Front gardens: planting

There’s no limit to what you can grow in your front garden, but here is a selection of plants that will thrive in most situations. All have been chosen because they are tough and won’t need too much cosseting. Whatever your space, and even if there is no soil to plant in, there's always something suitable.

Front garden

Quick facts

Five top plants

Introduction

You can combine paving for parking with an attractive garden with plants. Leave planting pockets in paving or gravel to ensure there is soil for them to grow in, rather than hardcore or a bed of concrete.

5 top tips for squeezing plants into the front garden

  1. Fill up the corners: you usually can't park here so plant instead
  2. Go up the wall: climbers and wall shrubs take up little space. And they don't only look great, they'll insulate your home too, saving on heating bills
  3. Hedge your bets: Rather than walls or fences, grow a hedge to filter out particulate (dust) pollution to help you breath more easily. It will provide a home for wildlife too
  4. Growing up: With a slender trunk, a tree can take your greenery up and over the cars
  5. No soil? Plant in containers: Even 100% paved gardens can be made greener by using containers

Practical considerations

1. Planting under cars

If the car is moved fairly regularly, then there are plants you can grow that will tolerate being parked over. These need to be low-growing so the car does not brush them, and tough enough to withstand the occasional running over. Try creeping Jenny, Lysimachia nummularia; bugle, Ajuga reptans; and thymes such as Thymus serpyllum. Just leave planting pockets in the paving or gravel to ensure there is soil for them to grow in, rather than hardcore or a bed of concrete.

2. Attract wildlife

Shrubs, trees and hedges provide shelter and nesting sites for birds and insects. With careful selection they can also provide food. Birds will eat berries from plants such as pyracantha, while a wide range of insects feast on the pollen and nectar produced by flowers. Aim to have plants in bloom from early spring to late autumn, and choose open, single flowers to ensure insects have easy access to their food. Good examples include catmint, Nepeta × faassenii; honeysuckle, Lonicera periclymenum; ivy, Hedera helix cultivars; and Aster novi-belgii.

See RHS Perfect for Pollinators for more ideas.

3. Colourful containers

Pots can be placed anywhere, allowing plants to be grown in areas of the front garden that don’t have soil. For summer colour, plant bedding plants such as petunias and nicotiana in late May. These can be replaced with pansies in September to keep the display going through the winter. If you want the containers to look good for more than one season, choose evergreen shrubs and plant into pots at least 45cm (18in) wide using John Innes No.2 compost.

Containers require watering and regular maintenance to do well.

4. Climbers and screening

Climbing plants can easily be used to dress bare walls and fences with decorative foliage and flowers. Secure trellis or wires to the support posts or wall before you plant, as most climbers will need something to hang on to. Try Clematis alpina cultivars, Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris, variegated ivy cultivars, and Ceanothus such as ‘Delight’.

Japanese anemones, <em>Anemone hupehensis</em>, are happy growing in dry shade
<em>Choisya ternata</em> Sundance produces scented blooms in early summer and tolerates a wide range of soils.
<em>Camellia</em> × <em>williamsii</em> 'Joe Nuccio' is one of many camellia to thrive in gardens, as long as the soil isn't chalky/alkaline.
This <em>Sorbus</em>, mountain ash, has been squeezed into the tightest spot.
A yew, <em>Taxus baccata</em>, hedge makes a barrier to the road and only need clipping once a year in August or September.
    Japanese anemones, Anemone hupehensis, are happy growing in dry shade Choisya ternata Sundance produces scented blooms in early summer and tolerates a wide range of soils. Camellia × williamsii 'Joe Nuccio' is one of many camellia to thrive in gardens, as long as the soil isn't chalky/alkaline. This Sorbus, mountain ash, has been squeezed into the tightest spot. A yew, Taxus baccata, hedge makes a barrier to the road and only need clipping once a year in August or September.

    Suitable plants

    Trees

    These are small trees with interest throughout the yea

    See Trees for Smaller Gardens for more ideas.

    Shrubs

    This selection is of tough evergreens that flower or have interesting leaves. They will all tolerate shade, apart from the lavender.

    Hedges

    Providing a barrier to street and neighbours, hedges can also help trap dusty pollution. Further choices can be found on our Hedges: selection profile and there's planting advice too.

    Perennials

    Perennial plants that grow each year, flowering well, but do die back in the winter. They provide lots of colour through the summer and don't need replacing each year.

    Dry shade

    Perhaps the toughest conditions to grow plants in, dry shade can be made beautiful with these stalwarts. For other choices, see Shade planting.

    Advertise here

    Gardeners' calendar

    Advice from the RHS

    Find out what to do this month with our gardeners' calendar

    Advice from the RHS

    Did you find the advice you needed?

    RHS members can get exclusive individual advice from the RHS Gardening Advice team.

    Join the RHS now

    Discuss this

    for the site or to share your experiences on this topic and seek advice from our community of gardeners.