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How to Plant Hardier Foundation Plantings

In this DIY Smarts, Ask This Old House landscape designer Jenn Nawada helps a homeowner replace and improve foundation plantings that have been crushed by snow piles.

Steps for Planting Foundation Plantings:

  1. Start by identifying plants that have died or could use some pruning. Remove the dead plants and clean up the plants to make it easier to see what kind of palette you’re working with. Place the dead plants and cutoffs on the tarp to be easily dragged away later.
  2. Choose and stage plants that will be able to tolerate snow piles in the winter. In this case, Jenn chose a dwarf fountain grass for its height and to anchor the rest of the foundation plantings. Underneath, she chose a variety of perennials with varying seasons, colors, and heights for visual impact. The grass can be cut back in the winter and shouldn’t be damaged by the snow, and the perennials will go dormant underground during the winter until next spring.
  3. Use a shovel to dig holes for the plants that are twice as wide as their containers and almost as deep. Pull the plants out of their containers and gently tease the roots.
  4. Place the plants into the holes and backfill. Let the plants sit a little higher than the hole to allow for mulch.
  5. Add a thin layer of mulch over all the plants.
  6. Give all the plants a good watering and keep them watered as they get established.


Jenn noticed that a lot of the foundation plantings the homeowner had around her walkway could easily be smothered by the snow when she shovels in the winter, which probably explains why they weren’t faring well. To alleviate this issue, Jenn picked plants that go dormant in the winter for the areas most vulnerable to snow piles.

Jenn planted a variety of plants, including dwarf fountain grass, lady’s mantle, stonecrop, coneflower (echinacea), Blue Hill Salvia, Rose Marvel Salvia, and windflower. These can all be found at nurseries and home centers.

The other tools and materials Jenn used to plant the foundation plantings, including the wheelbarrow, shovels, and mulch, can all be found at The Home Depot.

Expert assistance with this project was provided by Nawada Landscape Design.

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