When I purchased my house, the one spot I couldn’t wait to get to work on was the long, inviting front porch.
It was going to be my space. I was ready to liven it up with matching patio furniture, along with interchangeable cushions I could rotate on a seasonal basis, outdoor wall hangings, plus coordinating pillows and rugs.
But priorities took over and a much-needed new washer and dryer stifled my deck dreams for a while. Now that I finally have time and a few dollars to spend (not as many as I’d hoped), I’m looking less at lounge furniture and more at plants—a more affordable and lively way to revitalize a porch.
Yet plants aren’t a one-type-fits-all solution for a pitiable porch. If you’re traditionally a plant killer, using low-maintenance flora is important. And not all plants thrive in all climates or locations. Plants that can’t handle a ton of sun, for example, might not do well on open porches. Get started by identifying the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone in which you live.
And don’t worry! We’ll navigate each plant’s basic needs for you. Here are four stellar options.
If you want as much color as possible
Perhaps you’re not ready (or able) to commit to bold exterior paint, but want to liven up your exterior with pops of color. Plants to the rescue! Because they’re interchangeable—and often seasonal—colorful plants can be swapped out regularly to refresh your porch’s palette.
Kate Karam, landscape architect and editorial director at garden supply company Monrovia, suggests putting colorful plants into individual pots—or mixing them with others to achieve different effects. Either way, she recommends using a neutral or terra-cotta pot so the plants take center stage.
- Hydrangea: This plant comes in a variety of colors, blooms more than once, and is also great for cutting and placing in a vase. It does best with morning sun and afternoon shade, but can grow well on covered porches as well. Pro tip: Add compost to enrich the soil.
- Tutti Frutti Apricot Delight yarrow: Bold and deep in color, this yarrow is a great option to add a pop of color to the porch area. This summer bloomer does well in full sun and wet but drained soil.
- Pink muhly grass: Usually grown in large bunches across the yard, pink muhly grass also grows well in pots and adds a great pink hue to a porch. It also offsets flowers with its height and texture.
If you want to go the desert route
Have you been dubbed the brown thumb of your family? Desert plants might be your salvation. But creating a desert-themed porch goes beyond plopping a cactus on the porch and calling it a day.
Tatyana Rodriquez, a biologist with a botany background and owner of the garden blog Florence’s Flowers, suggests incorporating succulents and other drought-tolerant plants with multiple textures.
“Texture draws people in and makes the porch more inviting,” she explains.
- Burro’s tail: This sweet succulent, also known as donkey tail, is easy to grow and loves a good dose of sunlight. “It is very distinctive,” says Rodriguez. “It just needs a well-drained container where the long stems can drape over the lid of the pot.”
- Roseum: These grow low to the ground and offer a mix of vibrant green and deep purple color. “This plant works best in a planter or container on a windowsill,” says Rodriguez.
- Snake plant: Long and slim, the snake plant is resilient and easy to care for. If your porch is long, it will grow well in slim, rectangular planters. If you want to spruce up the corners of your porch, it also does well in round, tall planters. “This is a personal favorite,” says Rodriguez, “super easy to maintain.” The versatile plant grows well in the shade and requires very little water.
If you want to bring the romance
Maybe the porch is your spot for conversation and connection. For this look, focus on a traditionally romantic foliage—plants you might see in front of a classic villa. Think vines and flowers with deep, sultry colors.
“A mix of climbing, shrubbing, and scented florals will look beautiful in old-fashioned, galvanized-steel containers,” says Karam.
- Clematis: This beautiful plant comes in deep purple and pink hues and climbs upward, such as on a trellis. The flowers bloom over a long period, and thrive in sunny spots.
- Shrub rose: Roses are the quintessential romantic flower, which makes them a must-have for a dreamy porch. Karam suggests a pink bicolor shrub rose, which blooms even in the midst of a hot summer.
- Gardenia: The sweet smell is classic and romantic. The delicate white flower adds beauty and a tantalizing scent to your porch. The gardenia’s simplicity also serves to complement the colors and textures of other plants. Gardenia needs weekly watering and does well in partial to full sun.
If you want to keep it minimalist
A studied, simple lifestyle is all the rage in decor, and the porch is no exception. And in the case of your porch, minimalism doesn’t mean boring. In fact, the movement is all about intention, and intentional porch plant selection is a great way to pick out the perfect plants and avoid clutter.
“This style is all about simple, strong lines,” says Rodriguez. “When plants are used, they are usually complementing contemporary-style architecture.”
- Sago palm: When we think palm, we usually think of large trees. However, the young sago palm is small enough to fit in a pot, and looks perfect on a porch. This particular kind of palm loves partial sun and needs to be watered only when the soil starts to dry out.
- Orange New Zealand sedge: “Grasses add grace and softness,” says Rodriguez. “They are used to contrast building structures like walls and fences,” which makes this bit of foliage a nice option to complement porch walls while adding a little color as well. It does well in partial sun and needs to be watered regularly.
- Baby Pete agapanthus: This pretty perennial has a simple, trumpet-shaped bloom that grows in clusters, providing a gorgeous blue-lavender color. It’s the perfect accent to the palm and grass suggested above because it adds a little floral flair without being overpowering. It does well in full or partial sun and requires regular watering.