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Using Cascading & Trailing Plants for a Lush Landscape

July 09, 2013 2 min read

Whether you’re talking about baskets, containers or retaining walls, they all look better when foliage and flowers are beautifully cascading down the side. Many trailing plants are also wonderful for covering hillsides and often help with erosion control as well as aesthetics.


There are plenty of quick growing annual species that gardeners use in baskets and flower pots. The bold colors of Sweet Potato Vine or the wispy nature of the Asparagus Fern are great trailing varieties that offer beautiful foliage color and texture.

But if you’re looking strictly for blooms, you won’t be disappointed. Improved varieties are giving fresh life to some old favorites. For instance, Ivy Geranium and Wave Petunias will spread and cascade like pros over a container or retaining wall. Come early to mid-July when plants start looking straggly many trailers like Petunias do well when trimmed back. Simply cut the biggest branches (never more than ¼ of the entire plant), fertilize and watch it come back bigger and better to finish off the summer!


There are also plenty of options for the perennial enthusiast. These species will come back year after year as they steadily grow and spread. Groundcovers are a natural place to start looking for cascading species. Vinca (also known as Periwinkle), Virginia Creeper, and Winter Creeper will quickly fill in a large space and then some! Not only do these hardy varieties trail wonderfully, but can climb up a trellis, rock wall or tree! Climbing plants can be trained by tying or clipping them into place if you desire a more formal or uniformed look.

Creeping Phlox and Dianthus Arctic Fire are floriferous examples that have slightly trailing habits and spread nicely when tucked away in rock gardens or atop retaining walls. Trimming stems after blooming can encourage a second bloom season! Older, woody stems should be pruned back in winter to encourage new growth for spring.


Finally there are shrubs! Yes, many shrubs will cascade to grace an otherwise nondescript hillside or large retaining wall.

Certain Cotoneasters, spreading Junipers, and Gro-Low Sumac offer height, width and make a serious statement when planted in mass. These plants are often considered groundcovers by their spreading capability and may help with erosion and weed control. Although when planted singly will look well placed cascading in a rock garden or small courtyard.

Trailing plants add a multidimensional look and lush feel to a landscape or patio. With several categories to choose from, there should be plenty of options for finding the perfect plant for your special spot!

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