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. Coral Drift Rose (Rosa meldrifora)
- 4. Creeping Phlox (Phlox sp.)
- 5. Climbing Strawberry (Fragaria sp.)
- 6. Cascading Rock Cress (Aubretia sp.)
- 7. Weeping Loropetalum (Loropetalum sp.)
- 8. Tumbling Tom Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum)
- 9. Wave Petunia (Petunia x hybrida)
- 10. Trailing Rosemary (Rosmarinus sp.)
- 11. String of Pearls (Senecio sp.)
- 12. Morning Glory (Ipomoea sp.)
- 13. Groundcover Juniper (Juniperus horizontalis)
- Cascading Plants for Retaining Walls FAQ
1. Creeping Thyme (Thymus praecox)
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″|
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.
2. Trailing Lobelia (Lobelia erinus)
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)|
|Position:||Full sun to part shade|
3. Coral Drift Rose (Rosa meldrifora)
Coral Drift Rose grows low and is perfect for hugging your cascading wall. It also looks lovely as a small border for your flower garden, walkway, or flower beds.
Groundcover roses usually flower during the spring and summer. However, the flowers won’t survive the freezing winter. (This is a shame because their orange-to-pink flowers are a sight to behold!)
Coral Drift Rose is also famously easy to grow. However, we’ve read that deer love eating them – and they may damage the plants.
|Coral Drift Rose Specs|
4. Creeping Phlox (Phlox sp.)
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)|
5. Climbing Strawberry (Fragaria sp.)
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″|
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.
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|
|Position:||Full sun to part shade|
7. Weeping Loropetalum (Loropetalum sp.)
Purple Pixie (also called Weeping Loropetalum) is a lovely weeping dwarf shrub. It delivers tons of knockout power (and color) in a tiny package.
It has breathtaking purple-to-pink flowers and deep-red foliage. Purple Pixie only reaches one foot tall by four feet wide – but it grows surprisingly fast.
If you decide to grow Purple Pixie, remember that it loves full sun. We’ve also read that it’s somewhat susceptible to root rot. So, make sure that it gets well-drained soil.
|Weeping Loropetalum Specs|
|Spread:||4′-5′ (for Purple Pixie® Dwarf in the photo above)|
|Position:||Partial to full sun. Shade from hot afternoon sun in hot climates.|
8. Tumbling Tom Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum)
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|
|Position:||Full sun (min. 6 hours)|
9. Wave Petunia (Petunia x hybrida)
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′|
|Position:||Full sun to part shade|
10. Trailing Rosemary (Rosmarinus sp.)
Trailing Rosemary is one of our favorite plants for a cascading wall if you want an adaptable and robust groundcover crop.
Trailing Rosemary has famously woody stems and light blue or violet flowers. It has arching branches perfect for climbing over cascading walls, slopes, or garden beds.
Trailing Rosemary also has more nicknames than any other Rosemary cultivar! Nicknames include Lockwood de Forest, Protstratus, Prostrate Rosemary, and Santa Barbara.
|Trailing Rosemary Specs|
|Height:||Up to 8″|
|Zones:||Perennial in zones 8-10|
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!
11. String of Pearls (Senecio sp.)
Here’s a beautiful succulent for cascading walls. String of Pearls! We love the String of Pearl foliage. It resembles a big green marble. (Or a giant pea.)
String of Pearls hails from Africa and gets its name from Gordon Rowley, a British botanist. (Gordon was an expert regarding all things cacti and succulents.)
If you decide to grow String of Pearls outdoors, ensure it gets plenty of shade and adequate drainage! It’s also a popular plant for growing indoors. (We know. Growing it indoors won’t help your retaining wall. But they also look beautiful on a windowsill. For sure!)
|String of Pearls Specs|
|Spread:||Up to 4′|
|Position:||Prefers full to part shade|
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.
12. Morning Glory (Ipomoea sp.)
We love Morning Glory flowers! They’re broadleaf perennials with showy flowers – and pollinators love visiting them.
They’re surprisingly easy to cultivate in various soil and sunlight conditions. Their flowers are also breathtaking! They have lovely pink, violet, purple, or blue blooms.
And while these gorgeous flowers will light up your cascading wall, deck, patio, or garden, they’re not perfect. We’ve read from multiple reliable sources that many Morning Glory cultivars are toxic for humans, dogs, cats, and horses.
|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.|
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.
13. Groundcover Juniper (Juniperus horizontalis)
Juniperus Horizontalis or Creeping Juniper, Blue Rug Juniper, Groundcover Juniper, et cetera, is a lovely groundcover evergreen.
We know several Groundcover Juniper cultivars, including Blue Chip, Bar Harbor, Prince of Wales, and more. One of our favorite cultivars, Wiltonii, only grows around four to six inches tall.
The foliage can be a range of colors – from gray, green, teal, silver, or blue. It’s perfect for cascading walls, gardens, and walkways. Or as a tiny (short) border.
|String of Pearls Specs|
|Spread:||Up to 8′|
|Height:||Up to 1′|
Cascading Plants for Retaining Walls FAQ
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
Thursday 4th of August 2022
@John Wright, I've added the specs for each of the varieties!
Sunday 24th of July 2022
Hi John! Absolutely - I'm planning this for tomorrow :D Bet your wall is going to look amazing! Elle
Thursday 19th of May 2022
Thank you so much. I'm now going shopping.
Thursday 19th of May 2022
Wonderful Nita, I love plant shopping! Which plants will you add to your garden?