The Q&A Archives: Foudation planting for north facing house

Question: I did a very extensive landscape project about five years ago, the problem is with the foundation plants in front of my house that faces North. It was planted with lots of Inkberry Hollies, Rodies, and Azalias. Most of the Azalias are fine but the Inberry and Rodies did not survive. I am now being told to use Boxwood but before I did I looked into it and it seems they like sun as well. Is this a mistake and can you suggest anything else.I live in Zone 6. I am looking for an attractive evergreen. I love hollies and boxwood, but am afraid they won't survive. I get maybe a couple of hours of sun very late in the day and it probably does not go right to the foundation. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Answer: Since you know the azaleas do well, why not use more of those at least along the corners where there is a bit more light? You might try adding some Sarcococca hookeriana humilis (this is a terrific partial to full shade plant) as a contrast along with some ferns and possibly some of the very large blue hostas (they prefer deep shade) which can grow into almost sculpture-like forms with age. You might also use an evergreen groundcover for winter color, either English ivy in green or a variegated form, or Vinca minor, or even pachysandra. Lily of the valley would be a possible deciduous choice. Boxwoods will tolerate a high bright sort of dappled shade but in my experience it really is too dark for them on a northern wall, especially away from the corners where the sun never hits, the same is true for the hollies. A possible exception might be the Japanese hollies such as Skypencil which is narrow enough for a foundation planting and more shade tolerant. Aucuba might be another possibility. Sometimes it does take a bit of trial and error to figure out what will work best in a difficult spot such as this. I hope you can transplant/recycle your other shrubs. Good luck with your project!

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