Most homeowners plan the landscaping of their front yard first, and for good reason: front yard landscaping is the first thing visitors see. It is the part of the landscape the family and neighbors see most often. It is enormously important for establishing curb appeal.
Fortunately, landscaping the front yard doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. Here are ten of our best simple front yard landscaping ideas for all kinds of landscapes.
10 Simple Front Yard Landscaping Ideas
1. For the most attractive front yard landscaping, start with streetscaping
The place to start your design for your front yard landscape is the streetscape, the view of your front yard from the street. Don’t settle for the bit of lawn, one or two trees, and a few foundation shrubs that most builders will deem adequate for your front yard landscaping.
Instead, think in terms of capturing your visitors’ eyes as they approach your home from the street. Don’t force them to gaze over a grassy landscape to find a small shrub right next to your house. Create a front yard landscape that is beautiful to passersby as it is to your family and your guests.
As you are considering your streetscaping, don’t forget to pick a theme for your yard. Whether you live in a Victorian, a farmhouse, a modern ranch-style house, a home in the Spanish colonial or Tuscan style, or any other architectural genre, make sure your yard and your house are decorated on the same theme.
You also need to consider whether your neighborhood calls for formal or informal landscaping. Formal landscaping relies on straight lines and geometric shapes. Informal landscaping allows a more free-flowing choice of plants. Houses built on a slope usually require informal landscapes. Houses built on flat ground can go either way.
2. Design your front yard from the outside in rather than from the inside out
All of us enjoy looking out our front windows and seeing something pretty. There is nothing wrong with planting flowers, shrubs, and trees to enjoy from behind a picture window or sitting on a veranda or a porch. But the best front yard landscaping ideas start with the view from the street and complete it with plantings to be enjoyed from inside the house. This approach increases your home’s curb appeal.
For a clear view of your front yard, take a walk down the street and then walk back. Then take two short trips to drive up to your house from either direction in your car.
Notice how your house contrasts or blends in with the houses of your neighbors. Does it sit well on its site, or does it look out of place in your neighborhood? Is it nestled among trees and shrubs? Does it need a planting to accent vertical or horizontal lines?
3. Make sure your landscaping doesn’t get in the way of getting in and out of your car
Any front yard landscape design has to leave room for getting in and out of cars. The driveway needs to be wide enough to exit and enter the car without stepping on flowers and grass. Plants should not be so tall or planted so close to the driveway that it is hard to discern where to make the turn in from the street.
Your front yard design should also leave a line of sight to the door you want visitors and delivery people to use. Some homeowners believe that dense planting that obscures the doors of the home protects against break-ins, but they actually make it more likely that a burglar can get away undetected.
Growing ornamental kale on a border next to your driveway is easy and beautiful!
4. Don’t forget the verge
The verge is that narrow strip of turf between the sidewalk and your street. You want to make sure it does not become a home for invasive species, or for small trees that can send roots that crack the concrete, or grasses that need constant mowing.
On the other hand, the verge can become a high-traffic area. Passing pedestrians and pets can do substantial damage to flower beds and ornamentals. Consider dark green cover plants that direct the eye to the more colorful and attractive plants in your front yard design. Or, create a simple rock garden that can take the traffic beating.
5. Prioritize new architectural features
If you need to rejuvenate the architectural features of an older house, start with the driveway. You will use it the most. Making sure there are no obstacles between your driveway and the door will save countless accidents and damaged plants.
The next architectural feature of your front yard is a durable walkway. Stepping stones need to be placed so they are level with the ground. There should not have any uneven surfaces that can cause tripping and spills.
Not to be overlooked are non-slip front steps and covered doorways that keep you out of the weather while you are finding your keys. But these are not the highest priorities in front yard landscape design.
6. Plant trees to frame your house
Here is a very simple way to use trees to frame your house.
Plant two trees that will grow tall on either side of your house. Plant one tree that will grow tall in the middle of your backyard behind it. Plant trees in your front yard only if it is unusually spacious and you can afford them.
All but the youngest trees will give your house a look of permanence. As they grow, they soften the look of your roofline against the sky.
Trees and shrubs are also useful on the edges of your front yard for making property lines, providing shelter for wildlife, and as windbreaks. You should choose the low-growing trees and shrubs you plant in your front yard to provide a seasonal progression of color, and a variety of sizes and shapes for visual relief. Don’t forget to consider leaf shape, number, and size in comparison to the types of materials used to build your house.
If you live in Florida, Arizona, or another warm state, try landscaping with palm trees, and enjoy some fruit as a result too!
7. If you already have tall trees in your front yard, consider adding accent trees
Understory or accent trees add interest in color beneath stately, taller trees that convey the story of your house. Popular accent trees include Japanese maples and dogwoods. These trees don’t do well standing alone in full sun, but they are a beautiful accompaniment to taller trees, adding color and contrast throughout the year. Be sure to choose trees that are adapted to your soil, climate, and precipitation patterns. Native trees are always best.
8. Add flowers in raised beds
Bottomless raised beds open possibilities for front yard landscaping that can’t be achieved by planting at ground level. You can fill raised beds with a soil mix that supports plants that ordinarily won’t grow in your soil and climate.
For instance, a raised bed filled with sandy, peaty soil fitted with drip irrigation can be filled with azaleas or gardenias, even if there is alkaline, clay soil beneath it. Contrastingly, raised bed soil can be treated with lime to accommodate alkaline-loving plants that don’t do well in acidic, woodland soils. And raised beds are a must for plants that need good drainage in yards with clay soils.
Dwarf evergreens provide year-round color. Dwarf fruit trees are even more prominent when they bloom in the spring when they are planted in raised beds. For the greatest variety of colors and shapes, plant annuals. Let petunias, asparagus fern, and vinca drape over the edges to contrast with open edges that provide a place to sit down and enjoy the view.
9. Don’t overdo foundation plantings
Foundation plantings soften the line of the foundation of the house. They should not stretch up and past windows or crawl toward the roof. The plants you put out around the foundation of your house should draw the eye up to your house instead of obscuring it. Of course, you can always use a taller foundation planting to hide a defect in siding, masonry, or brickwork.
Don’t use your most beautiful plants as foundation plantings. You won’t be able to see them from inside the house, so save your most beautiful plants for other locations in your front yard.
10. Minimize the amount of space you use for planting your lawn
Turf grasses take lots of work. They guzzle water all summer. They need fertilizer, spraying, and mowing. And more mowing. And more mowing.
Here are some more suggestions for landscaping your front yard:
- Don’t go overboard choosing a variety of plants. A few plants of the same shape and color draw more attention from the street than multiple plants in a variety of shapes and colors.
- Don’t let plants dwarf your house. Landscaping should draw attention to your house, not away from it.
- If the front of your house is symmetrical, balance plantings on either side. If your house has an asymmetrical design, you can place taller plants on one side and shorter plants on the other.
- Try to make at least one entrance to your house accessible for wheelchairs and gurneys, kept free of plants. In an emergency, an entrance with a ramp instead of steps can prove to be a literal lifesaver.
FAQs About Landscaping the Front Yard
What tree looks good in a front yard?
Here are some of our favorites and the USDA Hardiness Zones where they will thrive:
- Citrus trees (Zones 8-11)
- Crabapple (Zones 3-8)
- Chinese Dogwood (Zones 3-8)
- Japanese maple (Zones 5-8)
- Redbud (Zones 5-9)
- Saucer magnolia (Zones 5-9), or you may try the Jane magnolia tree if you have a smaller yard
- Serviceberry (Zones 2-9)
- Weeping cherry (Zones 5-8)
These trees stand up to a variety of soils, rainfall rates, pollution, and traffic patterns, and they add interest to your front yard landscape all year round.
The first step to landscaping your front yard on a budget is making sure you know how much everything costs. You need to know the costs of everything from a flat of bedding plants to garden statuary and everything in between. Then take these steps:
- Plan a minimalist design. Use a few large, noticeable plants rather than a multitude of bedding plants and bulbs.
- Use gravel and native annuals for ground cover. You will save thousands of dollars on lawn maintenance.
- Avoid Astroturf. It is not expensive to maintain, but a 2,000 square-foot front yard will cost as much as $10,000 to cover with Astroturf. And do you really want your lawn to look like a miniature golf course?
- Install a pond or a bird bath. Make low-maintenance fish or passing birds the main attraction.
- Add outdoor lighting. An illuminated stone walkway becomes a nighttime attraction you and your guests will love.
How can I make my front garden look better?
Some easy ideas that can make serious improvements to curb appeal include planting ground covers over unsightly areas, building a flower bed around your mailbox, putting in flower beds around trees, hauling old mulch away and replacing it with new, adding borders to flower beds, adding rock features, and installing a lighting system.
How can I landscape without plants?
Lay down landscape fabric to prevent the growth of weeds. Cover it with sand, pebbles, or colored gravel. Then add rocks and metal sculptures that add interest to the design of the front of your house.
What plants should I put in my front yard?
We favor boxwood, dogwood, hydrangeas, junipers, elderberries, weigela, dwarf lilac, mock orange, pyracantha, and spirea for shrub plantings, and astilbes, hostas, irises, coral bells, phlox, and yucca for low-maintenance bedding plants. Even better, recreate a prairie or woodland scene of plants native to your area.
How do I pick plants for the front of my house?
Think in terms of layers. Make sure tall plants don’t obscure smaller plants.
Unless you are planting a formal garden on a flat front yard, don’t be afraid to mix up your plant choices. Perfect symmetry is not necessary.
And always choose plants that are suited for your soil, rainfall, and climate. Use the search tool to get more information about specific plants on this site.
What is the best shrub for the front of the house?
Forsythias, hydrangeas, lavender, sage, and shrub roses look good in many front yard landscaping schemes. Boxwood is easy to shape into a garden topiary. Roses come in a tremendous variety of shapes, colors, sizes, and climate preferences.
What is the best low-maintenance shrub?
Consider dwarf Alberta spruce, carpet roses, Franklin’s gem boxwood, Blue Star Juniper, Skyrocket heather, lindera, weigela, and hardy Stewartsonian azaleas.
How tall should bushes be in front of the house?
Bushes planted along the foundation should be no taller than about halfway to the bottom of the nearest window. Privacy hedges on the side of your front yard can be allowed to grow as high as 30 feet, but the general rule is that no bush should be allowed to obscure a beautiful plant or the house behind it.
Use terraced landscaping. Use height to make up for narrow spaces. But don’t let terraces get in the way of the view of your house from the street.
How to landscape a sloping yard?
Throw formality out the window when landscaping a sloping yard. Use a variety of textures, colors, and shapes that match the contours and varied elevations of your yard. Remember, shorter plants in front, and taller plants closer to your front door, but always leave your house visible from the street.
What can I do with a small front yard?
Small front yards are full of design possibilities! Consider:
- Installing broad steps and planting tall grasses leading to your front door.
- Creating a Mediterranean garden with citrus trees in terracotta pots.
- Using large plants that take attention away from the small space.
- Landscaping with cottage garden plants.
- Incorporating Japanese garden design elements into your front yard space.
- Using a single tree to make a statement.
You can design a beautiful, small front yard. And the great thing about small front yards is that they are a lot less work to maintain.
I hope these simple front yard landscaping ideas have inspired you and you’re ready to spruce up your front garden.