Plants That Thrive In The Curb Strip

These curb strip areas, narrow bands of soil surrounded by sidewalk on one side and the asphalt road on the other, tend to be very dry and some would argue not the best place to try to garden.  However, I have had good luck with growing a variety of plants that thrive in what are ordinarily some fairly harsh conditions.  I do not water these plants myself; Mother Nature provides any water they get in the form of rainfall.  Some of these plants I didn’t even plant out there myself, because they reseeded on their own from other areas of the garden.  But these have grown and come back each year with not much help from me.  Admittedly, some of these plants are rather tall, and they may not work for you if you are trying to get in or out of a vehicle right onto the sidewalk, but we tend to park closer to our garage area where it is open and easy to disembark from a car, so it’s not an issue for us.  We followed Maurice Horn of Joy Creek Nursery’s advice to dig up the soil in the strip and add plenty of gravel to provide good drainage for the clay soil that is there–that’s basically all we did to “amend” the soil.  No fertilizer added.  I occasionally will add some compost in the fall, and usually it gets a mulch of leaves in the fall and winter from nearby trees that drop leaves.

Several plants in this small area.  Moving from left to right, there is a bright red crocosmia ‘Lucifer,” followed by Lamb’s Ears pink and grey flower stalks below.  Next are yellow hollyhocks, and a little grouping of pink hollyhocks mixed in with some Centranthus rubrum, or commonly known as Jupiter’s Beard.  The yellow at the end is a bit of coreopsis, probably ‘Sunburst’ because I have it growing elsewhere in the garden and it reseeded down here.  Across the sidewalk from the curb strip are two terraces with four-foot tall retaining walls that are planted with other drought tolerant plants, one of which is the blue catmint that you see in the bottom right foreground.  The crocosmia, hollyhocks, Jupiter’s Beard, Lamb’s Ears flowers and catmint are all hummingbird nectar plants as well, because the flowers are all essentially large to small tubular shapes.

A close-up of crocosmia ‘Lucifer’–such a pretty flower, hummingbirds love it and it also makes a great cut flower for flower arrangements.  To the immediate left are some just finished blooming Oriental lilies, ‘Casa Rosa.’  Spring and summer-blooming bulbs are crowded into these curb strips as well, because they provide the perfect growing conditions for bulbs, namely wet conditions in spring and bone-dry conditions in the summer.  These Oriental lilies only reach about 3 feet tall down here–I have others in amended flower beds elsewhere on the property that are 7 feet tall, so my neglect helps to keep them shorter down here!

This is growing in a terrace bed opposite the curb strip.  The large plant is Santolina ‘Pretty Carroll.”  It started life as a one-gallon sized plant, and as you can see it is gigantic now, especially when in bloom.  The foliage is such a lovely contrast to the bright yellow flowers–very cool grey and fillagree-looking.  With it sprung up a light pink hollyhock that reseeded there, so I just left it and am happy with the result.  Opposite this is the blue catmint, so there is lots of blue contrasting with yellow going on here, of which I am particularly fond.  Just barely in the shot at the top is a hint of the large butterfly bush now in flower, called ‘Pink Delight,’ which is a beautiful pink and another hummingbird favorite.

Feel free to leave a comment–what types of plants do you like to grow in your curb strips, or other low/almost no maintenance plants have you found to be effective in your landscape?

Please stop on by the Tuesday Garden Party as well–lots of fun seeing everyone’s gardens!



  1. dogsmom said,

    July 20, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    I am very glad you left me a comment and I have found your site.
    Love the pictures and there is so much for me to learn.
    Thank you.

    • minervasgardenwriter said,

      July 20, 2010 at 4:27 pm

      I enjoyed your post! Glad you like the pictures and site–thank you for stopping by!

  2. July 20, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    Hi, Thanks for your comments and introducing me to your blog. I love it. I live in Oregon at the north end of the Willamette Valley. My granddaughter is building a new home in Camas. She grew up in Washougal. I enjoy your blog, it is so fun to see what others are growing and hear about their success and failures. I’m becoming a follower.

    • minervasgardenwriter said,

      July 20, 2010 at 5:14 pm

      Thank you–you made my day!

  3. July 20, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    Planting in the curb strip is a great idea. Not one person does it in my neighborhood. I’d have to see if there are any zoning laws concerning it. I know we aren’t allowed to plant trees there anymore.

    Thanks for stopping by my site. It is fun to see other blogger’s gardens.

    • minervasgardenwriter said,

      July 20, 2010 at 5:19 pm

      That would be a good idea to check your local laws about planting–for us, plants have to kept out of the way of the street sweeper equipment, and there are certain limitations as to plant sizes, but this applies mostly to trees and shrubs that grow tall. There may also be visibility issues if you are parking in the garage and trying to back out onto a busy street where you might want to select smaller plants that don’t obstruct the view. I would guess that if you used shorter perennials, like three feet tall or less, it would probably be fine, and it adds a little color and interest to what is ordinarily a pretty boring looking area!

  4. zentMRS said,

    July 20, 2010 at 8:43 pm

    I always have a hard time with this area – I think because we don’t have irrigation down there. Yours looks so nice… makes me want to figure it out!

    • minervasgardenwriter said,

      July 20, 2010 at 9:39 pm

      I think the key is to pick plants that can survive on whatever rainfall you get in your area, so you don’t have to mess around with hauling water down there. Bulbs are quite suited to dry summers, and that might be an easy way to start. You could plant some spring and summer bloomers, for example.

  5. Ott, A said,

    July 20, 2010 at 11:23 pm

    thanks for stoppin’ by for a Latte’! Do you ever call or consider these to be rain gardens? I have heard of people who plant certain flowers and such out by their road to help when it rains heavy. Just wondered if you would consider this curbside garden of yours helping with that. Looks beautiful.
    a Latte with Ott, A

    • minervasgardenwriter said,

      July 20, 2010 at 11:48 pm

      Thank you–there is a lot in bloom down there right now. I hadn’t thought of it as a rain garden, but now that you mention it, it does have some of the characteristics of a rain garden. From Wikipedia:

      “A rain garden is a planted depression that allows rainwater runoff from impervious urban areas like roofs, driveways, walkways, parking lots, and compacted lawn areas the opportunity to be absorbed. This reduces rain runoff by allowing stormwater to soak into the ground (as opposed to flowing into storm drains and surface waters which causes erosion, water pollution, flooding, and diminished groundwater).”

      Rain gardens usually use native plants, and the plants I have in the photo are not native, but just drought tolerant as well as happy in heavier clay soils.

  6. Alea said,

    July 21, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    Very lovely solutions! We live in the country and have streets on 2 sides and a creek on the other. We have left 10 feet on each of those sides completely clear, so neighbors can walk their dogs, or ride their horses there. It is not very attractive, but it is safer for them and a great way to get to know our neighbors.

    • minervasgardenwriter said,

      July 21, 2010 at 6:19 pm

      That’s a great solution for that area–whatever works for your particular property!

  7. Lexa said,

    July 21, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    What a great post. In May I had a chance to go to Joy Creen for the first time and meet Maurice. He talked alot about amending with gravel and how they do it. It sure looks like it is working beautifully for you. The garden you have greated is such an asset to your whole neighborhood.

    • minervasgardenwriter said,

      July 21, 2010 at 6:25 pm

      I love Joy Creek Nursery! I had seen a tv program that featured their nursery, and I wanted to go there for a long time, but we lived out of the area. Then when we first moved here, we traveled down to the nursery once a month to see what was in bloom each month there, so I could get ideas for our garden. I love the fact that the place is so nicely landscaped–it really helps you to see what the plants look like in an actual garden setting, how the plants are combined and how big they actually get when they are mature. Maurice is very nice–he came and gave a gardening talk about hydrangeas at our public library a few years ago, and it was great. And most Sundays they have a free gardening lecture there as well. They have a gigantic clematis and hydrangea selection, too.

  8. July 22, 2010 at 5:19 am

    Thanks for another great, informative link to the Tuesday Garden Party! I’ve never had a parking strip to plant, but I love it when I see ones that look as great as yours- all the bloom out front where I can see it, 🙂

    • minervasgardenwriter said,

      July 22, 2010 at 5:27 am

      Thank you!

  9. Heather said,

    July 22, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    When I had a strip in front of the house I put in some bulbs, day lilies, creeping thyme and some other herbs. It has been awhile though. I appreciate when people spend time gardening in their front yards… I always love to see the plant combinations.

    visiting from tgp

    • minervasgardenwriter said,

      July 23, 2010 at 8:43 am

      Those sound like great choices because they are all drought tolerant.

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