Foundation plants are the inner structure of the landscape. They are like the bones of it all.   These are plants that normally create the backdrop in the landscaping. Most commonly, these plants are evergreen, and need to be very hardy to avoid loss and costly replacement. While some plants are great foundation plants for the Murfreesboro area, other plants are commonly mistaken for good foundation plants. Some plants do not tolerate our clay soils, extreme heat, humidity, drought/ rain (depends on the year), cold, or can be a nightmare to maintain. So, which plants make great foundation plants for Middle Tennessee? Here are some I do and do not recommend using:


Dwarf Yaupon Holly (Ilex vomitoria)- very tough, great for full sun

Otto Luyken Laurel (Prunus laur. ‘Otto Luyken’)- needs room to spread- full sun to part shade

Boxwood- (Buxus) –most are great for this application-full sun to part shade

Dwarf Burford Holly- (Ilex cornuta ‘Burfordii Nana’)- full sun

Spreading Japanese Plum Yew- (Cephalotaxus harr. ‘Prostrata’)- needs afternoon shade

Emerald Spreader Yew- (Taxus ‘Emerald Spreader’)- low growing, best with some afternoon shade

Globe Arbovitae- (Thuja occidentalis ‘Little Giant’ or ‘Globosa’)- very tough, great for full sun

Euonymous- (Euonymous jap. ‘Aureo- marg., Straight species, ‘Silver King’, ‘Chollipo’, ‘Aureovariegatus’, sp. Microphylla,)- most varities are tough and withstand full sun, poor soils, extreme heat.

Juniper- some varieties make nice foundation plants while others will be too hard to manage in some situations. Check with your local professional.

Not recommended:

Compacta Holly- (Ilex crenata ‘Compacta’)- needs too much water, will not withstand extreme heat, lack of water, and is not very long lived in Middle Tennessee as a landscape plant without lots of care and maintenance.

Soft Touch Holly- (Ilex crenata ‘Soft Touch’)- Needs evern more water than ‘compacta’, and in extreme heat, will burn up.

Skip Laurel (Prunus laur. ‘Schkipka’)- Will grow too large for most foundation plantings. Does not tolerate shearing to keep small. Will grow to 6-8’ tall and wide. If they are trimmed to be kept any smaller than about 6.5’, they will not be long lived.

Threadbranch Falsecypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘filifera’, ‘Golden Charm’, ‘Sungold’)- This plant is commonly misused. They grow too large to be kept small in a foundation planting. This plants naturally grows to 8-12’ tall and about 6-10’ wide. Frequent shearing to keep this plant small is always fatal for the plant. This plant will live a long time if given time to ‘spread out’, but in the landscape, being trimmed with head shears, over time, only lasts about 3 years on average.

Privet- (Ligustrum jap. , texanum, etc.)- Can go either way, but will require frequent trimming to keep small. Sometimes privet will need to be trimmed 4-5 times in one growing season to maintain a certain size.

As always, I suggest using a good soil amendment when planting these plants and monitoring the water for the first 12 months after planting. The evergreens will need to be fed at least twice a year (three times is optimal) with an acidic/ evergreen fertilizer. This will help insure their success and longevity.