Planting Along Your Garden Borders

Garden boundaries (Photo Credit: Fort Collins Nursery)

Alex Tistamer | Fort Collins Nursery School

A border plant is like a rug that keeps a room together. They are great design tools to draw the viewer’s eye along the space and soften or define edges to create a cleaner look. Certain plants can also solve problems such as erosion control and water runoff.

Most commercial plantings aim for neatness and clarity, making them look cleaner and easier for maintenance personnel to maintain. A setting like this requires plants that don’t creep or run off. Small, gregarious plants such as blue fescue grass, black mondo grass, coral bells, and dianthus are well suited to this environment. These plants grow in compact mounds and do not spread over time. Tall, narrow grasses like Karl Foerster Grass and other feathered reed grasses are also great along sidewalks where simple, even mass plantings are needed. Their vertical growth habits are space efficient and they don’t topple over on sidewalks.

On the other end of the spectrum, you might want to soften the edges of your hardscape to provide the look of a garden bed blending into a path. To achieve this look, plant a ground cover such as creeping veronica, sedum, or low moneywort that creeps over the edge. Cascading grass blades add great eye-catching texture and break up rough lines.Japanese Forest Grass, Blonde Ambition Blue Grama, or Undaunted Ruby Muhly Grass are great for this application. In this border planting, adding bulbs along the edge of the garden will give you early spring color. Grape hyacinths and daffodils can become natural over time and fill well.

Himalayan Border Jewel, Gloror Sumac, and Pawnee Butte Sandcherry are good options for planting beds on slopes with runoff. Their wide spread and underground stems protect the soil and prevent erosion. All fall colors are wonderful. Sumac and sand cherries are a little taller, from 18 inches to 3 feet, so they’re best used in areas with taller plants so they don’t block what’s planted behind them.

Once you’ve decided on the style you want, start thinking about the colors and textures in the rest of the bed and surrounding beds to really “tie the room together.”

Listed below are perennials and shrubs that work well in a variety of garden boundaries.

Border plants for erosion control:

wine cup poppy mallow

cat mint

ice plant

himalayan border jewel

Pawnee Buttes Sand Cherry

Gro-Low Sumac

Sun’s border plants:

Basket of Gold Alyssum


shasta daisy

atlas mountain daisy

Self Healing (Prunella)



woolly time

blue fescue glass

feather reed grass


Low-water border plants:

hen and chick

Orange Trumpet Carpet (Zauschneria)

Leprechaun Artemisia



blonde ambition blue glamor

Indomitable Ruby Muhley Grass

Border plants in shade:


ladies cloak

sweet woodruff


japanese forest grass

black mondograss

money wort

Coral Bells

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