How Close to the Foundation Can You Plant Shrubs? (Without Causing Damage)

Foundations can easily be affected by shrubs that are planted too close to them. While many believe it is the roots, the bigger danger is water. Water near the foundation can cause it to shift and crack, and cause permanent damage. Certain plants increase this risk because they draw higher amounts of water towards them.

If you want to plant a shrub near your foundation, keep a minimum distance of 3 to 5 feet (1 to 1.5 m). If you are planting a wide bush, you generally want to keep it as far away from the foundation as possible, about half the distance of the bush’s mature width. 

If you want to learn more about planting near a foundation, including what plants do and don’t work, and which ones are good for making a statement, continue reading below. 

Can Shrubs Damage Foundation?

Shrubs do have the potential to damage foundations if not planted properly. Every plant has roots that will spread and try to grow. These can cause cracks or pressure around the foundation, damaging it. 

Additionally, certain plants hold water in the soil, which can cause damage to your foundation and your siding. 

Essentially, by not taking care to choose the right plants and place them in the right spot, you can damage your foundation over time, and cause serious structural damage to your home. 

How Close to Foundation Can I Plant?

shrubs close to wall
There is a nice little guideline on how close to the foundation one should plant shrubs. You generally want to stay 3 to 5 feet (1 to 1.5 m) away from your foundation at a minimum. For a more accurate measurement though, you will want to look at your plant’s possible mature spread. 

A good rule of thumb is that you want to take half of your mature plant’s length and use that as your guideline. For example, if your plant can grow up to 20 feet (6 m) wide, you want to keep it at least 10 feet (3 m) away from your house. 

However, it isn’t just width you want to take into account. You should also plan to factor in a shrub’s height. Avoid planting trees that will grow tall, as they can block windows and damage gutters as they grow bigger. 

What Should You Not Plant Near a Foundation?

Large trees should always be avoided. They have the potential to harm both your foundation and your roof. Generally, drought-tolerant plants are best, so you don’t have to water the area too much which can lead to problems for the foundation over time. 

Some examples of plants you shouldn’t use near a foundation are:

  • Poplars: have thirsty roots that spread in search of water. 
  • Foxglove: grows quickly with strong roots that can crack a house’s foundation and drains. 
  • Oaks: are large trees that can expand quite a bit and they need room to do so or they can damage your home. 
  • Ivy: is a great plant to have in any garden, but when placed near a house, it can damage the walls and gutters. 
  • Eucalyptus: are water hungry and fast-growing and are known to have a lot of fallen branches. 
  • Willows: need a lot of water and their roots are always in search of more water. 
  • Cypress: need a lot of water, and do best when planted in soil that contracts easily. 

Shrubs That Won’t Damage Foundation

While there are a lot of plants you shouldn’t use near a foundation, there are also quite a few that you can use without a problem. Note that any plant you choose should be fairly drought tolerant

If you are looking for short shrubs and plants, some good options are:

  • Juniper
  • Yew
  • Stonecrop
  • Catmint
  • Ornamental Onion
  • Globe Arborvitae
  • Holly
  • Boxwood
  • Hydrangea

For larger shrubs that closely mimic trees, consider:

  • Cherry Laurel
  • Wax Myrtle
  • Ligustrum
  • Hostas
  • Rose of Sharon
  • Switchgrass
  • Ferns

If you want to use trees, flowering trees on the smaller size are best. Examples of these are:

  • Star Magnolia
  • Redbud
  • False Cypress
  • Dogwood
  • Japanese Maple
  • Crepe Myrtle

How Do You Landscape Around a Foundation?

Shrub landscaping
When you are landscaping around a foundation, the first step is to make sure you aren’t blocking things you shouldn’t be. For example, keep an eye out for drains and outlets, and make sure you aren’t planting trees where they will be covered by an overhang. 

There are also gutter systems that push water away from your foundation. By installing these and regularly making sure they are clean and clear of all debris, you can keep your foundation safer by reducing the amount of water that will collect on or near it. 

It is of benefit to keep the slope of your lawn and garden facing away from your foundation, so excess water runs away, and not towards. You also want to make sure all areas of your yard are evenly watered. By only watering where you landscaped, you risk the ground swelling in some areas and not in others, which can cause damage around the foundation. 

Another good tip is that while you might be enticed to cover up all of your foundation with landscaping, it is best to leave some areas exposed. This will allow you to observe and to make sure that your foundation is still looking okay and not damaged or sitting in water. By having certain areas exposed, you increase the likelihood that you will find problems early while they are still fixable. 

Mulch is a great base for plants near your foundation. The wood can retain moisture, which your plants will enjoy, without causing your foundation damage. 

Best Ground Cover Next to Foundation

If you want a creeping plant that doesn’t take up a lot of height but spreads and covers a lot of space, there are excellent plants to consider. 

Some good ones are:

  • Liriope
  • Creeping Juniper
  • Periwinkle
  • Sweet Woodruff

These can either be used on their own, or in conjunction with other shrubs or plants. They can help fill in spaces between your bushes, to make the area look full and hide the foundation a little more. 

What Is the Best Shrub for in Front of My House?

The plants in front of your house should make a statement. The easiest way to make a statement is with bright floral bushes. 

If you want something big and bold, but still a classic, Roses are a great option. You can plant two or three in a tight cluster to create impact. You can also use Azaleas, as they are full of beautiful flowers that make a bold statement. Hydrangeas are fun, as the colors that appear change based on your soil pH, and there are some evergreen options. 

We enjoy Camellias. They can produce flowers that are durable and last a long time due to hybridization. They are good for the winter seasons as well. If you want something a little less bold, but still presents a small pop of color, Lavender is another great option. 

Holly is a plant that doesn’t provide flowers, but rather bursts of colors through its berries in the winter months. Their berries are a great way to feed the local wildlife. 

On that note, if you want to bring in more wildlife, like bees and small animals, there is a shrub known as the Buddleia which has small purple flowers that attract all sorts of wild animals. 

If you just want some nice greenery, something like Boxwood shrubs are a good idea. They are evergreen, so they will keep their color all year round, unlike many other bushes that only do well in certain seasons. Camellias and Holly are also considered good evergreen options. 


When it comes to foundations, it is better to be safe than sorry. A crack in your foundation can cause serious damage to your home and be costly to repair. The water that plants draw to them is one of the biggest dangers to your foundation, which is why you should never plant trees too close. 

The rule of thumb is to plant any shrubs at least 3 to 5 feet (1 to 1.5 m) away from your foundation but be sure to take into account the mature spread of your plant. A few examples of shrubs that won’t damage your foundation are Holly, Boxwood, and Juniper.

By following some simple rules, like adhering to recommendations for minimum planting distance and paying attention to how much water is sitting on or near your foundation, you can have a pretty landscaping cover near your home without risking permanent damage.