Planting a Narrow Space

The last strip of dirt around our house has been planted! It is literally the only plant-able spot in our yard with almost year round shade (except a few months in summer during late afternoons.)

narrow planted space infront of house
Late Afternoon, Summer Sun

Why did I wait so long? The space is right next to the front door so it makes sense I should have done something earlier. In short the house's original, rusted, main waterline ran about 6 inches beneath the "soil". Years after moving in, we finally had the line replaced. Next we ended up pulling much of the dry-rotted, termite damaged trim (+ more) off the exterior walls of the house. The holes that were left had to then be stuccoed. Next came painting and of course that's not possible without debating about color... Last came removing a portion of the original water line and replacing the exhausted, weed laden soil. Plus - we just had other stuff to do.

This area has some unique constraints. For example the ever present deer will still munch on anything they think tasty, it's a very narrow space next to the driveway where car doors often open, it's shady, dry and finally it is in front of large stucco exterior wall of the house. Basically we needed some narrow, non-messy, shade tolerant plants which are deer resistant and don't mind being bumped every so often.

The old waterline - about 6" below grade!

Attempted patch from several yrs ago

When we bought the house this space contained several Italian Cypress, a Bougainvillea and a few miniature Japanese Maples. I suppose I can understand why the original owners chose the Cypress for this space but unbeknownst to them the roots would play havoc with the shallow waterline over the years. The Cypress also out-grew the space and generally looked bad.

April, 2020

Yeah, I know.

Enter Pedilanthus

I'm not entirely sure how these Pedilanthus macrocarpus will like the darkest months of the year in this spot. As a test I left these plants in their original pots in this same spot for a few months this Spring - they seemed fine. January and February may be more challenging. If anything they were suffering a bit from over-watering. Luckily, this spot gets less rain soaked than just a few feet away because of the eaves. I'll post update shots showing what they look like this upcoming Winter.

Narrow space planted with Pedilanthus
July, 2020

Originally I wanted to use 3 or 4 different plant types in this little strip but was convinced by my partner in crime to keep it simple. Because of the now simpler, more modern house facade this planting needed to be different than any other spot around the property.

Thymus pulegioides 'Foxley'  

The ground-cover is Foxley Thyme which as it grows will smell nice if / when occasionally bruised by pedestrians. The rock is a 1" - 1.5" Mexican Beach Pebble.

Large ceramic pot next to front door
Front Door Sentry

I like how the Pedilanthus looks in this pot - over the last few months it's grown into a living sculpture. As an aside - my wife took the front doors off, sanded, and repainted them + added new hardware. Eventually we will replace the front step as well.

Kalanchoe luciae after 3 months of indirect light

Ok - Enough of the closeups. Let's pull back and get a sense of how it all fits together.

planting in front of house
The front of our house

Here's how the new planting ties into the existing planting. To borrow a term from someone else - it's "cram-scraping".

Planting in small space next to car
Car pulling in next to the new planting.

Imagine 4 teenagers piling out of the side of our family battle wagon above...

An old picture from Google Street View...

No plants in 2015!

And dredged up from an old Facebook post here's the earliest shot we have of the front of the house.


That's a cypress in front of the house as well! At some point in the distant past it was beheaded - I assume so as not to block views out the front window.

That's it for today. Happy Gardening!


Update - Late December 2020

During the Winter this side of the house gets absolutely zero direct sun. So far the Pedilanthus seem to be doing well although we've only had a few wet days. I'm still half expecting that all of these plants will turn to mush from to much shade and too much moisture but it's possible the eaves will keep them just dry enough to survive.

Planting in narrow space next to driveway

Pedalanthus planted in narrow space


  1. It's a vast improvement on what you inherited, Hans! I don't think I've ever seen Pedilanthus in bloom before. Narrow spaces are always a challenge. Our old townhouse had Bougainvillea planted in the narrow space next to the driveway which annoyed the heck out of my husband until he tore it out, leaving him with a lifelong aversion to the plant.

    1. Thanks Kris - Both the P. macrocarpus and bracteosa seem to stay in bloom for long periods if they get a decent amount of water. The macrocarpus I have in full sun have turned a less attractive yellow-green color. I'm still not sure they'll survive here year round!

    2. You did an excellent job with a challenging space. Nice paint job on the front doors, too.

      I have a couple of planting beds maybe 3'x3' on the patio--deep, deep shade plus one hour of intense hot afternoon sun...challenging for full-shade plants. At least no deer!


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