front door plants


looking for some long blooming, fragrant, heat tolerant and 4 to 6 feet height plants for my front door entrance sides (west facing). Please advise.


Thank you for reaching out to Toronto Master Gardeners.

It is evident you have a vision for your garden and given thought to the challenges of this area. The addition of 1.2 to 2 m (4 to 6 ft.) plants will enhance the health of surrounding plants, soften the strong angles and verticals presented by the brickwork, pillars, stairs, sides of your home and will shade the brickwork.

Besides height, fragrance and visual presentation, other aspects to consider are: the amount of sun/shade this garden receives, the garden’s size and shape, type of soil, ease of watering, drainage slope away from the house foundation. The space each plant or groups of plants require in relation to each other, as well as the distance the plants need to be from the house wall and stairs when the plants reach their mature size needs to be considered too. Please see this for ideas and constraints: Decorative garden design – part sun

Determining the amount of sun the various areas receive will help you in choosing plants that will thrive given the appropriate amount of sun each day. While the sun is most intense in a west facing garden, the duration of full sun can be deceiving. If this side of your house faces directly west, areas of your garden will be in full shade for a good part of the day, e.g. the left side of the garden. You may find this resource for sun mapping useful: Planting in Sun or Shade.

Deciding the shape and size of the garden beds is important too. This is where a garden hose comes in handy. Lay the hose on the ground and arrange it to mark off the approximate size you wish for the garden beds. Now is the time to let your creativity run wild. A curved edge will counter-balance the angles and verticals of the front façade of your home. Do not be afraid of deep curved contours. See this article for some ideas: 25 Garden Edging Ideas. Consider extending the garden past the side walls and think about planting taller bushes, preferably evergreens, in a way that they partially hide the vertical corners. Once you have decided on a pleasing edging, add this to your sun map. Grid paper here is most useful for your mapping. Free printable versions can be found on the internet.

Determine the quality of the soil in this garden and amend as necessary for moisture holding capacity and nutrition for extended plant life. The Garden Guide on Long Blooming Perennials discusses soil assessment and amendments. You will also find a list of plants to consider and ideas on extending the bloom across the seasons. Once the beds are prepared and you have slopped the soil away from the foundation, you are ready to select plants.

In selecting shrubs, perennials, and ground cover to develop your garden, consider what you already have and reposition these according to your design. The Shrub Gardens resource provides a list of shrubs, several of which are fragrant, which bloom across the seasons giving you a succession of blooms. Add fragrant perennials to enhance that of the shrubs and provide additional colour.

An important consideration is selecting non-invasive plants, please refer to Grow Me Instead. Since common names at vendors are often very confusing, it is best to select plants by their botanical names to ensure you are not accidentally purchasing an invasive plant or its cultivar. Cultivars, which vendors may carry, are plants produced by selective breeding. Only a few of the ‘sterile cultivars’ of invasive plants, offered by vendors, are stable. Planting these can result in invasive offspring which migrate to our forests and other areas, out-competing with our ecologically valuable native and keystone species.

For further information, please see: Pollinator garden design, Sample Garden Design and Fragrant gardens

Hopefully this will give you the information you need to realize your vision of your west facing entrance way.

Wishing you much success in enhancing the pathway to your home.