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13 Stunning Cascading Plants for Retaining Walls and Hanging Baskets

If you have a sloped garden, it is very likely that you will consider putting in some retaining walls. Make it beautiful with these stunning cascading plants for retaining walls! Cascading plants are also gorgeous in hanging baskets – hang one everywhere; the patio, the bathroom, the bedroom!

Retaining walls can be a great way to level up the ground, as well as prevent soil erosion and water runoff. But some of the best materials for retaining walls are not the prettiest!

The most common and strongest retaining walls are made with concrete blocks or bricks, which can be quite an eyesore. 

Even if you’re lucky enough to have a beautiful stone terraced retaining wall, it will still benefit from some creative planting.

Lovely cascading plants for retaining walls will add color and contrast to your garden landscaping, as well as give you the opportunity to try out new gardening skills!

The best way to cover a retaining wall is with a display of cascading plants. And if you are looking for inspiration, we’ve got some beautiful suggestions for you with our list of the best cascading plants for retaining walls and hanging baskets!

13 Beautiful Cascading Plants for Retaining Walls and Hanging Baskets

  1. Creeping Thyme (Thymus praecox)
  2. Trailing Lobelia (Lobelia erinus)
  3. Groundcover Rose (Rosa meidrifora)
  4. Creeping Phlox (Phlox sp.)
  5. Climbing Strawberry (Fragaria sp.)
  6. Cascading Rock Cress (Aubretia sp.)
  7. Weeping Loropetalum (Loropetalum sp.)
  8. Tumbling Losetto Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum)
  9. Wave Petunia (Petunia x hybrida)
  10. Trailing Rosemary (Rosmarinus sp.)
  11. String of Pearls (Senecio)
  12. Morning Glory Vine (Ipomoea)
  13. Blue Rug Juniper (Juniperus horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’)

1. Creeping Thyme

creeping thyme on retaining wall thymus praecox
This beautiful Creeping Thyme is the perfect cascading plant for your retaining walls!

Creeping Thyme is hugely popular as a cascading plant for retaining walls, with good reason!

This low-growing perennial will create a dense mat of tiny leaves, which spreads quickly over and down retaining walls. It is easy to grow and will thrive in most conditions.

There are many different varieties of creeping thyme available, so you can use a variety of leaf colors and textures to create a visual masterpiece.

And when they flower, you will be amazed at the stunning display of hundreds of tiny flowers!

Creeping Thyme Specs
Spread:12″ – 18″
Height:6″ – 12″
Zones:3-9
Position:Full sun
Creeping Thyme Seeds
Seed Needs, Creeping Thyme Two Packs - 20,000 Seeds Each

These creeping thyme seeds quickly transform your yard into a deep sea of purple! They reach heights of only 12-inches max, so they're perfect groundcover. Each branch produces thick clusters of up to 30 beautiful flowers.

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2. Trailing Lobelia

creeping lobelia purple flowering cascading plant on retaining wall
Trailing Lobelia plants will cover your retaining wall in gorgeous little flowers in no time!

Many gardening fans will already be familiar with lobelias, as they are popular all around the world! In fact, there are over 415 different types of lobelia, with options available to suit most growing zones.

Trailing lobelias will create a stunning visual display of tiny star-shaped flowers as they cascade down your retaining wall.

These plants love warmth, so situate them in full sun for best results. In some zones, they can be treated as a perennial, but in cooler climates, they are grown as annuals. 

Trailing Lobelia Specs
Spread:Dense 6″ – 8″ (for Regatta variety)
Height:4″ – 6″ (for Regatta variety)
Zones:3-11
Position:Full sun to part shade
Our Pick
Lobelia Regatta

Regatta Series seeds promise exotic, radiant, and fragrant lobelia mounds that promise to invigorate any home or office with inviting summertime aromas.

Lobelia seeds are vigorous seasonal performers and are an ideal grow for kids or novice gardeners with limited space. Regatta Series lobelia seeds grow a wonderful fresh trailing plant perfectly suited for many hanging baskets, planters, and pots.

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3. Groundcover Rose

Coral Drift Rose Specs
Spread:2′-2.5′
Height:1′-1.5′
Zones:4-11
Position:Full sun
Coral Drift Rose - Plants by Mail

The gorgeous Coral Drift Rose bears stunning coral flowers, in a distinctive mound. It is a great low-growing shrub or groundcover, suitable for many places in the garden (including retaining walls!).

This rose will flower from mid-spring until fall. Best in well-draining soil, full sun position. For full cover, plant them 1' apart.

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4. Creeping Phlox

creeping phlox stolonifera on top of retaining wall
If you’re in zones 3 to 9, Creeping Phlox is a gorgeous flowering cascading plant for you!

Creeping Phlox is a semi-evergreen perennial which will thrive in zones 3 to 9. This beautiful plant can be a stunning addition to your cascading floral display, as it flowers earlier than most of our other suggestions.

The joy of Creeping Phlox is that you can buy a range of different colors, from blue and purple through to pink, red, and even white.

The soft needle-like leaves are retained for the majority of the year, giving you the perfect cover for your retaining wall.

Creeping Phlox Specs
Spread:1′ – 2′ (Phlox subulata)
Height:4″ – 6″ (Phlox subulata)
Zones:3-9
Position:Full sun
Our Pick
Phlox 'Emerald Blue' (Moss Phlox) Perennial, Blue Flowers
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5. Climbing Strawberry

climbing strawberry fragaria on retaining wall
Cascading plants for your retaining walls can be edibles, too!

Who said that your retaining wall cover plants should just be ornamental?

These great climbing strawberry plants are a fun and easy way to create cover, as well as provide you with delicious and nutritious fruits from the garden.

If you choose a range of different varieties, you should be able to harvest strawberries for many months of the year.

Strawberry plants have shallow roots and thrive in most soil conditions. Plant a row along the top of a retaining wall, mulch them well, and you should see good results in no time.

Your strawberry plants will spread by sending out runners to propagate new plants – if you are lucky, these will take root in gaps in your wall and create a vertical fruit garden!

Climbing Strawberry Specs
Spread:30″ – 40″
Height:6″ – 8″
Zones:5-9
Position:Full sun
Our Pick
250+ Red Climbing Strawberry Seeds - Sweet and Delicious
$4.60 ($0.02 / Count)

Sow indoors in the winter. An earlier start may result in berries in the first year. Start any time between December and the beginning of February. Best in zones 5-9.

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08/19/2022 01:15 am GMT

6. Cascading Rock Cress (Aubretia sp.)

Rock Cress, also known as Aubretia, is one of those plants that can be grown by anyone!

This herbaceous perennial thrives in tough conditions and will hug the surface of rocks and walls. Over the years, this low-maintenance plant will give you an enormous mat of greenery and flowers with a lovely scent!

Rock Cress Specs
Spread:Plant 6″-8″ apart
Height:4″-6″
Zones:3-10
Position:Full sun to part shade
Aubretia Whitewell Gem - Eden Brothers

Aubretia Whitewell Gem is a tough, perennial groundcover also known as rock Cross. It's easy to grow, thrives in poor soils, and is great for rock gardens and retaining walls. You'll love the gorgeous purple flowers!

Best in full sun to part shade.

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7. Weeping Loropetalum

Weeping Loropetalum Specs
Spread:4′-5′ (for Purple Pixie® Dwarf in the photo above)
Height:1′-2′
Zones:7-10
Position:Partial to full sun. Shade from hot afternoon sun in hot climates.
Purple Pixie® Dwarf Weeping Loropetalum - Plants by Mail

This Purple Pixie Loropetalum is a Loropetalum like no other! This evergreen plant features rich, eggplant-purple leaves that last all year long. Purple Pixie sports naturally weeping foliage, which shines on retaining walls, hanging baskets, and other containers.

Allow the gorgeous foliage to droop over the edges for a magnificent effect!

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8. Tumbling Tom Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.)

losetto tomato plant cascading over wall
Succulent, sweet tomatoes grown on your very own retaining wall!

A tumbling tomato won’t give you year-round cover for your retaining wall, but they are worth growing just for the delicious fruits!

A row of cascading tomatoes planted along the top of your wall will give you a beautiful display of vibrant green leaves, delightful yellow flowers and, of course, succulent and sweet red tomatoes.

Tumbling Tomato Specs
Spread:2′-3′
Height:6″-8″
Zones:3-11
Position:Full sun (min. 6 hours)
Tumbling Tom Tomato Seeds - Grow in Pots & Hanging Baskets (10 Seeds)
$9.69
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08/19/2022 09:08 am GMT

9. Wave Petunia

wave petunia flowering cascading plant
Petunias will cover your retaining wall in a carpet of stunningly beautiful flowers.

If you want to cover a retaining wall fast, then nothing can quite beat the speed of a petunia!

These colorful and low-maintenance annuals will spread up to 4 feet, providing a vibrant splash of color.

Petunias love a sunny spot with good drainage, so will be very happy at the top of a retaining wall. And best of all, they will carry on flowering without any need for tedious deadheading!

Wave Petunia Specs
Spread:Up to 4′
Height:6″-12″
Zones:6-11
Position:Full sun to part shade
Our Pick
Petunia Easy Wave Series Seeds, Range of Colors

One of summer's most famous and exciting bedding, trailing, and hanging plants. Sharp contrasting blooms available in a variety of classic and contemporary seasonal colors. They trail 24 – 36" wide and are perfect to hang from porches, window sills, or retaining walls.

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10. Trailing Rosemary

trailing rosemary cascading plants
The absolutely gorgeous trailing rosemary!
Trailing Rosemary Specs
Spread:1′-2′
Height:Up to 8″
Zones:Perennial in zones 8-10
Position:Full sun
Clovers Garden Trailing Rosemary Herb Plant – Two Live Plants
$21.97 $19.97 ($9.98 / Count)

Trailing Rosemary is a low-growing, trailing plant that makes an ideal ground cover. Trailing Rosemary can be planted in rock gardens, retaining walls, or containers.

Like other varieties of Rosemary, it has dark green pointy leaves that are rich in aromatic oils and the foliage has a pine-like fragrance. Small, pale blue to white flowers appear along its branches from March to May. It looks equally beautiful draping over a rock wall or cascading from hanging baskets or raised containers.

Though the plant seldom grows over 8 inches tall, it can trail and drape 1-2 feet with the plant spreading out over 12-18 inches. Its fragrant foliage is a welcome addition to any garden!

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08/19/2022 04:28 pm GMT

11. String of Pearls (Senecio)

string of pearls cascading plants
The unusual foliage of String of Pearls
String of Pearls Specs
Spread:Up to 4′
Height:1-2″
Zones:9-12
Position:Prefers full to part shade
String of Pearls (Senecio Rowleyanus) - Live Trailing Plants (Fully Rooted)
$16.95 $12.99

This succulent rocks unusual foliage! Small, pea-sized balls drape down on trailing stems that can grow up to 4 feet long. It blooms during the summer with a gorgeous display of trumpet-shaped, white flower clusters. Native to the drier parts of southwest Africa. In its natural environment, its stems trail on the ground, rooting where they touch and forming dense mats.

It often avoids direct sunlight by growing in the shade of other plants and rocks.

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08/19/2022 11:28 am GMT

12. Morning Glory (Ipomoea)

morning glory ipomoea cascading plants
Morning Glory Specs
Spread:Morning Glory is a climbing plant, with tendrils that grab hold of anything and everything. As such, spread on a retaining wall is difficult to establish, but as a guide – if it were to grow up, it would reach heights of approximately 6′ – 10′ tall and up to 6′ wide.
Zones:3-10
Position:Full sun
250 Heavenly Blue Morning Blooming Vine Seeds [Wonderful Climbing Heirloom Vine]
$15.99 ($0.06 / Count)

Heavenly Morning Glory! A wonderful, spring-flowering vine that will attract butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden. These plants offer stunning tendrils of old-fashioned charm - in every color of the rainbow!

Soak the seeds before you plant them!

Brought to you by Marde Ross & Company - a licensed California nursery since 1985.

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08/19/2022 01:28 pm GMT

13. Groundcover Juniper (Juniperus horizontalis)

String of Pearls Specs
Spread:Up to 8′
Height:Up to 1′
Zones:3-9
Position:Full sun
Blue Rug Juniper - Plants by Mail

This Juniper is a tough, evergreen ground cover plant that creates a dense cover up to 8' wide. It has short, silvery-blue aromatic foliage and is perfect for retaining walls, rock gardens, and anywhere else where you want to create a glorious statement.

Typically, this Juniper has no issues with pests or diseases and is resistant to deer. Thrives when placed in 6 - 8 hours of direct sunlight daily in USDA zones 3a - 9b.

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Cascading Plants for Retaining Walls FAQ

What Plants Are Good for Retaining Walls?

For retaining wall planting, select plants that are tough and fairly drought-resistant. The soil at the top of retaining walls is generally quite dry and it can be difficult to water. Some of our favorite plants for retaining walls are groundcover Junipers, drift roses, Creeping Phlox, Trailing Rosemary, Weeping Thyme, Trailing Lobelia, Cascading Rock Cress, and Morning Glory.

How Do You Cascade Plants?

To create a cascade of plants, you can either use an existing feature such as a wall or create a framework for cascading plants.

One of the simplest ways to cascade plants is by creating a tiered system of troughs or beds. This will give the stunning visual effect of each plant flowing downwards into the next trough.

The trick to creating a floral cascade is to select your plants carefully. However you set up your cascade, it is very likely that the ground will be drier at the top than at the bottom. The bottom is also likely to be shadier, with the top in full sun for longer.

Choose drought and sun-loving plants for the top, where they will thrive. Other plants which enjoy cool and damp conditions will be much happier towards the bottom of your cascade.

How Do You Plant Behind a Retaining Wall?

Retaining walls, such as those that hold back soil in a tiered landscaping system, can often be unsightly and difficult to hide. A concrete block wall will do a great job of retaining soil, but it is a struggle to get plants to grow in the gap behind the wall.

When planting behind a retaining wall, the trick is to add mulch and plenty of it! The gap behind your wall will quickly dry out, leaving the roots of your plants exposed to drought conditions.

Digging a small trench behind the wall and filling it with a water-retaining mulch will give your plants the best possible chance of thriving.

Can Tree Roots Damage Retaining Walls?

Strong and vigorous tree roots can cause damage to retaining walls, so it is best to plant them at a safe distance from your wall. The same goes for some shrubs – you would be surprised how deep these roots can go!

A good rule of thumb is to plant your tree or shrub the same distance away from the wall as the height you expect it to reach. So, an ornamental tree that will grow to 10 feet tall should be planted at least 10 feet from your retaining wall.

Will Creeping Phlox Cascade?

Yes, Creeping Phlox will cascade when you plant it on the edge of your retaining wall, in a hanging basket, or in another cascading position. It will spread around 1-2ft, so you can generally expect a ‘hang’ of around 1ft.

What are your favorite cascading plants? Do you have photos to share? We’d love to see them – leave a comment below!

Authors

  • Kate moved to Portugal last year and lives with her husband, two cats, six hens, and a glorious Brahma rooster called Mary. Earlier this year they purchased a half-hectare ‘quinta’ – traditional terraced land with olive trees, grapevines, and a house to renovate. They are currently living in a small campervan which is a challenging but fun experience! Kate has over 15 years of experience in the UK veterinary industry and is also a passionate gardener – turning a grassy field into a productive vegetable patch in just three months. Future plans include more animals, particularly sheep and goats for milk production to make cheese, butter, and yogurt! Kate and her husband are aiming to create a self-sufficient off-grid life on their quinta, fulfilling a life-long dream.

  • Jack of all trades, master of some. Wild garden grower. Loves creating stuff. From food forests and survival gardens to soap and yoghurt. A girl on a farm with two kids and one husband (yep, just one - although another one would be handy). Weirdly enjoys fixing fences and digging holes. Qualified permaculture teacher and garden go-to.

John Wright

Wednesday 20th of July 2022

Hello, loved this article, could you rank the plants by the depth/length they will hang over a wall?

I have a wall that goes from 2 foot high to 8 foot and want to try and ensure maximum coverage

Elle

Thursday 4th of August 2022

@John Wright, I've added the specs for each of the varieties!

Elle

Sunday 24th of July 2022

Hi John! Absolutely - I'm planning this for tomorrow :D Bet your wall is going to look amazing! Elle

Nita

Thursday 19th of May 2022

Thank you so much. I'm now going shopping.

Elle

Thursday 19th of May 2022

Wonderful Nita, I love plant shopping! Which plants will you add to your garden?