Need help with landscaping design ideas - Zone 8 and lots of shade

Our 1970's ranch is in dire need of updating. EDIT: I've added a few more photos to show a broader image. After repairing some wood rot, we plan to replace the front door with a door with glass (oval glass insert or rectangular??). Also we plan to paint the house white and keep the shutters garnet/burgundy. What should we do with the front landscaping. We are in zone 8 and the house faces east so we get morning pockets of sun, but mostly shade. Also, we are using small stepping stones for a walkway, would love inexpensive ideas for upgrading - there's close to 100 feet of walkway from the driveway to front door!
The azalea to the left of the fireplace will need to stay as it hides the well pump/tank. I would like to remove the two camellias by the road as I think they hide the house from the road too much. Also, it looks like the dogwood on the right growing out of the azaleas is about to die and we may be taking it out.
need help with landscaping design ideas zone 9 and lots of shade, gardening, landscape
need help with landscaping design ideas zone 9 and lots of shade, gardening, landscape
need help with landscaping design ideas zone 9 and lots of shade, gardening, landscape
need help with landscaping design ideas zone 9 and lots of shade, gardening, landscape
need help with landscaping design ideas zone 9 and lots of shade, gardening, landscape
  54 answers
  • Kathie taylor Kathie taylor on May 30, 2014
    I 'm not sure your zone is really a 9. The map I just looks at says zone 7. It keeps changing. I would go to a nursery. See what they have and what the recommend. Remember you get frost and sometimes snow. You don't have to buy their plants, but 'pick their brain'! Also depends on how much weeding you want to do. I would make a large shaped P on the right and include a sitting bench , If that's a fireplace on the left, bring that bed out further. I would use impatiens...they are inexpensive and showy, and then buy my plants as I could afford them. It's good to wait, lots of times neighbors share their plants. Good luck and post a final pic!

  • Teresa Krauterbluth Teresa Krauterbluth on May 30, 2014
    what state do you live in?

  • Teresa Krauterbluth Teresa Krauterbluth on May 30, 2014
    Living in Tallahasse is a bit of a challange .Like the other person commented ,be sure to check cold hardiness ,one plant for lining your walk is lirope,it clumps growth is at maturrity is apprx.2ft. high.every few yrs divide.crotons due well also.I'm in zone 9B & we get frost once in a while. Shop for a Nursery ,not home depot.

  • Kathy Kathy on May 31, 2014
    I would use plants that have light color flowers and some on their leaves. Hosta would work great in your zone where you only get some early sun. I think that a white flower garden would be beautiful.

  • Sue D Sue D on May 31, 2014
    acer palmatum- Japanese maple tree, peonies, daphne, azaela, dogwood shrub or tree, hydrangea, camelia,gardenias-toward the southeast.

  • Jeanette S Jeanette S on May 31, 2014
    The first thing I would do is look for a lighter color on the windows and shutters to cut back on the darkness...maybe a lighter but brighter brown. Then trim back the old bushes on the right and plant something like variegated liriope (border grass) between these to fill in. You also need to plant a larger bush next to the chimney where you have that blank space. Put out a few Gerber Daisies for color. Another good plant is Cordyline which is a maroon spike like them. Hostas also do well in shade...they would look very pretty to fill in!

  • Liliana Wells Liliana Wells on May 31, 2014
    I would go with an oval glass insert to soften the square edges of the house. Look at what your neighbors are doing in terms of plants. Also contact your extension office for ideas on what local plants would be appropriate for your area.

  • Susan L. Busch Susan L. Busch on May 31, 2014
    Yes if you keep shutters paint them lighter, that is the same plan for my home....and don't forget the front door.... You'll have an entirely different home. Don't forget to post after pictures....

  • Marlene Haigh Marlene Haigh on May 31, 2014
    I'm also in zone 9 facing east. I have Lantana (orange) and crotons in front that do great in partial shade. Gives lots of color and low maintenance.

  • Cyndi Moore Tippett Cyndi Moore Tippett on May 31, 2014
    I would lighten up everything pertaining to the house. I would paint the house white, the shutters a pale olive green. I would put in a winding walkway to the drive way and even put a small patio off the front stoop for a sitting area. I would reseed with a shade loving grass seed to fill in the bare spots. I would extend the flower beds to a depth of twice what you have now and then fill them up with shade loving plants that you love.

  • Carol B Carol B on May 31, 2014
    It looks like your shrub/flower beds curve, rather than being straight. I would emphasize the curve even more so by extending the beds further into the lawn. In my neck of the woods, it is popular to put a large star on the house. I think that would look nice on your chimney. Hostas come in hundreds of varieties. I've gotten mine for free through They multiply quickly. Some varieties get very large. Good luck. Have fun. You have a diamond in the rough.

  • Nancy Nancy on May 31, 2014
    I live in Zone 4. I went with all native seeds and built flower gardens in my front and back yard with perennials that come up every year. Very low maintenance. This is very inexpensive way to add color and texture and a natural look.

  • Tamara McMillan Tamara McMillan on May 31, 2014
    I think it is great that you already have plans for a new front door as that change will make a huge difference. Everyone is suggesting lighter shutters and I must agree but if you wish to keep the same maybe a trailing sprig of Spring time color on the shutters would help. . . I would get plant "Starts" from neighbors and friends if you wish to go economical. Hostas and lilies do very well. I would also plant a full yet low growing tree somewhere in place of the taller shrubs you have under your windows. Japanese Maple is a good choice or perhaps an Evergreen? (One which does not get much taller than 6 ft)

  • 169756 169756 on May 31, 2014
    I focused on inexpensive. So I suggest a trip to Kmart/Walmart late in the season. I found 5 little shaggy bushes that I can't remember the name of :( that I just love. Put 3 of them right in front of our porch. They cost $1.75 each. A great deal. They were at Walmart, back in a corner, looking neglected. Might be a good way to get several plants for next to nothing. We also put in a big rock garden to cut down on lawn. That was a little pricier due to the boulders we had brought in.

  • Nancy Nancy on May 31, 2014
    Talk to your county extension agent about planting natives. Be friendly to the bees! Try to eliminate as much "mowing" surface as possible. Natives will provide LESS work. I also agree about lightening up shutters/windows. Do a sunny yellow or burnt orange.

  • Megan Smith Megan Smith on May 31, 2014
    Search online updating a70s ranch. There are many sites that might be helpful....houzz and HGTV for starters. Color. I'd use a warm color on the shutters and trim like yellow or some Orange tone. For the door is suggest either just painting it the same warm color in a gloss finish. I don't think an oval window would be appropriate...too Victorian. I have a ranch and the doors are a 6 pane on the upper half. I love the light and the look. I think craftsman touches mix well with ranch. Consider a gravel pathway like crushed granite.also extend the flower beds and maybe a vine or tall narrow airy tree in front of the chimney. Lots of possibilities. Can't wait to see your progress. Have fun.

  • Cherie Cherie on May 31, 2014
    Lighten up the house as already suggested, but I'd plant some crepe myrtles or some tall bushes to keep the house from looking like a long train. Just break up the overall silhouette with some trees or something, as I stated, colorful.

  • Joanna Carrisal Joanna Carrisal on May 31, 2014
    I would paint the house a light yellow and the shutters black. A winding flagstone walkway in the front with a winding flower bed to match. Take out the existing bushes. Replace with perennial flowering shrubs. Along the walkway I'd plant all types of lilies, tulips, and perennial flowers. If you could find a few old wagon wheels and incorporate them along the walkway, it'd tie in the ranch style of your home.

  • Myrna Engle Myrna Engle on May 31, 2014
    Start with the long low ranch house needs. First yank up all foundation plants and move them forward. Make large flowerbeds in graceful curves. Study placement of windows and doors. Place plants in accord with season, for example, plant a graceful evergreen on either side of entry. Not to tall are things will be out of balance again. After you have planted, generously apply mulch to help with water useage. Heavy mulch prevents weeds as well. As you work outward from entry put a tall plant at each end. It needs to be columnar and not much higher than roof edge. This type of planting gets more light, and adds grace to a plain front. Use brightly flowering or colored perennials. They show well year around.

  • Buster Evans Buster Evans on May 31, 2014
    So many possibilities !! That yard is a virtual canvas waiting for your touch... What do you like colors etc.. Do you want less grass and more plants? Trees? a birdbath ? So many ways you could choose to go. Use your imagination and do it in stages... it doesnt all have to happen at once.. If you put something in that you later dont like how it turned out you can change it.. I never get enough of flowers.. I love all kinds but the simpler the better.. petunias, are a variety of colors to add... I could send you datura seeds they bloom evening and night nice white trumpet type flower smell so good... They are poisonous if eaten but ive never had a problem with animals or anything eating them... There is so much you could do with your place... Just dont limit yourself...

  • Meri C Meri C on May 31, 2014
    O my gosh, how I would love to have this challenge! Yes, lighten up the house color and the shutters, but as suggested above, I would not go with olive green anything. It's too dark. But, depending on YOUR taste, definitely paint is the least expensive way to go. Consider a light pastel color. You can paint your house in shades of whatever color you choose for your shutters, but don't go too dark. You might even consider a light gray on the house with red shutters. And then paint your front door white. The first thing I would do however is do as suggested by Myrna; rip out all foundation plants. But, before putting anything back in the ground, I personally would like to see a perimeter porch. A covered porch all the way around the front to the side, maybe even to the backyard. This would give you more opportunity to plant vines & shrubs, breaking up the length of the house without making it look like a chop block. Paint the porch a light color. Could be white, or just a lighter color of whatever you decide to paint the house, but DO NOT paint it dark. You can put the foundation plants back in, but not necessarily in the same places. I think I would like to see some pots, on the porch and in front of it to help soften the straight lines of the house/porch. You can put in hanging plants along the railing, or along the eves of the house. Put in a walkway to the front door, breaking up the large expanse of lawn; give the walkway curves, like a river, flowing "naturally". You want to avoid hard lines. You can then plant along the edges of the walkway, natural flowing flora, plants that will 'break up' the hard features of an expansive lawn. Also, add boulders that give the plants something to use as a backdrop. You can do it in stages. But, first & foremost, find out what plants grow best in your area. I would consider tall grasses and vines. Maybe some hostas if they will grow and stay alive through the winter months. If not, put them in pots and bring them indoors during winter months if you desire to plant them. Remember, it takes time for plants to mature, so find out the final height your plants will be and plan accordingly. If you can't wait for color, plant some annuals around the empty areas while your permanent perenials are growing. You can put in some yard art like a bed frame for some flora to grow in, maybe a windmill, or old door, or window, framing the flora...whatever. I would also recommend putting in a drip system to water your new yard. That way you're not stuck at home watering when you could be out doing other things like shopping, or meeting with friends. Yes, pictures! We want to see what you decide to do. Pictures before, during & after would be splendid!

  • Barbara Turner Barbara Turner on May 31, 2014
    Sorry, but I'd go with soft butter cream yellow house with green or blue shutters. Then I'd get a Craftsman solid core door with a stained glass insert with a native flower motif style - tempered glass by the way - and as far as the landscaping? First I'd lose all the shrubs, replant what I could and like several suggestions, call your county extension office for advice on native plantings such as succulents which maintain themselves pretty much as far as water goes, they find their own better than most and retain it better, then I'd get some Hosta varieties for morning shade areas, they'll be lovely and soften it all. There are about 6,000 yes 6,000 varieties and sooooooo many genus families of Hosta you won't run out of ideas. Christmas Hosta is a nice little tight one that you can use and scatter as a sidewalk border fill-in along with some scattered annuals. Also a curved sidewalk for grace and elegance and pea gravel areas would also be nice. Keep us posted. Can't wait to see how it turns out.

  • Karen Hensley Karen Hensley on May 31, 2014
    I would paint the house a sage with light cream shutters and a barn red door.

  • Paulette Montoya Paulette Montoya on May 31, 2014
    Look at all that lawn! Wow! I would definitely make a patio off the front. What I am doing is when I see a landscape that I really love on a house I take a pic and download to my computer for use later. In my front yard I have astroturf and a putting green (previous homeowners were into golf) so we are planning demolition too! For your place I also envision a winding path with lights from the front door. Good luck and beautiful home!

  • KrysFL KrysFL on May 31, 2014
    Modern home have lighter trim/shutters and darker paint. I'd you go darker burgundy on shutters and white on house you are keeping it dated regardless of what you do with the landscaping.. I would pick modern colors and do like a Grey - beige wall and light white/cream shutter... then I would do a layered landscape in the front... so main shrub in back and then smaller shrub directly in front of it.

  • Cyndi Webb Cyndi Webb on May 31, 2014
    I like Barbara Turners color suggestion. Foliage flowers should be bright colors like pinks, purple and blues with a few white scattered for depth. These colors will pop! Draw the eyes in.....:)

    • Barbara Turner Barbara Turner on Jun 02, 2014
      @Cyndi Webb Thank you Cyndi! I studied Design on my own when I was in my 20's for 2 straight years. In fact, around 1979 I tried taking a "Interior Design" decorating class at a very prominent local store, I walked in and went to the class area. They had a silver cylinder upright and asked us to attempt to 'put something on it' so I proceeded to find a very nice English China tea pot about 18 inches high and the cylinder was about 32 inches high. The supposed leader of the class, an ID "graduate" just looked at me and said "really?!" I said "uh, that's the future!" She just snickered. And LOOK where we've come in design! Duh! Btw, I just went that one time because she was just not open, it was HER way or the highway! NOT my style to be a robot!

  • Dana Corby Dana Corby on May 31, 2014
    It does look awfully dark! An easy way to lighten up the facade is to paint the underside of the eaves with semi-gloss white; what light there is will reflect onto the elevation. If you really want to keep the dark shutters and trim, give them a coat of clear glaze -- Varathane or whatever -- to make them pop. The new door is a great idea; personally I'd go with the oval glass to offset all the rectangles. And the person who suggested some sort of medallion -- a star or whatever -- had a great idea; I'd paint it the same color as the trim and put it on that big chimney box. I agree with the other folks here, that you need way bigger flower beds. Can't see the existing walkway, but if the new one's going to be that long I'd also make it fairly wide, so it doesn't come out looking like you laid a string on your lawn. Pavers come in so many sizes and shapes these days, and are by far the easiest way to lay hardscape. Low plantings on both sides of the pat merging into the wider foundation beds would also help turn a simple pathway into a grand entrance. Please post befores & afters when you're done!

  • Joe Abbet Joe Abbet on May 31, 2014
    OK. I'll put my two cents in about your front path. This is usually the main access to your house. A stepping stone path is more appropriate as a secondary path. I'd suggest coming in (to be inexpensive) with a pea gravel or decomposed granite path edged with steel edging. As money becomes available, I'd replace that with a concrete path (the cheapest hard surface) or you might scavenge for used brick or replace the gravel with Pavestone a little at a time (available at Home Depot or Lowes. I have older and disabled visitors that come to my house. An easy, safe travel path is desirable, even for us, as we age. It will be money well-spent to work towards a more serviceable front path.

  • Ellen H Ellen H on May 31, 2014
    You could leave the small stepping stones and widen the path with pea gravel. We did ours and it looks great. To keep the stknea from escaping the design, just use plastic edging.

  • Carmen Carmen on May 31, 2014
    a wider stone path - i I like crush gravel with inset pavers. Following the path a narrow , garden bed of ornamental grass, and society garlic. One or two cape myrtle trees, with an island of mulch and potted plants you can change or bring in during cold season

  • Terry Mullen Terry Mullen on May 31, 2014
    Hostas are always good in the shade, and they come in a wide variety. Curving planting beds, and a curving walk would add interest.

  • Sue Landis Sue Landis on May 31, 2014
    Go shopping at your local recyclers and thrift stores with an eye towards repurposing for structure and interest. I only have about a 5' patch of lawn left. Over the course of a few years I got rid of diseased/dying foundation plants & end of lot trees that were also dying. I've turned it into an English garden and put an arched trellis and short (lengthwise) picket fence along the front to grow climbing roses and the like. My yard faces north so only about 2/3 gets any sun. In the shady areas by the house I've got camellias and hydrangea which do well. Bonus: deer don't eat them and for some reason leave the climbing roses alone, too. I've interspersed garlic (which could be why the deer don't get the roses lol), artichokes, lilacs, Russian sage, lavenders, rosemary and other perennial herbs and annual veggies and sunflowers as well. Neighbors love the veggies since they're incorporated into the plan and they change. Things like Shasta daisies work well in most environments, come back year after year and quickly propagate by dividing. Because of all your shade, if you have any boggy areas, you might consider a rain garden edged with ferns. As noted previously hostas are good (deer love them though), as are astilbes, bleeding hearts and columbine. Have fun!

  • Wendy Plyman Wendy Plyman on May 31, 2014
    I think you need a porch on the whole front , something white , to brighten up the house , then add some soft lines , with an amazing stairway to go to the driveway , not sharp corners , the house needs it , good luck ,

  • Cheryl Merchant Cheryl Merchant on May 31, 2014
    I agree the shutters need a lighter color like the sage green and light cream suggested earlier. I would expand the front bed to the left of the front door and plant hydrangea, ferns, as til be, coral bells, impatiens, there are lots of shade loving plants I would angle the path in a gentle curve and use , mulch around and between stepping stones. I would make a narrow bed along the pathway right side and tie it into the plants along the right front. I would definitely do a oval glass door I set. Your house has a lot of straight lines already. Gentle curves will soften the look and create contrast. Good luck. Using a garden hose to determine the path and bed outlines works well as a guide.

  • Dee Johnson Dee Johnson on May 31, 2014
    I agree with it needs to lighten up......depends how far you want people to walk to your door.....seems if it is raining. I put a circle driveway...then add a rock type garden.

  • Allan Yotty Allan Yotty on May 31, 2014
    Make your entrance pop by having a pathway up to the door with flower gardens bordering it. Visit the nursery and get something to draw the eye up like a weepy conifer by the chimney or the far right of the house. The house is way too horizontal and needs something vertical. I would change out the shrubs. Take a road trip and look at various landscapes in nicer neighborhoods. I would also put in some out door lighting not only by the front door but by the end of the path you put in.

  • Linda M Linda M on May 31, 2014
    well....hostas don't grow in FL too hot....research zone 9 plants...also which direction does the front of your house face? The shade and sun are a big factor. I think your house is very nice....but I do agree that the dark shutters and door need to be a lighter color....a sage green for the shutters would really brighten it up...and if you are getting a door with glass...the oval is kind of outdated....I think the rectangle would be your best bet. Curved lines around the plantings always look best. HOpe you have fun with the pics for us!!

  • Leslie Archer Leslie Archer on Jun 01, 2014
    Caladiums ... Bergoinas... Actually go to they are inexpensive and you can get a large discount. I buy my bulbs and flowers from them. I do like the idea about painting the door a contrasting color but the shutters a similar color to your contrasting door. Pavers are a good idea you can always work up if you wanted to. You can make your own pavers with a pizza box lined with plastic wrap... You can add your own touch by putting a design down in the box before pouring concrete... Get quick Crete. We let our kids do their own paver with their name spelled out with pretty stones or sticks (anything natural) we call it our Family path they loved seeing their stones everyday. Make sure you have them anchored in a bed of sand to give them more sustainability. If you need any directions for them you can e mail me... I can give you more landscaping on a budget ideas as that is what I do for fun! Happy gardening!!!!

  • Rochester Gal Rochester Gal on Jun 01, 2014
    I would paint the house a bright white, with glossy black trim and the front door a pop of color - coral, bright yellow, violet, orange, blue. Plants for your area that are good include: black eyed susans, hydrangea, coneflowers, hosta. Add a curved stamped sidewalk to the drive way. Good luck, you have alot of people offering suggestions, from them I think you will find something.

  • Teresa Krauterbluth Teresa Krauterbluth on Jun 01, 2014
    Another way to figure out what plants would work in you area is to talk your local ag .dept.also the Master Gardner in that dept.I agree that painting the front door will help,Pick one project at a time ,that way it's more affordable,drive your neighborhood look at what others have done.I hope this helps.

  • Tanya W Tanya W on Jun 01, 2014
    Thank you to every who has commented. There are some great suggestions and I'm getting some wonderful ideas on what to do with this blank canvas. I've updated my original post and corrected our zone to 8 and added more photos. We've definitely decided to go with a door with an oval window to help soften the sharp angles we have now.

  • Jackie Prim Jackie Prim on Jun 01, 2014
    Tanya I think I would consider gravel driveway in a circle design. Lighten up all the dark trim. The possibilities are endless. Its a lovely home. Enjoy!

  • Bethany W. Bethany W. on Jun 01, 2014
    Tanya - My home is also a ranch, and I've been wondering for a while now what I could do to improve the curb appeal. Curved flower beds was at the top of my list. I've already put in a new front door (with the oval window), which helped. Definitely a wider entry path is in order - you want to lead the people to the door, not steer them in through the garage. I'm anxious to see what you end up doing! Be sure to post your after pictures. :-)

  • Rhonda Clements Rhonda Clements on Jun 01, 2014
    ferns, hostas, heuchera, astible, are perennial Hydrangea is a good shrub for shade. begonia and impatiens for annuals, many lilies like shade as well

  • Sabrina Cleveland Sabrina Cleveland on Jun 01, 2014
    hostas and hydrangeas

  • Marion Nesbitt Marion Nesbitt on Jun 01, 2014
    White walls with burgundy shutters is too stark a contrast. The front door area is unwelcoming and boring. Definitely have a door with a large glass insert and add some more trim to make it look wider. Paint it turquoise or such for interest. Make a large patio by the front door with some tall pots on either side of the door, some others in groups, a bench or chairs and a table. Curve a walkway to the drive with colourful plants between it and the house. .

  • Sharon Carson Dunham Sharon Carson Dunham on Jun 02, 2014
    I'd go to your local nursery where they would be able to help you know what's going to work best in your area. When I lived in Alabama I found many really good nurseries that helped me learn what was going to work in zone 8 and the list is extensive. And don't try and do it all at one time....each year make a new plan based on how you like what you've don't so far....and definitely ad a pop of color to your front door! If you want to keep the burgundy shutters, I'd go with a light gray on the house. White would be very stark against the burgundy. Just my thoughts!

  • Elizabeth Hamaty Elizabeth Hamaty on Jun 02, 2014
    If it was me, I'd make the front beds deeper, use as many natives as possible, and cut down a bit on the lawn. I like the crepe myrtles. Might add some matching ones between the windows. I put in beds with sweeping curves. Breaks up the lines of the house, but not to hard to mow along

  • Sherry Sherry on Jun 02, 2014
    Are you sure you want to paint the house white? I had a historic home with wood siding that I kept its original white and regretted it- every time the wind blew it blasted the walls with dirt- a maintenance nightmare! I'd go with something with some color, like a taupe (I actually like the color it already is) and change the trim color to something more complimentary, then do the door in a color that plays off the trim for an updated look.

  • Barbara Turner Barbara Turner on Jun 02, 2014
    Another thought, IF you don't want to go with the Hosta idea of "some" hosta and believe me they DO have some very hardy ones that WOULD work in the SHADED areas of your yard and you could also mix ALOE plants in with them and still put scattered seasonal Annuals year by year for a change-up for color also some trellises for scattered roses and shepherd hooks for planters with Begonias or Petunias which are very vibrant and bright! A Pergola would be nice over a front patio and a ceramic upright pot for a water feature.

  • Teresa Krauterbluth Teresa Krauterbluth on Jun 03, 2014
    Most everyone has wonderful ideas on suggestions for you home.,But in Florida we have nematodes as well as other litter critters in the soil .Some plants are hardier than others so speaking with people in the ag dept .That is their job,also check out fsu, &the university at Gainsville. I know everyone is trying to help,but Florida is really different from other places.I've worked in the industry here in Florida ,I have over 8 yrs of working with tree tropical plants,etc here in Florida & 5 yrs in a retail Comm.&retail plant and Tree nurseries.

  • Nancy Nancy on Jun 05, 2014
    I don't see a walkway to the front door so it seems off to the side and unwelcoming. I would add a stone walk way and plant ground cover on each side having the walkway meander towards the driveway...not a straight line but more of a curve to break up all of the length. I would also plant ground cover around the trees in wide circles and remove that large bush that is between the garage and the front door...too much of a barrier and hides the house. Good luck!

  • Laveta Moody-Thomas Laveta Moody-Thomas on Mar 28, 2016
    A sidewalk/walkway is definitely needed from the front door to the driveway. Plant variegated monkey grass to line the walkway on each side.If your budget permits extend the front to build a front porch, shape up the existing plantings but either cut back or remove the large bush between the garage and front door. Update the paint with fresh new colors and update some of the plantings with some that are indigenous to the area after checking with the local extension service

  • Kent Kent on Jun 06, 2016
    A landscape design creates a visual appeal for the viewers. Make your landscaping designs truly homely for outdoor living, and it is not a bad idea at all to consult some landscaping contractors to serve you with the best possible options.