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TrustDale Tip of the Day: *How to Plant a Retaining Wall

Retaining walls built of cement, stone, block, wood or any other materials can play a double role in landscaping, being both a structural element and a garden. The construction characteristics of the wall determine the planting possibilities. It is easy to plant a retaining wall and you can make that wall into something spectacular with a creative choice of plants that are artistically placed.


  1. If your retaining wall is built of a solid material without gaps, you have to concentrate the planting to the top edge of the wall. A well-built retaining wall has drainage material set behind it to keep water from building up behind the wall, so it should have good drainage. Many retaining walls have slopes behind, so it is likely that the area behind a retaining wall gets plenty of water as water moves downhill. Concentrate the planting material at the top edge of the wall for a softening effect. Use low-growing plants to create a decorative top to your wall. Plant tall material only if you want to form a high-fence effect. Use cascading plants to spill down the side of the wall as they grow.

  1. If your retaining wall is built with spaces between blocks, stones or bricks that can create pockets of soil, you can plant these soil areas to make the entire wall come to life. You can also only plant several areas, so parts of the wall texture show through. Another option is to plant only the top of wall, leaving the full texture of the wall exposed. Good plants to fill pockets in walls are low-growers and succulents, or plants with a trailing habit of growth.

Plant a retaining wall so water can reach all exposed areas and roots don't dry out. You can use regular garden soil or use amendment to fit the needs of the plants growing there. Just make sure the area you are planting doesn't dry out too easily, as this can happen in places where water doesn't reach easily or drainage is too efficient.