamen is somewhat picky. good luck!

  • Averill
    February 16, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    I love azaelas, but I didn’t realize they could make it as far north as Chi-town — I’ve always thought of them as a very southern plant. Azaela bushes line the front of my parents’ house in Houston and would always bloom every year around Easter. Really lovely.

  • Sherry
    February 16, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    Love it. Can’t wait for the pics. I especially like the feathery textures mixed with some more substantial plants. Dude, you’re a planting pro.


  • Emily
    February 16, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    I especially like the hostas and cyclamen. Variegated leaves look gorgeous even when they aren’t blooming. Shade plants always look so lush.

  • Gillian
    February 16, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    Are Hellebores (Lenten Rose) out of the question? They come in lovely muted shades and their foliage is quite attractive.

  • mrs boo radley
    February 16, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    Lovely! Ferns!

  • Peggasus
    February 16, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    In my (formerly) southern suburban garden, I have had great luck with the ferns and the hostas, Actually, don’t even buy either of those, as they need to be divided frequently: find a friend and get a plant from them. They are like daylillies, you can transplant them anytime of year, and people always want to get rid of excess hostas!

    I also love those astilbes, but have found them to be pretty temperamental about their surroundings. I’ve planted a number of them over the years and none have survived. That makes me sad.

    Another plant species that did well in the shade were the heucheras (I believe that’s the name), and they come in many varieties with lots of nice colors.

    Best wishes with the baby!

  • Elissa
    February 16, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    These are beautiful! So pink! I’m trying to decide what to plant in my shade garden too. My last apartment was full, full sun so now I have to learn to grow in shade. We have lots of azaleas, but I’ve never seen them bloom- can’t wait to find out what color they are!

  • Tory
    February 16, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    This is a great mix of plants. I love all the shapes and textures together. It’s so nice to be thinking about spring & summer!

  • Jessika
    February 16, 2009 at 6:39 pm

    Beautiful! But especially with one on the way (and assuming the plants will be there when the baby becomes a curious toddler), you may want to do a plant toxicity analysis. I know that azaleas are somewhat toxic (mostly cardiovascular problems and stomach problems if you ingest), but then again, I’m not a botanist. But pretty pink flowers may look like candy. I suppose it also depends upon where you expect the child to play too. If you don’t expect to be out in the front yard much, then I say go for it.

    I don’t mean to be a debbie downer. I just wanted to toss another perspective out there. I knew someone who had an oleander plant in the front yard, and their boy got SOO sick from eating a few flowers.

  • tweena
    February 16, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    Don’t forget the Azaleas grow the best facing the north and the hosta can’t be in full sun.

  • Erin Frost
    February 16, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    I am a horticulturist by profession. I know when you read the gardening books you can get caught up in the eye candy. But you might want to consider a few things that I learned “on the job”. Feel free to email me and I can provide additional assistance if needed, I live in Boston. We have long winters so add some plants that have interesting forms in the winter. That boxwood is going to bite it unless you cover it with burlap every fall-lots of work for a new mom. Cyclamen also probably not going to make it through your winter and if it does it won’t be pretty. Also, DO NOT PLANT ANY TREES NEAR YOUR HOUSE! The practice of homeowners planting too close to a building is keeping arborists employed the world over. Trees, even the small ones need about 15′ circumference to grow comfortably, the mature height of the tree should be the planting distance. You might want to try Viburnum, Winterberry, oak leaf hydrangea, high bush blueberries, lots of bulbs, daylilies (scented), perennial geraniums, feverfew, epimediums, goats beard (aruncus), jacobs ladder, Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla), and sedges (carex). Good luck, and try to plan to have a few things in bloom each season.

  • Kim de Montreal
    February 16, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    Ahhhh, gardening……Can’t wait!!!!!
    The above comment from the horticulturist is right on. I think your choices are beautiful though. My only advice is when you go shopping for the plants, buy the biggest ones. Sometimes it’s difficult to pay more for the bigger pot, but waiting 3 years for the small one to catch up in size is not worth the savings. Oh, and I also spend a lot of $ on good dirt. I’t a horrible way to enjoy a paycheck, but it’s worth it too.

  • Kim de Montreal
    February 16, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    Ahhhh, gardening……Can’t wait!!!!!
    The above comment from the horticulturist is right on. I think your choices are beautiful though. My only advice is when you go shopping for the plants, buy the biggest ones. Sometimes it’s difficult to pay more for the bigger pot, but waiting 3 years for the small one to catch up in size is not worth the savings. Oh, and I also spend a lot of $ on good dirt. It’s a horrible way to enjoy a paycheck, but it’s worth it too.

  • Desiree Fawn
    February 16, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    Cyclamens are one of my favourites ^_^

  • Jenna
    February 16, 2009 at 10:44 pm

    Oh my goodness, I just spent the last part of forever reading through your archives! Wow!! Totally and completely in love! You rock… I have been thoroughly inspired! I’ll be back often! (And I use exclamation points way too much)

  • Paula
    February 17, 2009 at 12:11 am

    I love the hostas and cyclamen. The texture on that asparagus fern is just gorgeous!

  • Guadalupe
    February 17, 2009 at 6:41 am

    Stay in touch with that horticulturist and listen to her advice. Nothing beats expertise and experience. I love your blog and visit to see the progress on your house and to get inspired.

  • Fiona
    February 17, 2009 at 6:46 am

    I know nothing (unfortunately) about plants because I live in NYC, but I think those are all gorgeous. I’m just working on keeping my few house plants alive! I am envious of those with a real garden, but I guess I’ll just focus on the fact that I am spared that work (and the benefits, but oh, well!)

  • lindsay
    February 17, 2009 at 8:26 am

    I have all of these except the pagoda dogwood. I have them planted in various exposures too. My astilbe looks the best where it has some sun, it’s one of my favorites. I bought all of these 3 years ago, and they’ve all done so well that I’ve seperated them and replanted in other areas of our yard. I put in a whole yard full of plants the year I had a May baby. I strapped her in the bjorn carrier and we weeded and watered together. :)

  • April
    February 17, 2009 at 8:43 am

    Beautiful palatte!

  • Erin
    February 17, 2009 at 9:57 am

    I really like all of these. I’ve always been a bit afraid of flowers with a lot of color (even though I love them) and tend to rely on just the flowers of the hostas (but my hostas come in ALL shades of green) and the colors that come from various herbs I grow up front.

  • Kim
    February 17, 2009 at 10:05 am

    OMG it’s beautiful! I love your choices.
    If you need some more inspiration and ideas how to set them in the front of your house you can go to http://www.houzz.com/photos/landscape

    Good luck with the project and I’m looking forward to see the end result!

  • Lora
    February 17, 2009 at 11:21 am

    I live in Detroit and we have similar climate, so here are a few plants that you might want to look into…my house-front garden has a color palette of light pinks/dark reds/and assorted greens. Here are a few of my favs:

    Russian Sage (from a distance, it looks like a silvery-blue green grass. Up close, you might describe it as more of a flower) I have in planted in big grouping and it look awesome. BONUS: Last year I found it available at Home Depot.

    Butterfly Japanese Maple (delicate leaves with variegated colors of pink/white/green)As with most Japanese Maples it was pretty expensive…

    Sedium (two colors are available: pinky-brown, with light green stems AND purply-brown form with brown stems) The plant is basically un-killable and changes color from a pretty green in spring to pink in summer to a rust color in the fall. This plant is easily dived – you could make five plants from one. NOTE: Bees do love this plant…

    Northern Sea Oat(the seed pods hang delicately from the stem and it looks great in floral arrangements green or dried)This is a nice filler plus you can collect the seeds and plant. I hear some people have problem with these spreading (because of all the seeds), but haven’t had this problem…I just pull out the plants I don’t want to grow.

    Red Barberry Shrub (very pretty color very pokey thorns…ouch). I have a love hate relationship with these shrubs.

    Dwarf Blue Spruce Shrub (Pretty blue color plus it adds a bit of woodland feel).

    Dill (yes it know it’s an herb – has a really pretty green color and fun yellow/green flowers) I have mine planted with pink Allium.


    P.S. I ALSO love Asparagus Ferns they are ALWAYS part of my window box! They have such personality.

  • krissy
    February 17, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    we have a lot of shade in our backyard so i’ve written down a few of your ideas. i’ve got hostas but really want a bit of colour with them. i’m not much of a gardener so your suggestions are helpful. thanks!

  • Angi
    February 17, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    I just discovered your blog, and I love it! I have a north-facing bungalow-style house so my small front yard is also in the shade. A few years ago, I planted an annabelle (snowball) hydrangea and it’s been fantastic. I had to rip out or transplant most of my plants last year because we rebuilt our entire front porch, but I’m looking to plant more annabelle hydrangeas as well as boxwods, ferns, hostas and ‘coral bells’ heuchera. I like to keep my front yard all about textures, and then I tuck in white flowering annuals. Good luck–I’m sure whatever you choose will look great.

  • katelynjane
    February 17, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    What about Bleeding Heart? Or even Holly Hocks…but they’re taller. Beautiful selection though!

  • Making it Lovely
    February 17, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    We planted two azaleas over the summer (one in the backyard and one along the side), so I’m eager to see how they’ve held up. The boxwoods I put in last year seem to be holding up well so far (they’re still green and looking alive).

    Thanks for all of the advice and alternate suggestions, everyone! I’m really learning all of this gardening stuff as I go along, so it’s a big help.

  • JTay
    February 17, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    Love the boxwood, cyclamen, and dogwood!

  • Ashley
    February 17, 2009 at 8:50 pm

    The flowers… lovely.

    But what I really love… that font. What is it?? :)

  • bungalowbliss
    February 18, 2009 at 7:20 am

    Wow, I actually have four of these in my front bed! I love the pink accents, especially the Astilbe. This will be a beautiful combination!

  • cassandra
    February 26, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    love love love astilbe! i want to use it in my wedding bouquet. never thought about growing it… but maybe i should add it to my garden too! can’t wait to see it in reality!

  • Emma
    March 1, 2009 at 5:03 am

    they look lovely, i live in the uk where it is very damp and we don’t get a lot of sun.
    thanks for showing plants that like shade.
    congratulations on the pregnancy x

  • amy
    March 11, 2009 at 6:24 pm

    you should really really consider planting a native garden instead of this! native gardens (where you plant plants native to the area) are much more environmentally friendly (they use much less water). furthermore, they encourage healthy habitats to support local wildlife — in other words all the local bugs like the native plants which means all the local birds come to eat the local bugs. they can also draw butterflies. it makes much more sense than planting plants that come (originally) from other parts of the world. please read up on native gardening and consider it

  • Making it Lovely | Transforming the so-so. » Blog Archive » Evergreens Needed
    February 25, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    […] they thrive in Chicago. I do like boxwood, but as someone warned me when I planted them, they are “going to bite it”. I didn’t heed the warning and indeed they aren’t doing so well (yet I want to add […]