Plants for Retaining Walls

Creating Beauty on Retaining Walls

Retaining wall with agaves crape myrtleThis low retaining wall has been faced with brick and the area behind it filled with drought-tolerant plants which can survive some neglect. In the photo silvery green Helichrysum cascades over the edge. Gigantic upright Agaves and large Flax (Phormium) add drama. In summer the Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) trees provide shade and white flowers to this predominantly gray-green narrow landscape at the side of a building. All the plants need very little water. They visually break up the building’s blank gray wall with big and bold plants combined with light and delicate. This look can be scaled down to work beautifully in a home garden.

Retaining walls — whether they are made of poured concrete, concrete blocks, or stacked railroad ties–are often the most unloved features in a landscape.  The job of these one-sided walls is to hold the earth back and keep it from crumbling or crashing into a walk, a driveway, a street, or a backyard.

Because these walls are often low, they are frequently left plain or simply have a coat of paint slapped on them. So here are a few ideas of how plants can turn a utilitarian feature into a beautiful asset in your garden.

Retaining wall with grass on topThis photo shows a good way to layer plants. On this 4 foot high retaining wall at the front of a lawn, the owners have planted Creeping Fig (Ficus pumila) to grow up the wall. Creeping fig should face away from direct hot sunlight and needs regular pruning. Other climbing plants could also be used this way. Spilling over the top of the wall is brighter green ornamental grass and, behind that on top, a low growing hedge of English Boxwood (Buxus microphylla) which encloses a traditional lawn. In desert climates Korean Boxwood is a better choice.

Retired? Still need more income?
How to earn extra money with part time work after age 60
Bestseller on    
Kindle    Nook    Kobo    iTunes

Grasses on top of retaining walls give a waterfall effect, especially in summer when they cascade over the edge of the wall.

Rock wall with deer grassAnother example of the cascading effect of grasses–this time Deer Grass (Muhlenbergia) drifting down over a low river rock retaining wall at the edge of a driveway. Deer Grass is very drought tolerant and easy care.


Retaining wall Indian Hawthorne pittosporum

This neat and tidy double hedge on the top of a stuccoed retaining wall combines a taller drought-tolerant Pittosporum hedge in back and Indian Hawthorne (Rhaphiolepis indica) as the lower hedge in front. In spring the Pittosporum has smallish white flowers with an amazing fragrance and Indian Hawthorne is densely covered with bright pink blooms.

Retaining wall with kangaroo paw flowersWhile this drought-tolerant, red Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthus), left, is in essentially a raised flower bed, consider it an inspiration for the top of your retaining wall. It is a simple planting, colorful for months on end in summer and very drought tolerant.  Kangaroo Paw makes a good cut flower for your home and will rebloom into Fall if you cut the stems down to the base.

For 6 other suggestions for garden walls, go here.

More gardening news for you

crape myrtle
For summer color plant a Crape Myrtle. Other trees here.
Statice limonium and iris
Sea lavender and iris  were used to create a purple and green front yard replacing a lawn.
Clematis in bloom
Clematis is one of many
beautiful vines for hot, dry climates.




Our 8 Most Popular Newsletters
  1. Six flowering plants that reliably bloom in scorching mid-summer heat.
  2. Cactus as security barriers for your property.
  3. Australian plants and trees that grow well in hot, dry climates.
  4. A white garden for night time viewing.
  5. How to combat death by heat exhaustion of plants in pots.
  6. Topiary can be easy to create and add charm to your garden.
  7. Weather-proofing palms for winter; cold weather palm trees.
  8. Non-toxic weed control and early signs of Spring.

Privacy Policy and Contact