What low maintenance plants to plant on steep sunny hillside to enhance home’s curb appeal?
June 29, 2010 7:49 AM   Subscribe

What low maintenance plants to plant on steep sunny hillside to enhance home’s curb appeal?

What low maintenance plants to plant on steep sunny hillside to enhance home’s curb appeal?

We have a steep hillside that slopes off our driveway. It’s a large area, maybe 40 by 25 feet and is very viewable from the road.
It is currently covered with mulch that’s about 2-3 years old and is looking pretty tired. This area gets a lot of sun.

I’m pretty new to gardening and I’m a little at a loss as to what to do with this spot. Currently the only plants growing here are large variegated hostas spaced every 5 feet or so. I am not crazy about the hostas but I’ve recently thinned them and will probably plant around them.

Although I love flowers it seems like it would take years to really fill in this whole spot with expensive perennials. Also, dandelions are a continual problem and I’m guessing this might be worse if I create one giant flower bed.

Would there be groundcovers that would look good growing in around the hostas? Also, what is the purpose of the mulch and will it stop being necessary if the area is filled in with plants? I do like some groundcovers but since this spot will affect the look of our house I’d like to make sure whatever I plant will enhance the overall curb appeal of the house.

FYI, we’re in hardiness zone 5-6.
posted by mintchip to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Hardy Ice Plant is very tough, grows in lousy soil, and blooms very prettily. Sedums do this too.
Yuccas do well on slopes, and are lovely when they bloom in the spring.
posted by pickypicky at 8:20 AM on June 29, 2010

I know I always link to this website: Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center Recommended Species site. Click on your state and it will give you a list of plants by scientific name, common name, plant type, sun needs and water needs. If you use their identification site, you can see more pictures and better descriptions of the plants.

Natives are generally very low maintenance and, if you choose correctly, can show color within the year. If you choose a variety of plants, you can extend the time you display flowers.

(I'm sorry for being repetitive, but I use the wildflower.org weekly just for fun)
posted by Seamus at 8:38 AM on June 29, 2010

Also, many municipalities will have a website or publication with native and adapted landscaping plants that work well in your area. Check out their website (or nearby larger municipalities) and see what they have.
posted by Seamus at 8:39 AM on June 29, 2010

I've recently considered planting oregano as ground cover. Seems to be a popular idea around the internet, looks pretty, and smells wonderful.
posted by Night_owl at 9:25 AM on June 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

creeping thyme as well.
posted by purpletangerine at 9:37 AM on June 29, 2010

I don't see enough information in your post to make a solid recommendation on what to plant. My recommendation is that you go to a local nursery and ask them. They can recommend plants they have that grow well locally. Don't attempt to save money by going to WalMart or Home Depot. Go to an actual nursery, listen to them, then buy your plants there. You will be glad in the long run that you did.
posted by eleslie at 9:48 AM on June 29, 2010

Seconding the recommendation to buy your plants at an actual nursery, where they're well-cared for.

As far as what to plant, birdsfoot trefoil is low-growing, drought-resistant and very low-maintenance. It's also a legume so it enriches your soil. It spreads quickly. I planted a 4" pot of it last year and it now covers an 20" x 20" area.

You could mix in some wildflowers and ornamental grasses with the birdsfoot trefoil if you wish. I prefer plants that attract wildlife, such as black-eyed susans and coneflowers (both of these are favorites of finches). Better yet, before you even plant the birdsfoot trefoil, order some spring bulbs and plant those, then plant the other plants on top. Then you'll have beauty and color practically all year round.
posted by Ostara at 11:14 AM on June 29, 2010

What I wouldn't give for all that space to plant! Were I you, I would seek out a local gardening group and see about procuring some of their thinnings this fall. In your planting zone, here are some plants that local gardeners will likely have more of than they know what to do with, that will love the sun, and that will happily expand (with some little bit of assistance on your part--digging and dividing every year or two) to take up whatever room you'll give them:

German bearded irises

I would probably go for chunky groups amongst the remaining hostas (although those are going to also expand again to take up the space if you let them). Think big blocks of color. All the above are low-maintenance.

Ground covers . . . most of the ones I can think of that would cover your area quickly (vinca, purple winter creeper) are also invasive and will come after you in your bed at night. The ground covers that are a little more restrained tend to be for filling in smaller spaces between plants. I'm particularly fond of "goldilocks" moneywort--its bright lime green really pops between the more blue-green foliage.

Have you thought of putting in a small tree or large shrub as an accent? I would go for something that would give me fruit, like a dwarf cherry or apple, but I tend to want to eat my landscape. I've also been eying the brandywine ornamental crabapple, the winterberry holly and the red twig dogwood, all of which have interesting winter color, either from fruit or stems.

The mulch serves multiple purposes: It keeps down the weeds. It looks tailored. It preserves moisture for the plants it surrounds. It keeps the ground cool. Mulch will break down over time; how much time depends on the type of wood it's made from, weather conditions, etc; maybe two to five years? As long as you have bare spots between plants, you will want to keep refreshing the mulch, though mulching too often can rob the soil of nitrogen as the mulch decomposes.

Let us know what you decide!
posted by miss patrish at 12:17 PM on June 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would try your county extension service. Our local one has master gardeners on hand in the spring to answer questions.

Seconding the ground covers=invasive comment. I would not put in any ground cover without doing some homework on how it does in your zone.

But, that aside, free-form thinking:

I found it helpful to think about the yard in terms of seasons. For late winter, crocuses are fabulous. For spring blooms, we planted many daffodils and tulips. In late spring, poppies make a great show, as do irises and peonies. A benefit of irises and peonies is that foliage looks neat and lasts pretty well through the summer. Daylilies, Asiatic lilies, salvia, Russian sage are nice plants for summer interest. Flowering currants provide spring-fall interest--these can grow quite large. Lavender might make nice clumps for spring-fall.

Most of the plants noted will leave a bare space during winter. A few well-placed evergreen plants might be a good investment. Choisya is one genus that comes to mind.

Our best investment so far has been finding an expert who does garden design in a style that appeals to us, and spending a little money for advice. It goes a long way. You can spend a couple hundred dollars every year on plants and be disappointed about how they look together, pay replacement costs because they do not thrive in the location, etc, or spend a couple hundred dollars once on a consult that will help you map out what *you* like and want, and give you a plan to follow that will ultimately cost less and be more satisfying. Having a list lets you make pragmatic decisions about what to buy, compare costs, etc. Impulse purchases are great, don't get me wrong, but sometimes the plant you fall in love with at the nursery is not the best suited for the space.

Also, questions I'd ask yourself before planting are thing like:
-what's most important? blooms? scent? contrasting colors? multi-season interest?
-do you want specimen plants? grouping? or more uniform look?
-what plants do you like?
-have you seen well-landscaped yards that have similar terrain to yours? What do you like about what they did?

Yours is a wonderful dilemma. Best of luck!
posted by bloggerwench at 9:58 PM on June 29, 2010

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