12 Groups of Plants Perfect for Borders


Picture of a border created with ornamental and architectural plants

There is nothing more attractive and welcoming than a well-designed border, but to achieve a look that will be beautiful year-round, there are 12 groups of ideal plants. These plants tie it together to give the border some structure, look inviting, be low maintenance, and give seasonal interest that will give pleasure at any time of the year!

This article will keep in mind the principles of a good border design but exploring plants at every level of a well-thought-out layered garden border.

The 12 groups of plants below will make up the border structure; They will provide a full border that will give constant blooms during the summer months and great architectural foliage throughout the colder months.

  • Ground Covers
  • Shrubs
  • Flowering Plants
  • Vines
  • Foilage
  • Trees
  • Evergreens
  • Grasses
  • Herbaceous Perennials
  • Annuals
  • Ornamentals
  • Bulbs and Corms

The importance of plant choice in a border

When choosing the plants that will draw the eye throughout your border, the important things to consider will give your border a layered effect: color, structure, movement, and height. In this article, we’ll explore the main plant types that will be an ideal start to a new border or improve upon an existing garden that’s looking weary.

Although many people will look at a well-designed border and appreciate its beauty and form, They do not know what goes into designing a good border.

Usually, they buy plenty of plants they like without thinking about the space they have to work. Each of the plants for a border will fall into 1 of 12 groups, and we will look at these groups below and provide you will some possible ideas to consider.

Ground covers for use in a border

Picture of a border created with bulbs

A planting of low-lying plants that cover the ground. These plants often grow rapidly, are close to the ground, prevent weeds, and protect the soil from erosion from the elements.

Sedums (Stonecrop) – any Crassulaceae rock plant of the genus Sedum, having thick fleshy leaves and clusters of white, yellow, or pink flowers.

Hens-and-Chicks – Any of several plants producing runners or offshoots, especially rosette-forming succulents

Sweet Woodruff – A Eurasian and North African rubiaceous plant, Galium odoratum (or

Asperula odorata), having whorls of leaves and clusters of white flowers

Ice plant – A low-growing plant, Mesembryanthemum (or Cryophytum) crystallinum, of  southern Africa, with flesh leaves covered with ice-like hairs and pink or white rayed flowers  

Creeping Phlox – A North American plant, Phlox subulata, forming dense moss-like mats, cultivated for its pink, white or lavender flowers

Lady’s mantle – Various rosaceous plants Alchemilla, having small green flowers

Border shrubs to provide structure.

A woody plant smaller than a tree, usually having multiple permanent stems branching from or near the ground

Hydrangea – Any shrub belonging to Hydrangea of the saxifrage family, several species of which are cultivated for their large, showy flower clusters of white, pink, or blue.

Abelia – Any of several shrubs belonging to Abelia of the honeysuckle family, having clusters of small white or pink flowers.

Spirea – Any of various plants or shrubs belonging to the genus Spiraea, of the rose family, having clusters of small, white, or pink flowers, certain species cultivated as ornamentals.

Roses – Any of the wild or cultivated, usually prickly-stemmed, pinnate-leaved, showy-flowered shrubs of the genus Rosa

Weigela – Any of various shrubby, eastern Asian plants belonging to the genus Weigela of the honeysuckle family, having funnel-shaped white, pink, or crimson flowers.

Rose of Sharon -A widely cultivated shrub or small tree, Hibiscus syriacus, of the mallow family, having showy white, reddish, or purplish flowers.

Picture of a border created with structure

Flowering plants to bring color to a border

A plant that produces flowers, fruit, and seeds; angiosperm.

Day Lily–
Any lily of the genus Hemerocallis, having yellow, orange, or red flowers that commonly last only for a day. 

Hosta – any of various plants belonging to the genus Hosta, of the lily family, which includes the plantain lily.

Heuchera – Any of various North American plants belonging to the genus Heuchera, of the saxifrage family, having clusters of small, cup-shaped flowers, especially the alumroots.

Rose Campion – A plant, Lychnis coronaria, of the pink family, having reddish-purple flowers and leaves covered with whitish down.

Hibiscus – Any of numerous other plants, shrubs, or trees of the genus Hibiscus, characterized by lobate or dentate leaves and usually profusely blooming flowers

Vines for interest in a border

 Any plant having a long, slender stem that trails or creeps on the ground or climbs by winding itself about a support or holding fast with tendrils or claspers.

Clematis – Any of numerous plants or woody vines of the genus Clematis, including many species cultivated for their showy, variously colored flowers.

HopsAmember of the Cannabaceae family of flowering plants.

Chocolate Vine Also known as five leaf akebia, is a highly fragrant, vanilla scented vine

Purple Passion Flower – A semi-woody vine with large serrated leaves

Star Jasmine  – A twining flowering vine that produces fragrant blooms in the late spring to early summer. Its long, oval, dark green leaves

Trumpet Vine – A vigorous, deciduous woody vine, notable for its showy trumpet-shaped flowers.

Foliage for all year color and interest in a border

 A representation of leaves, flowers, and branches for architectural ornamentation

Ferns – Any seedless, nonflowering vascular plant of the class Filicinae, of tropical to temperate regions, characterized by true roots produced from a rhizome, triangular fronds that uncoil upward and have a branching vein system, and reproduction by spores contained in sporangia that appear as brown dots on the underside of the fronds.

Agave -A genus of monocots native to the hot and arid regions of the Americas, although some Agave species are also native to tropical areas of South America.

Pulmonaria – Also known as lungwort, is a genus of flowering plants in the family Boraginaceae, native to Europe and western Asia, with one species (P. mollissima) east to central Asia.

Brunnera – A genus of flowering plants in the family Boraginaceae. They are rhizomatous perennials native to the woodlands of Eastern Europe and northwest Asia. They have hairy leaves and sprays of blue flowers in spring.

Rodgersia – A genus of flowering plants in the Saxifragaceae family. Rodgersia is herbaceous perennials originating from east Asia.

Hellebore – Any of numerous plants of the genus Helleborus in the buttercup family, several of which, as the Christmas rose, are cultivated for their foliage and clusters of flowers as well as their tolerance of shade

Picture of a border created with Evergreens

Trees for height in a border

A woody perennial plant having a single usually elongate main stem generally with few or no branches on its lower part.

Crabapple –  Any of various wild or cultivated trees (genus Malus) that are cultivars or relatives of the cultivated apple and that produce small sour fruit

Japanese Maple -A maple of Japan, China, and Korea with purple flowers and usually deeply parted leaves widely cultivated as a shrub or small tree.

Redbud – A small shrubby tree of eastern North America similar to the Judas tree usually having pink flowers; found in damp sheltered underwood

Flowering Dogwood – A North American dogwood tree, Cornus florida, having small greenish flowers in the spring, surrounded by white or pink bracts that resemble petals

Carolina Silverbell – A good small tree for a shrub or woodland borders. It may have a rounded, pyramidal, or vase-shaped habit. Its white, bell-shaped flowers bloom in April and May.

Hawthorn – any of numerous plants belonging to the genus Crataegus, of the rose family, typically a small tree with stiff thorns 

Evergreen plants to use in a border

Having foliage that remains green and functional through more than one growing season

Origanum – A genus of about 20 species of herbaceous perennials and deciduous and semi-evergreen sub-shrubs

Euonymus – Can be deciduous or evergreen shrubs or small trees, generally with superb fall color and small flowers that give way to colorful fruits

Holly –  Evergreen shrubs have dark green leaves with pronounced spines.

Arborvitaes  – A genus of coniferous trees in the Cupressaceae (cypress family). There are five species in the genus, two native to North America and three native to eastern Asia.

Evergreen Azalea – any of numerous ornamental shrubs grown for their showy flowers of various colors. rhododendron – any shrub of the genus Rhododendron

Mountain Laurel – A North American laurel, Kalmia latifolia, having terminal clusters of rose to white flowers

Grasses to add blocks of texture & movement to your border

Picture of a border created with grasses

Any of a large family (Gramineae synonym Poaceae) of monocotyledonous mostly herbaceous plants with jointed stems, slender sheathing leaves, and flowers borne in spikelets of bracts

Fescue – A large genus of grasses is widely distributed worldwide, but chiefly in temperate and colder regions. The number of species is variously estimated from 80 to 230, of which about 25 are found native in the United States. They are commonly known as fescue-grass and are mostly low, slender grasses.

Dierama wand flowers
– a genus of flowering plants in the family Iridaceae. Common names include hairbells, angel’s fishing rod, fairy bells, and wand flowers.

Fountain grass – any of several ornamental types of grass (genus Pennisetum) having tufted stems and spikes of feathery flower clusters

Oat Grass – Any of several kinds of grass of the genus Arrhenatherum or Danthonia, esp. A. elatius, native to Europe, having a purplish-green flowering panicle.

Japanese Blood Grass -A herbaceous perennial grass with an upright spreading habit of growth.

Zebra Grass – A native to Japan and one of the Miscanthus maiden grass cultivars, all of which are used as ornamental grasses

Herbaceous perennials in a border can add all sorts of height

A plant whose top growth dies down annually but whose crowns, roots, bulbs, or rhizomes survive the winter

Rudbeckia -A North American chiefly perennial composite herbs having showy flower heads with mostly yellow ray flowers and a usually conical scaly receptacle

Lupin –  A plant of the pea family with deeply divided leaves and tall colorful tapering spikes of flowers

Peony – A herbaceous or shrubby plant of north temperate regions, which has long been cultivated for its showy flowers

Acanthus – A herbaceous plant or shrub with bold flower spikes and spiny decorative leaves, native to  regions

Delphinium – A popular garden plant of the buttercup family, which bears tall spikes of blue flowers

Foxglove – Any of a genus (Digitalis) of erect herbs of the snapdragon family, especially: a common European biennial or perennial (D. purpurea) cultivated for its showy racemes of dotted white or purple tubular flowers and as a source of digitalis

Annual plants in a border can fill in empty spaces

Picture of a border created with shrubs and flowers

Plants completing the life cycle in one growing season or single year

Bachelors button- A European composite (Centaurea cyanus) having flower heads with usually blue, pink, or white rays that are often cultivated in North America

Salvias – A widely distributed plant of the mint family, especially (in gardening), a bedding plant cultivated for its spikes of bright flowers.

Pinks (Dianthus) –
A flowering plant of a genus that includes the pinks and carnations

Artemisia –  any of a genus (Artemisia) of aromatic herbs and shrubs in the Asteraceae family

California poppy –
A papaveraceous plant, Eschscholtzia californica, of the Pacific coast of North America, having yellow or orange flowers and finely divided bluish-green leaves

Cuphea – A large genus of American plants (family Lythraceae) with opposite leaves and solitary slightly irregular flowers (cigar flower, waxweed).

Ornamental plants to use in the border

A plant cultivated for its beauty rather than for use

Iris – All plants with long leaves and large purple, yellow, or white flowers.

Lily   – A bulbous plant with large trumpet-shaped, typically fragrant flowers on a tall, slender stem. Lilies have long been cultivated, some kinds being of symbolic importance and some used in perfumery.

Libertia – Any scaly-bulbed plant of the genus Lilium, having showy, funnel-shaped, or bell-shaped flowers. … the flower or the bulb of such a plant. Any of various related or similar plants or their flowers, as the mariposa lily or the calla lily.

Japanese anemones – An autumn-flowering anemone with large pink or white flowers. It is native to China and naturalized in Japan, and several cultivars have been developed.

Desert rose -A succulent plant with pink, tubular flowers and a swollen, woody stem containing toxic, milky sap that is sometimes used for arrow poison. It is native to East Africa and Arabia.

Chinese lantern – A perennial Old World ground-cherry (Physalis alkekengi) that is widely cultivated for its showy inflated leafy calyxes that are brilliant orange-red when mature and are often used for decoration

Bulbs and Corms ideal for borders

A usually subterranean and often globular bud having fleshy leaves emergent at the top and a stem reduced to a flat disk, rooting from the underside.

Crocus – any of a genus (Crocus) of herbs of the iris family developing from corms and having solitary long-tubed flowers and slender linear leaves Tulip – Any of a genus (Tulipa) of Eurasian bulbous herbs of the lily family that have linear or broadly lanceolate leaves and are widely grown for their showy flowers

Daffodil – Any of various perennial bulbous herbs (genus Narcissus) of the amaryllis family, especially: one whose flowers have a large corona elongated into a trumpet

Hyacinth  – A bulbous perennial herb (Hyacinthus orientalis) of the lily family that is native to the Mediterranean region but is widely grown for its dense spikes of fragrant flowers

Alliums – Any of a large genus (Allium) of bulbous herbs of the lily family, including the onion, garlic, chive, leek, and shallot, of the lily family distinguished by a characteristic odor, sheathing, mostly basal leaves, and clusters of usually white, blue, purple, pink, or red flowers

Anemones – any of a large genus (Anemone) of perennial herbs of the buttercup family having lobed or divided leaves and showy flowers without petals but with conspicuous sepals

Picture of a border created with herbaceous plants


Things to consider before choosing your border plants

Climate

Different climates can have a huge impact on what plants will flourish. Knowing your climate type will help you to identify the plants best suited to your border.

Tropical -Tropical climates are characterized by monthly average temperatures of 18 ℃ (64.4 ℉) or higher year-round and feature hot temperatures. Annual precipitation is often abundant in tropical climates and shows a seasonal rhythm to varying degrees.

There are normally only two seasons in tropical climates, a wet season and a dry season. The annual temperature range in tropical climates is normally minimal. Sunlight is intense.

Dessert or Arid – This type of climate is defined by little precipitation.

Temperate – This type of climate has the coldest month averaging between 0 °C (32 °F) or (−3 °C (27 °F) and 18 °C (64.4 °F) and at least one month averaging above 10 °C (50 °F).

For the distribution of precipitation in locations that both satisfy a dry summer (CS) and a dry winter (CW), a location is considered to have a wet summer (CW) when more precipitation falls within the summer months than the winter months while a location is considered to have a dry summer (CS) when more precipitation falls within the winter months.

Continental -This type of climate has at least one month averaging below (0 °C (32 °F) or (−3 °C (27 °F) and at least one month averaging above 10 °C (50 °F)

Polar and Alpine –  This type of climate has every month of the year with an average temperature below 10 °C (50 °F).

Plant Hardiness:  Hardiness Zone Maps are the easiest way that a gardener can learn what will best work in their borders.  If you want a plant to survive and thrive, the plants must be able to tolerate year-round conditions in your area.

Hardiness Zone Maps make this easier by pinpointing the high and low temperatures and the volume and distribution of precipitation.

Soil Type

Soil is, by and large, portrayed by the measure of sand, clay, and silt it contains. This is known as texture.  Knowing your soil type will help you to understand its drainage capabilities. Soil type may be sandy, clay, or loam. 

PH Levels of soil 

Soil PH levels are also an important consideration and can play a big part in knowing what plants are best for your soil. Soil can be classified as acid, alkaline, or neutral.

The pH of a solution shows how acid or alkaline the solution is. A pH of less than 7 indicates that it is an acid, and a pH of more than 7 indicates that it is alkaline. Some plants prefer more acidic soil, while others enjoy an alkaline environment.

Amount of Light

Sun, Shade, Partial shade all can make a difference in how your plants will respond.  Monitoring the sun’s movement across your intended border in all seasons will help you place plants in the right location required for your plant’s optimal growth.

Vulnerabilities

A plant’s resistance to animals, rodents, pests, and diseases can play a vital role in having a healthy and lush garden.

Growth patterns and plant size

Knowing how fast a plant will grow, how big it will get, how fast it can spread can be equally important in developing and planning your border.

Flower or Fruiting times

Knowing when your plant is likely to produce its flowers, and for how long not only adds seasonal interest, it also can make a difference to the need for pruning and feeding.

Picture of a border created with flowers

Plant Care

The amount of maintenance you are willing to put into your border is meant by plant care. Do you intend a garden that requires little to no work, or do you prefer to putter and deadhead? Knowing how you’ll need to tend to watering and adding fertilizers, pruning or shaping should all be considerations before making your final decision on the plant variety.

Seasonal to year-round interest

Choosing the right combination of plants can mean flowering, fruiting, and structures look good on the border no matter what time of year it is. Careful planning can even mean choosing based on stem colors, flower color palettes, foliage displays, and defined looks that will add dimension.

Conclusion on the ideal plants for a border

Drawing up a plan for your garden is a good place to start if you want to build a lush new border that will be appealing, low maintenance, and give seasonal interest that will give pleasure at any time of the year!

Keep in mind that a border or gardening bed is a three-dimensional work of art.

From front to back, side to side, and season to season, think of it as a collection of layers in both space and time.

Including plants from every category will ensure you’ve got a lovely garden bed to enjoy for years to come!! Remembering to incorporate the ideal plant types in your bed will achieve the perfect garden border that will be the envy of your neighbors, friends, and family alike.

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Tony O'Neill

I am Tony O'Neill, A full-time firefighter and long-term gardener. I have spent most of my life gardening. From the age of 7 until the present day at 46. My goal is to use my love and knowledge of gardening to support you and to simplify the gardening process, so you are more productive

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