If you live in an area where the mailbox is mounted on a post next to the street or road rather than on the exterior wall of your house, you may be looking for a way to soften the look of the post. A great way to do this with plants of some kind. But these areas are often a bit challenging, since road-sides experience rather harsh conditions from dust, road salts, traffic fumes, dogs, foot traffic and other hindrances.
So what plants work well in these difficult locations?
Annuals vs. Perennial Plants
Perennial plants are those that return every year. They can include many different flower species, as well as shrubs. Good tough perennial flowers or shrubs offer some benefits when planted around mailbox posts since they will never need to be replanted and often fill in to form dense masses that will block out weeds. Low maintenance is a good virtue for these locations, and many perennials fit the bill nicely. The drawback to perennial flowers? Generally speaking, perennial flowers are not as colorful as annual flowers, and most have a shorter bloom period than annuals. They are also considerably more expensive than annual flowers, though the cost difference evens out somewhat because annuals will need to be replanted each year.
Annuals have the advantage of being more colorful, having longer bloom periods, and being less expensive. And with annuals, you can change out the "wardrobe" yearly, trying new flower combinations every year. You can even swap out plants in the same growing season, beginning with early season with pansies, for example, switching to marigolds in summer, and finishing with mums in the fall. The drawback of annuals? You'll be replanting them at least every year, and they typically require a bit more care in the form of frequent watering and feeding to keep them blooming vigorously.
The best perennial flowers to plant around mailboxes at roadside or street boulevard strips will share certain features:
- They will be long-lived. Not all perennials last a long time, and it will be best to choose flowers that will live for many years and not need to be replaced after two or three years. This rules out many biennials such as foxglove, and some other short-lived perennials, such as lupine.
- They will mass in a way that will block out weeds. Tending flower beds around a mailbox can be tricky, so plants that block out weeds will offer obvious advantages.
- They tolerate salt, pollution, and other roadside conditions. Plants that thrive in dry conditions are usually better than those that need more moisture.
Perennial plants that meet most of these qualities include many native plant species, as well as plants such as:
- Daylilies: This is perhaps the best of all roadside and boulevard plants since it fills in nicely, rarely need dividing, and lasts nearly forever. They are available in hundreds of varieties and sizes.
- Sedum: Also called stonecrop, many sedum varieties perform wonderfully in dry, rocky soils. Autumn Joy offers great late-season color while ground-cover varieties often bloom earlier. It also gradually forms very dense masses.
- Coneflower: This prairie native thrives in dry conditions and is a butterfly attractor. Although individual plants are not long-lived, they may self-seed and perpetuate themselves forever.
- Russian sage: This woody-stemmed plant has a shrub-like growth habit and blooms with wispy, pale violet flowers. It's great for filling in large areas.
- Lavender: Lavender plants are exceptionally tolerant of harsh conditions and roadside salts.
- Ferns: If you have a deeply shaded area around your mailbox, ferns are a way to go.
- Salvia: Salvias are available in both annual and perennial types, and they thrive in dry, sunny conditions. They also are a magnet for butterflies.
- Hostas: These can be a great choice for shady areas. Where salts are an issue, stick with common hosta varieties, as the unique cultivars can be a bit temperamental. Hostas will, however, require some watering.
- Vinca minor (periwinkle): This is a great ground-cover plant for poor soils in shady areas.
- Columbine: This is a short-lived perennial, but it self-seeds so readily that it is virtually eternal. It tolerates some shade.
- Phlox: Very easy to care for, this plant comes in both upright and creeping varieties.
Shrubs well suited for planting around mailbox posts will share many of the same characteristics as good perennial flowers: tolerance for drought, salt, and other tough conditions. Some good choices include:
- Rugosa roses (shrub roses)
- Creeping juniper
- Blue Star juniper
- Dwarf Korean Lilac
- English yew
When planting shrubs, make sure to choose varieties (cultivars) that are short enough not to encroach on the mailbox.
There are a great many annual flowers that work well in the often tough conditions along roadsides or street boulevards where mailbox posts are installed. Best choices will have the same qualities as good perennials and shrubs: tolerance for dry conditions, low maintenance needs, and tolerance for salts and other roadside contaminants. Good options include:
- Geranium (pelargoniums)
- Gaillardia (blanket flower)
- Dianthus (pinks and carnations)
- Portulaca (moss rose)
- Impatiens (for shady locations)
- Annual salvia
- Sweet alyssum
- Hardy mums
A Great Place for a Butterfly Garden
The area around a mailbox post can be an excellent place to plant a mixture of flowers aimed at drawing butterflies and other pollinators. In general, native flowers tend to be the best at drawing butterflies, as are various daisy-like flowers, such as coneflower. Be aware, though, that where butterflies are attracted, bees often arrive, as well. Some mail deliverers may be less than thrilled about a bee-filled garden around the mailbox. You might reassure him or her that bees very rarely sting when they are happily gathering nectar.
What About Vines for the Mailbox Post?
In addition to the ground around the mailbox, consider a vine for growing up the post that holds your mailbox. Many homeowners choose clematis, but if you wish to stick with annuals, try morning glory. Some plants not commonly thought of as vines will, in fact, climb if given support; tough Emerald Gaiety euonymus is an example. A rambling rose can also be secured around a mailbox post, but make sure to keep it trimmed to protect the mail delivery person from thorn pricks.