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The 14 Best Cascading Plants for Retaining Walls

Add a little color and texture to your landscaping with these gorgeous cascading plants for retaining walls. They’re the perfect way to turn an eyesore into something beautiful.

There’s something so inviting about plants draping over a wall to create a waterfall effect. They add a bit of romance and playfulness than can completely transform a space. Plus, they’re a great way to use every bit of space in your garden.

Bright pink wave petunia flowers cascading over a stone retaining wall.

Retaining walls are more about purpose than aesthetics. The right plant can turn your rock wall into a statement piece that adds color and flair, but only some plants are appropriate for this purpose.

How To Choose Plants For Your Retaining Walls

It’s essential to choose plants that fit the climate and growing conditions in your garden.

  • Water conditions: Many retaining wall gardens can dry out quickly, so anticipate how to maintain moist soil with an irrigation system.
  • Sunlight: Not all plants can tolerate full sun, so choose plants that prefer the amount of sunlight available.
  • Residual heat: The stones or concrete blocks will absorb extra heat from the sun, which can be too much for delicate plants. Look for varieties that love warm climates.
  • Wall height: Think about the size of your garden walls. You won’t want a plant that cascades down several feet if you have a low wall. On the contrary, a tall wall may benefit from something dramatic. 
  • Soil quality: Many retaining walls hold back native soil, which may hold too much moisture or be compacted. These factors can affect how well plants grow, so take some time to learn which soil you have.
  • Root size: Select plants will small root systems that won’t disrupt your retaining wall. Skip the bushes and trees and opt for flowers, small perennials, or ground cover.

14 Best Cascading Plants for Retaining Walls

Add a little flair to your retaining wall with these gorgeous plants! Since the top of your retaining wall may be hard to reach, prioritize perennial plants that act like ground cover. They will hold onto the soil, keep it in place, and drape down over the stone wall over time.

1. Sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas)

Sweet Potato Vine Bareroot for Planting

Unlike their namesake, sweet potato vines won’t produce any food but will grow lush vines up to 10 feet long. They are tender perennials, so they may overwinter in milder climates. In colder climates, they may need to be replanted each spring. Sweet potato vines are worth the effort, as they come in various shades and colors and add a lush tropical look to any garden.

Plant your sweet potato vines in the late spring in a spot that gets at least 6 hours of full sun each day.

2. Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)

5 Virginia Creeper Ivy Plants Vine, Ivy Ground Cover Bare Roots

This five-leafed ivy lookalike is prolific and grows rapidly. As a perennial, it will grow for you each summer and turn a gorgeous shade of red in the fall. 

It’s non-invasive but loves to spread, so it’s best to plant less than you need and allow it to grow over time.

3. Silver falls dichondra (Dichondra argentea)

EildedRose Dichondra Seeds for Planting | Perennials Outdoor & Non-GMO | 300 Dichondra Silver Falls Seeds to Plant | Ground Cover Seeds Dichondra Seeds

In warmer zones, the gorgeous Silver Falls dichondra acts as a perennial and adds visual interest to your garden beds. The long vines have round shimmery blue-green leaves and contrast beautifully with terracotta or natural stone.

It prefers well-draining soil, especially loamy or sandy soil, and can tolerate some light freezes. Otherwise, plant in full sun to make these desert plants happy.

4. Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia)

Perennial Farm Marketplace Lysimachia nummularia (Creeping Jenny) Groundcover, 1 Quart, Green Leaves with Yellow Flowers

Creeping Jenny, also known as Lysimachia nummularia, is the perfect climbing plant to drape down your concrete walls. As a perennial, you can plant it once and enjoy it for years and years. Like some of the other vines on this list, it can take over, so be sure to plant it somewhere it can grow over time.

Try different shades, like Golden Creeping Jenny with its little yellow flowers, to add a touch of color.

5. Ivy-leaf geranium (Pelargonium peltatum)

Outsidepride Ivy Leaf Geranium White Indoor House Plant or Outdoor Flowers for Baskets, Tubs, Window Boxes, Beds - 10 Seeds

This ornamental plant is ideal for retaining walls, built-in flower beds, or hanging baskets. Ivy-Leaf Geranium has gorgeous dark-green leaves and bright flowers. 

These perennials love the warmth, so plant them in full sun. Don’t be afraid to prune your geranium once per year in the early fall to train it to grow over the top of the wall.

6. Sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima)

Outsidepride Alyssum Lobularia Maritima Spreading, Trailing, Fragrant, Ground Cover & Flowers - 2000 Seeds

With clusters of white, pink, or purple flowers with a mellow honey scent, alyssum is perfect for adding a rustic farmhouse look to any garden. Alyssum can drape up to about a foot long, so it’s ideal for low retaining walls. 

Although it is an annual, alyssum self-seeds very quickly and is likely to continue replanting itself for consistent blooms all summer long.

7. Nasturtium (Tropaeolum)

Tall Trailing Mix Nasturtium - 100 Seeds - Made in USA, Ships from Iowa.

These colorful edible flowers are an easy way to play with trailing plants. Nasturtiums have beautiful round green leaves and colorful trumpet-shaped flowers that often come in bright red, orange, or yellow. Plant them in the early summer and watch how quickly they spread. 

Nasturtium can be trained to climb up or down any surface and will invite tons of pollinators to your garden.

Learn more about growing nasturtiums.

8. Creeping phlox (Phlox stolonifera)

seedcaps Creeping Phlox Seeds for Planting - (Phlox Austromontana ) 500 Pcs Mountain Phlox Seeds Creeping Phlox Seeds Perennial Ground Cover

This low-growing perennial is one of the best plants for growing along or above a stonewall, as creeping phlox naturally thrives in tough, rocky soil. It will create a thick pink or purple carpet of tiny flowers that will drape over your retaining wall. 

Best of all, creeping phlox will choke out weeds, making it ideal for people looking for a low-maintenance garden. Learn more about planting and caring for creeping phlox.

9. Trailing/creeping rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis Prostrata)

Creeping Rosemary Live Plant, Live Rosemary Plant for Gardening Ship in 4 Inc Pot

As an evergreen perennial that loves dry, warm climates, trailing rosemary is perfect for people with walls in full sun. Since it’s evergreen, you’ll have consistent green foliage all year long, with lovely bluish-purple flowers during the summer. 

This plant is an edible type of rosemary, so feel free to harvest some to add flavor in the kitchen.

10. Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata)

zellajake Rare Flower Seeds 50 PCS Seeds Mix Colors Boston Ivy Creepers Green Grass Parthenocissus

Ivy adds a touch of class and gorgeous colors during the fall. Unfortunately, English Ivy can become invasive and may even destroy your retaining wall by sending roots between the bricks or stones. Instead, choose a self-clinging ivy like Boston Ivy for its beautiful dark green leaves without the hassle.

Boston Ivy can tolerate most sun and soil conditions, including sandy or salty soil, so it’s a great option.

11. Climbing rose (Rosa setigera)

1 oz Seeds (Approx 10000 Seeds) of Rosa setigera, Illinois Rose

There’s nothing quite like a rose’s scent and beauty; fortunately, some climbing or rambling roses can cascade down retaining walls. It’s essential to give the root system plenty of room (12-16 inches) and to offer regular watering for healthy flowers and abundant blooms. 

You may need to add some support, like a trellis (see these garden arbors and trellises), but not always. Choose lax varieties with flexible stems, like Snow Goose, Malvern Hills, and more.

12. Rock cress (Arabis)

RJqutel Rock Cress Seeds Cascading Red Heirloom Groundcover Perennial 50

Also known as Arabis, rock cress is part of the brassica family of plants, including broccoli and mustards. They form lovely tiny pink and purple flowers and are perfect for growing along a stone or concrete wall. 

These plants are perfect for shorter walls or adding a smaller pop of color.

13. Alpine strawberry (Fragaria vesca)

Bobby Courtyard Wild Strawberry Seeds - 1000+ Sweet Wild Strawberry Seeds for Planting - Fragaria Vesca Seeds - Heirloom Non-GMO Edible Berry Fruit Garden Seeds

These small edible strawberries are the perfect plants for planting above shorter walls. They’re used to growing in harsh, rocky mountain conditions and will have no problem with your concrete blocks or stone. 

They need consistent watering and partial shade to replicate their alpine conditions. 

14. Wave petunia

Outsidepride The Flag Easy Wave Petunia Flower Seed Mix - 15 Seeds

One of the most popular flowers for containers and hanging baskets, wave petunias are known for their colorful tubular flowers. You must replant them annually, which may be a barrier for hard-to-reach walls. 

Fortunately, they can tolerate quite a bit of sun when planted in well-drained soil, so petunias are a great option to add tons of color quickly. Learn more about petunia flower companions.

These options are just the start! So many types of plants love trailing or draping out of walls or containers. Choose one that jumped out, research your growing area, and give it a shot!

Best cascading plants for retaining walls.
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Adriana Copaceanu is a passionate nature lover living in the country on her dream property where she grows vegetables, lavender, and wildflowers that she shares with the wildlife they attract. When she's not in the garden, she loves spending time with her chickens and planning her next nature project. Check out her books below:

How to Grow Lavender for Fun and Profit: Lessons Learned from Planting Three Hundred Lavender Plants

How to Raise Chickens for Eggs: A Guide to Raising Happy, Healthy Chickens for Nutritious, Organic Eggs at Home

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