The entrance to your house creates that all-important first impression when visitors arrive, so why not use plants around your front door to enhance curb appeal and welcome you back home? There are so many plants for outside a front door to suit all house and garden styles from geometrical topiary to frame a formal entrance, to ferns, heucheras and hostas for shady front porches, and elegant displays of fragrant summer perennials and colourful annuals to create the perfect cottage garden look.
Add plants to borders and beds near the front door, or train climbers up the house wall, to add interest to your entranceway. In courtyard front gardens or houses with little space outside the front door, use window boxes, hanging baskets and containers to create fabulous seasonal displays.
And if you have containers in a sunny spot outside the front door, why not plant white clover to spill over the edges and soften the planting? Not only will a variety like Trifolium repens ‘Purpurescens Quadrifolium’ look beautiful with its eye-catching chocolate leaves with green margins, but the foliage is mostly four-leaved, so it will hopefully bring you and your visitors good luck!
Best front door plants
If you have the space on a south- or west-facing house wall, wisteria is the perfect climber to add colour and drama to your front garden in May and June. Often planted as a romantic backdrop to cottage gardens, this long-lived perennial produces curtains of lilac-blue, violet, pink or white pea-like flowers which fill the air around the front door with their sweet fragrance.
Wisteria sinensis (Chinese wisteria) and Wisteria floribunda (Japanese wisteria) are the most commonly-grown species. Both thrive in fertile, moist but well-drained soil and need to be trained up walls on firmly-attached wires. Young plants can take many years to flower when grown from seeds or cuttings, so it's best to buy grafted plants which should flower within the first four or five years.
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Height x Spread: 6-9m (depending on variety) x 5m
Best for: growing up a house wall or other large, sturdy structure
Use geraniums (also called pelargoniums) to create sumptuous container displays outside the front door. They combine well with other summer bedding and add richness and colour to the more muted backdrop of formal clipped topiary. With a wide range of geranium varieties to choose from, you can buy plants suitable for most colour schemes. Regal geraniums have large flowers, often in deep shades of red and pink, such as ‘Lord Bute’ and ‘Romeo’, and zonal geraniums, with their vivid reds, oranges and pinks, are the type most often sold as summer bedding in garden centres.
For hanging baskets, try ivy-leaved varieties which have long trailing stems of flower, and, for a multi-sensory display, choose a couple of scented-leaved geraniums such as ‘Bitter Lemon’ and ‘Attar of Roses’. Brushing past their delicate foliage releases glorious fragrance every time you come home. Simply take cuttings from pot-grown geraniums or bring them into a frost-free place over winter. Then you can harden them off and put them back outside again the following year after the last frost.
H x S: 25-50cm x 25-50cm (depending on variety)
Best for: pots that can be brought in over winter
Many evergreens are ideal to create year-round structure outside the front door. Box is often used for topiary, but with the ongoing issue of box blight and the increasing problem of box tree moth, other evergreens may currently be more suitable.
Yew (Taxus baccata) is ideal as for topiary to create a formal display beside an entrance. It's easy to clip to shape and is suitable for containers. Plants can be bought in various clipped shapes, such as balls, pyramids and even cloud-pruned trees. For a more ambitious project, you could design your own topiary. It's worth noting that yew is highly poisonous.
H x S: variable
Best for: in containers or in the ground outside the front door
Enhance the entrance to your house throughout the summer with graceful clouds of cosmos flowers. Easily grown from seed, these colourful annuals bloom for months until the first frosts and are also superb as cut flowers. For a dramatic blast of colour, choose the vivid pinks and reds of Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Dazzler’ or C. ‘Rubenza’, or grow more sultry summer shades like the soft yellow of C. ‘Xanthos’ or C. ‘Apricotta’ with its muted peach and apricot tones.
Cosmos can either be grown in a sunny front garden border or sown in pots. Compact varieties are ideal for containers as they are less likely to get top-heavy and need staking. Try C. ‘Apollo Carmine’, a rich pink variety which only reaches 60cm in height, or C. ‘Apollo White’ with its pure white blooms (also reaching 60cm) that continue well into the autumn.
H x S: 0.3-1.2m x 0.4-0.6m (depending on variety)
Best for: taller varieties in a border outside the front door and more compact varieties in pots
The arching leaves of phormiums make a structural centrepiece to a year-round container in a sheltered, sunny spot outside the front door. Choose smaller varieties that will be more suited to growing in containers, such as ‘Platt’s Black’, pink and green striped ‘Jester’ or the cream and green variegated leaves of ‘Blondie’.
For extra colour in winter and early spring, underplant with bulbs or add evergreen foliage plants such as ivy, skimmia and American wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) for extra colour and texture. The evergreens and bulbs can be planted out in the garden later in the spring and replaced with geraniums or other summer bedding.
Alternatively, plant the phormium on its own in a container and group other potted plants around it. Keep the colour palette muted with succulents such as aloes and aeoniums which complement the architectural structure of the phormium, or add fiery blasts of colour with dahlias, cannas, or compact red hot pokers such as Kniphofia Poco Red ('Tnknipr').
H x S: 60-120cm x 90-120cm for smaller varieties suitable for containers
Best for: containers in full sun
If you're looking for a contemporary way to frame your doorway, a pair of lollipop bay (Laurus nobilis) will add structure and style to the entrance of your property.
Lollipop bay trees are trained to have a round head of evergreen foliage on a bare trunk, and though bay is a popular choice, lollipop trees can be created from a number of different species, including yew and photinia. They are slow growing and expensive, so need to be cared for carefully, especially when grown in containers.
H x S: variable
Best for: growing as a pair on either side of the front door to create a modern, formal look
Roses are the quintessential cottage garden flower – climbing roses look wonderful scrambling up a house wall and roses in pots create colour and interest beside the front door. Rosa Chawton Cottage 'Harxcel' is a beautiful climbing rose with soft pink petals surrounding a deep ruby centre. It harks back to Regency romance as it was named after Jane Austen’s former house, which is now a museum. Rosa Starlight Symphony ('Harwisdom') produces masses of pure white flowers which attract pollinating insects, followed by rose hips that provide a food source for birds in the colder months.
Patio roses like Snowcap ('Harfleet') with its white ruffled flowers with amber centres, or the rich apricot blooms of ‘Sweet Wonder’ with their delicate fragrance, are ideal for pots. Surrounding a patio rose with compact summer annuals or perennials in containers is a fantastic way to introduce some cottage garden scent and colour to your entrance if you have restricted space, without needing a herbaceous border.
H x S: variable
Best for: climbers growing up the house wall or patio roses in a container
For a vibrant spring display, plant up pots with a mix of tulips that will create seasonal interest outside your front door throughout the spring. Containers are ideal for seasonal displays as they can be changed several times over the year for a quick fix of colour and, as they don’t need to accommodate long term planting, you can pack in more plants than would be possible in a border.
With a mix of varieties, you can have tulips in blooms from March to May. Try following early tulips like ‘Purissima’ with late-flowering tulips such as ‘Café Noir’ and ‘Don Quichotte’. You could also layer the tulips with other bulbs such as Iris reticulata and Chionodoxa, to extend your display right through from late winter to late spring.
H x S: 15-60cm x 15cm (depends on variety)
Best for: spring displays in pots or borders outside the front door
If the entrance to your house faces north or east, you might not be able to grow sun-loving plants, but there’s no need to despair – ferns could be the answer to your shady problem. With their architectural leaves and with many species thriving in shade, you’ll have plenty of choice. Some ferns are evergreen too, so they’ll provide year-round interest, while most grow well in containers where they can be planted in soil which suits their pH requirements.
For additional seasonal interest, most ferns produce beautiful croziers (new fronds) in spring which gradually unfurl as they develop, and the fronds of the copper shield fern (Dryopteris erythrosora) emerge bronze and pink, then mature to green with conspicuous pinky-red spores on the underside of leaves in autumn.
Not all ferns grow best in deep shade, so check before you buy. With species that can cope with sunnier sites such as the semi-evergreen Dryopteris affinis ‘Cristata’ and low-growing Polypodium vulgare, you can enjoy ferns around the front door, even if your entrance faces south.
H x S: variable
Best for: shady spot (for most ferns) outside the front door in the ground or in pots
Lavender is the perfect drought-tolerant plant for entrances that bake in the midday heat. With its Mediterranean origins, lavender thrives in nutrient-poor, stony ground, so it’s a good choice if the soil conditions around your front door are less than ideal. Compact varieties are well suited to containers and window boxes, and less hardy species like French lavender (Lavandula stoechas) can be grown in pots and then brought into a frost-free place over winter.
H x S: 0.2-1m x 0.2-1.5m (depending on variety)
Best for: sunny spot outside the front door in the ground or in pots
Buying advice for front door plants
- There are several considerations to make for front door plants. Consider the aspect and soil before selecting species that will thrive in the conditions outside your front door
- Choose plants to match the style of your house and garden - a mix of flower colour, shape and height for an informal feel, or architectural plants, topiary and a restricted colour palette for minimalist or formal gardens
- If you're planting displays in containers, make sure you consider year-round seasonal interest with evergreen foliage and spring bulbs, or replant containers once flowers have gone over