Landscaping a house on a small lot is something a homeowner can do. Start by sketching a diagram of the house on paper, making it as close to scale as possible, like 1/4 inch on paper could equal one foot of actual measurement. Also take a picture of each side of the house included in the landscaping plan. Take the house pictures and sketch to the garden center. Once at the garden center, read plant labels for sun requirement and the anticipated mature height of the plant to ensure the plant will fit in the desired location. Some nurseries are willing to help customers choose the best plants to fit the budget and the landscaping plan. The landscaping plan for a house on a small lot might include short shrubs under windows, taller shrubs near doorways or house corners, flowers for borders, and possibly trees.
Use trees sparingly on a small lot, choosing dwarf versions or relatively small trees, like Japanese maple or flowering dogwood, or slow growing trees, like mountain laurel. If there is space for a larger tree, like crape myrtle or maple, plant the tree away from the house so the roots won’t interfere with the foundation and so leaves and limbs will not fall onto the roof. A single tree on a small lot may offer shade as well as beauty and balance to the landscape, particularly if the tree is planted to off-set a larger portion of the house. For instance, if the garage is located on the right end of the house, plant the tree about one-third in from the left border of the small lot.
When planting shrubs near the house, choose shrubs with a mature height less than the bottom of the window, or the roof of the house for planting away from a window. Shrubs that have the potential of growing taller will require periodic pruning to maintain their size and shape. Dwarf Alberta white spruce, for instance, reaches a height of about 10 feet; compact Korean azalea grows to about 2 feet tall. Barberry, which grows 2 to 3 feet tall, has thorns, making it a security option under windows to help deter would-be break-ins.
Perennials cost more than annuals, but because perennials return each year and can be divided after three or four years in the ground, there is a savings in the long run. On the other hand, perennials mean a commitment to a color while annuals give the option to change landscape flower colors each year. Whether choosing annuals or perennials, be sure to read the plant label to ensure the plant’s sunlight requirements and mature height fit the planting location in the landscaping plan.
Planters and Vertical Structures
Optimize small spaces with planters and vertical structures. An obelisk or trellis can be used in a small area to grow a vine like clematis. Pots on the porch can hold flowers, ornamental grass or small shrubs. Consider the amount of sunlight available on the porch before making a selection.
Planters can also be used in the landscape instead of (or in addition to) planting trees, shrubs or flowers in the ground. A window box that spans the width of the window can be filled with plants still in their pots so they can easily be switched out, or plant directly into soil in the flower box. Mix up the sizes for variety.
Washington State University Extension: Small Trees for the Home Landscape
University of Minnesota Extension: Choosing Landscape Evergreens