Raised bed planting

Plants for hot, dry locations along your foundation

By: Sandy Feather ©2009
Penn State Extension

Q. I need help deciding what to plant in a bed right next to the foundation of my house. I have a planter bordered with stones that is eight inches tall and 20 inches wide. The bed faces south and is in direct sun all afternoon, which literally bakes everything. Do you have any suggestions for plants that can handle these hot, dry conditions?

A. In addition to choosing plants that tolerate a hot, dry site, there are steps you can take to make it a little less scorching. If you have not already done so, incorporate a couple inches of organic matter into the soil. You can use homemade or purchased compost, or aged manure. Organic matter increases the soil’s moisture-holding capacity and reduces the amount of watering necessary to keep the plants healthy. 

Proper Depth of Mulch

You should also apply an inch or two of mulch after the plants are in the ground. You can use finely shredded hardwood bark, fine-textured pine bark nuggets, mushroom compost or leaf mold. Leaf mold is nothing more than shredded, composted leaves.  If you do not have any lying around from last fall, think about shredding up leaves with your lawn mower this fall, mixing them with grass clippings, and allow them to compost over the winter and into spring. Frequent turning hastens the composting process, as does shredding the leaves; whole leaves take much longer to break down. Leaf mold makes wonderful mulch for a small bed because it is fine-textured and subtle – it allows the plants to be the stars of the show instead of the mulch. As an added bonus, it contributes organic matter to the soil as it breaks down.


Plants Under Overhangs

One other concern is that houses often have overhanging eaves that keep the area underneath very dry, even when we have significant rainfall. If that is the case, you will need to water that bed at least weekly through the growing season.

building overhang
These plants are blocked from rainfall


A brief bibliography follows the list of plants below so that you can read more about these plants and see pictures to help you choose the ones you like best. Although there are other plants that tolerate hot, dry conditions, the writer was looking for smaller plants that are in keeping with the size of the bed. The tallest plants on the list below grow 30 – 36 inches tall.


'Nikko’ Slender Deutzia (Deutzia gracilis ‘Nikko’)

'Little Princess’ Japanese Spirea (Spirea japonica ‘Little Princess’)

Yucca (Yucca filifera ‘Bright Edge,’ ‘Colour Guard,’ ‘Golden Sword,’ or ‘Hofer’s Blue’)

Golden Sword


'Moonshine’ Yarrow (Achillea x ‘Moonshine)

Sea Thrift (Armeria maritima)

‘Silver Mound’ Artemesia (Artemesia schmidtiana Silver Mound’)

Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)

Coreopsis (Coreopsis spp.)

Autumn Blush

Cheddar Pink (Dianthus gratianopolitanus)

Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Globe Thistle (Echinops ritro)

Blue Fescue (Festuca cinerea)

Blue Oat Grass (Helictotrichon sempervirens)

Candytuft (Iberis sempervirens)

Daylily (Hemerocallis spp. – many named cultivars)

Stella d'Oro Daylily

Red-hot Poker (Kniphofia uvaria)

Lavender (Lavandula spp.)

Gayfeather (Liatris spicata)

Prickly-pear Cactus (Opuntia humifusa)

Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana)

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia spp.)

Sage (Salvia officinalis)

Meadow Sage

Perennial Salvia (Salvia x superba)

Lavender Cotton (Santolina spp.)

Sedum, Live-forever (Sedum spp.)

Thyme (Thymus spp.)


Bidens (Bidens ferulifolia)

Pot Marigold (Calendula officinalis)

Annual Vinca (Catharanthus roseus)

Cockscomb, Plumed Celosia (Celosia cristata)


Bachelor Buttons (Centaurea cyanus)

Larkspur (Consolida ambigua)

Cosmos (Cosmos spp.)

Strawflower (Bracteantha bracteata)

Treasure Flower (Gazania rigens)

Globe Amaranth (Gomphrena globosa)

Lantana (Lantana camara)

Annual Statice (Limonium sinuatum)

Bush Zinnia (Melampodium paludosum)

Dwarf Cupflower (Nierembergia hippomanica)

Moss Rose (Portulaca grandiflora)

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Mealy-cup Sage (Salvia farinacea)


Fan Flower (Scaevola aemula)

Dusty Miller (Senecio cineraria)

Dusty Miller

Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia)

Dahlberg Daisy (Thymophylla tenuiloba)

Verbena (Verbena spp.)


Spreading Zinnia (Zinnia angustifolia)

Garden Zinnia (Zinnia elegans)


Read More About It

Armitage, Allan M., Armitage’s Manual of Annuals, Biennials, and Half-Hardy Perennials, Timber Press, 2001.  ISBN10: 0881925055

Armitage, Allan M., Herbaceous Perennial Plants, Stipes Publishing, 2008. ISBN10: 158874776X

Armitage, Allen M., Armitage’s Garden Perennials, Timber Press, 2000. ISBN10: 0881924350.

Darke, Rick, The Color Encyclopedia of Ornamental Grasses, Timber Press, 1999. ISBN10: 0881924644.

Dirr, Michael A., Dirr’s Hardy Trees, Timber Press, Portland, OR, 1997. ISBN10: 0881924040.

Dirr, Michael A., Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, Stipes Publishing. ISBN10: 875638007.


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