Landscaping provides endless projects and there’s always room for home improvements—especially when it comes to amping up your curb appeal. You might think that all it takes to create good foundation planting (that’s the plants along your home’s foundation) is to pop some plants on either side of your front door, but we’re here to tell you that your front yard can look a whole lot better with some thoughtful planning.
Planning your front yard landscape design is a bit like picking a hairstyle! Before you head to the salon, you have to think about your face shape, what’s on trend, your personal style, hair texture, and what kind of maintenance you are up for. Selecting greenery for your foundation planting is subject to the same kind of decision making.
If you live in a shingle house on Cape Cod, a row of blue hydrangeas might be all you need. Meanwhile, your cousin’s Georgian colonial home in Michigan would look totally bare half the year if they only planted hydrangeas.
Whether you’re starting from scratch with a bare lawn or looking to level up your home’s existing front yard landscaping, there are some very simple tips you can take to make your front door more inviting.
How to Use Plants to Create Curb Appeal
One of the simplest ways to make your front yard look more beautiful and inviting is with plants. The green, living softscape around your home adds welcome color and texture, but also requires thoughtful planning and care. Here are our favorite design tips for beginners and experts alike to help get the most impact from your planting:
Plant in Layers
Think about height and layers when placing plants. It’s like organizing a group photo—you want to place tall plants in the back, then mid-height, and short in the front. It may seem obvious, but we find many people only account for tall plants and short plants, leaving an empty gap in the middle.
A tall evergreen with a petite perennial in front will look out of scale. On the other hand, a tall ornamental tree framed by medium flowering bushes in front will look natural and beautiful with a little splash of ground cover in the garden beds below.
Keep this in mind when thinking about your front yard landscaping ideas. Walk around your neighborhood or your local nurseries and consider what types of plants you like the look of and what you don’t. Make note of your favorites and fill in those tall, medium, and short layers in your front yard design.
Keep it Simple
It’s always safest to start simple for a front foundation planting. Use evergreen shrubs to build a solid framework and fill in the flower beds with flowers or textural foliage. If you go too wild with a large selection of plants, the final effect can look messy and disjointed.
There are certain styles which embrace a wide variety of plants (such as a naturalistic or cottage garden), but simplicity is an easy front yard landscape look to achieve for beginner landscapers and can really shine in modern front yard landscaping.
Repetition is Your Friend
Don’t feel like you need to grow every cool plant from the nursery in front of your house. Choose a few varieties and use them in blocks or repeating patterns. This appears clean to the eye and has a sense of purpose.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed at the nursery when shopping, so it’s a good idea to keep things simple by picking 2-4 of your favorite plants and focusing on those. Again, make sure they will mature into different heights so they aren’t competing for space.
Don’t Forget Trees
It’s easy to focus on shrubs and flowers, but a few well placed shade trees will lend significance and grandeur to your property for years to come. Even if you start with a sapling, a little patience will pay off in the long run with a beautiful and natural statement tree in your front yard. Whether you love evergreens for year round greenery, deciduous trees for vibrant fall leaves, or ornamental trees for seasonal blooms and color, there’s a tree for every person and every landscape.
Selecting the Right Plants
With these strategies under your belt, you know how to create a strong front yard landscaping plan. The next step is picking the perfect plants for your home and your design aesthetic. Here are some questions to ask yourself when you’re browsing plants:
How quickly do your plants grow?
There has been a lot of work done in the nursery industry to develop smaller, more compact versions of many shrubs. By selecting slower growing plants, you will likely be reducing your maintenance work. This is great for busy families who know they need low maintenance front yard landscaping off their front porch! Conversely, you might love a full, fast-growing shrub if you’re looking to fill a large space.
Do you have plants for all seasons?
There is a natural ebb and flow to all plants, with winter being the slowest growth season and spring producing the most bountiful flowers. If you want your garden to have color and visual interest beyond those springtime blossoms, you’ve got to plan ahead for how your plants will look in every season.
If season-long color is a goal for you, try to select plants with different bloom times. If you really love lilacs, build out the beds to show them off and enjoy simple, structural greenery during the rest of the season. If you love vibrant fall foliage, opt for deciduous trees, but if you crave a little greenery in the depths of winter, evergreens are the trees for you. Considering seasonality isn’t always intuitive, but it’s this step that can really make your landscape design look professional.
How much time and money do you want to spend on maintenance?
You might think that once your plants are in the ground, the hard part is done—but the reality is that all plants will need upkeep and some will need to be entirely replanted each year.
Annual flowers and bulbs are known for their plentiful blooms and they can be a great way to add punch and color to your curb appeal. Unfortunately, they live up to their name and require refreshing every year when they die over the winter. This can be a good thing if you appreciate variety and like switching out your annuals for new flowers each year, but be sure you’re up to the yearly task before you plan your yard around annuals!
Perennials will last much longer, but they might not provide as many blooms. You can read more info about both (and biennials) in our full guide to annuals and perennials.
There are also many techniques you can use to keep your front landscaping as low-maintenance as possible if you’re more of a set-it-and-forget-it gardener. Xeriscaping is an amazing strategy for areas with limited water, and native plants that are adapted to your climate will almost always require less care than temperamental imported tropicals. We have more information on how to keep your weekends free of endless watering and pruning in our full guide to Low Maintenance Landscape Design.
Hardscape and Decor for Curb Appeal
Plants are wonderful, but they’re not the only way to add to your curb appeal to your home. Your hardscape—all the nonliving elements of your landscape design—plays a major role in shaping your space. Decorating with planters, paint, lighting, and more statement features can add dimension to your designs.
For example, do you have a sweet cottage home that will look extra charming and cozy with a window box filled with your favorite flowers? Will hanging baskets add interest to your wraparound front porch landscaping? Could a dramatic water feature be just the thing to compliment the lush, tropical entrance to your Florida home?
Landscape lighting is another way to beautifully highlight your landscape design features and your architectural style. From lighting your home itself to adding soft, downward-facing moonlighting in the trees to simple pathway lighting along your front walkway, light fixtures elevate the look of your landscape and literally highlight what you want to showcase well after the sun goes down.
If you’re looking for simple front yard landscaping ideas on a budget, don’t underestimate the power of good maintenance on the design you have! Nothing ruins curb appeal like your exterior paint chipping off the side of your home. Simple upkeep tasks like painting and weeding make the difference in keeping your house looking tidy and well-loved without needing to dip into your savings.
Hardscaping possibilities are endless, and you can look through our full Guide to Hardscape for more beautiful front yard design ideas!
All of these strategies should help you create the front yard of your dreams and we’re happy to answer any questions you have. What elements do you think add the most to your curb appeal?