16 Border Plants to Frame Your Garden

Beautiful English Garden
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Making different elements in your outdoor space work together visually can be tricky, but there is one simple solution: border plants. Think of them as the living visual transition between, say, your lawn and a pathway, or your veggie garden and the rest of your landscaping.

Border plants can work to soften hard edges and give visual appeal to more boring areas of a garden space — like the 5 feet of wasted space between a privacy fence and a tree. The elegant hostas leaves, for example, would look great and break up the harsh line of the fence, as well as provide some softness and life behind the trunk of your tree. Or how about lavender to lend scent and texture along the path from the house to the garage that's otherwise just a flat, boring walkway?

If you'd like to create a multilevel, visually stimulating garden, these 16 border plants will work for all kinds of areas, from sunny to shady, and from tropical to temperate.

Some of the plants on this list are toxic for pets. For more information about the safety of specific plants, consult the ASPCA's searchable database.

1
of 16

English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

Basket of lavender
sarahwolfephotography / Getty Images

Lavender is well-known for its scent, which may have relaxing effects. But it's also a hardy perennial (in most climates) that weathers well in a variety of gardens, adding a touch of purple color when blooming and elegant greenery below. It does need quite a lot of sun and prefers dry conditions, but can do well in both drier and wetter gardens.

While lavender essential oil can be toxic to pets in large amounts, the plant contains lower levels of the harmful compounds and is considered safe to have in a garden with pets.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun.
  • Soil Needs: Well-draining regular soil.
2
of 16

Royal Velvet Plant (Gynura aurantiaca)

gynura plant detail
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This plant is a striking combination of purple-red and green, and it's ideal for edges and borders because it's low-lying and you can get lots of color without waiting for flowers. The velvet plant can naturalize easily in tropical climates and it could become invasive, so keep it contained if you are in the tropics.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zones: 10 to 12.
  • Sun Exposure: Bright but filtered light, not direct sun.
  • Soil Needs: Rich, but well-draining soil; needs regular feeding.
3
of 16

Jade Plant (Crassula ovata)

Crassula ovata - Jade plant - Friendship tree - Lucky plant - Money tree
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This succulent grows really well in sunny to partially sunny areas in regions that rarely freeze. Its fat, shiny, oval leaves are visually entrancing, and it has a woody stem that can be trimmed into a variety of shapes. Several jade plants next to each other along an edge or path can create a nice ankle- to knee-high border.

The jade plant is a succulent, so it won't mind drier weather and will grow for decades if properly cared for. Although it is generally pretty hardy, overwatering is a risk.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zones: 10 to 11.
  • Sun Exposure: Sunny to partially sunny.
  • Soil Needs: Light, aerated peat-and-sand mix.
4
of 16

Gold Standard Hosta (Hosta fortunei)

Hosta Growing in a Shade Garden
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Hostas are very popular for garden borders because they're soft-leaved, dependable, and they're very happy in shadier areas. They produce charming flowers (which may be scented depending on the variety), and pretty much take care of themselves, growing over time into a plant with large, generous leaves that can be colorful. Grouped together, they can fill a large area or serve as a visual break between shorter and taller plants, or plants with contrasting leaves.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zone: 3 to 8.
  • Sun Exposure: Low light to full shade.
  • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained soil.
5
of 16

Pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis)

cat on sidewalk
georgeolsson / Getty Images

Pachysandra is a classic border plant, and a popular one. That's because it's an evergreen that does well in shady areas with poor or acidic soil where other plants won't grow — like under trees or along low-sun banks or hollows. Since it keeps its leaves, it can cover or hide unsightly or awkward areas in your garden, or keep some color along walkways. It spreads fairly quickly, so you will need to stay on top of it to keep it from taking over a whole area.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zone: 4 to 8.
  • Sun Exposure: Shade.
  • Soil Needs: Acidic soils, poor soils, will grow best with a rich soil.
6
of 16

Ice Plant (Delosperma)

Ice flowers - Delosperma cooperi
banedeki / Getty Images

There are hundreds of types of ice plants, but they are all succulents and most are sold as perennial ground cover. They don't tend to grow taller than about 6 inches high and they won't survive very cold winters, but they are tough little plants with bright flowers that seem to float about their "icy" looking greenery. Those greens keep their color year-round, and they're great at keeping weeds down as they cover the ground where they are planted.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zone: 4 to 10.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun.
  • Soil Needs: Sandy, light and well-draining.
7
of 16

Lamb's Ears (Stachys byzantina)

Stachys Byzantina Plant

Eve Livesey / Getty Images

Lamb's ears are obviously named after their resemblance to baby sheep's soft and fuzzy ears, and kids especially love to touch them. They are also a popular border plant because they are easy to grow and provide both a lovely light green color and texture to a garden. Lamb's ears can be invasive, so you need to stay on top of them to keep them from spreading.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to some shade.
  • Soil Needs: Well-draining, regular potting soil.
8
of 16

Sedum or Stonecrop (Crassulae)

Young stonecrop (sedum)
nikamata / Getty Images

This succulent is a fast-growing ground-cover plant that is especially useful for borders — where it won't overwhelm or block shorter plants around it. There are many (many!) different varieties of sedum and most of them are very hardy. They'll grow fine in poor soil, deal with dry conditions, withstand freezing temperatures, and bloom with little flowers (color depends on variety). They do require full sun, though.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun.
  • Soil Needs: Any.
9
of 16

Marigold (Tagetes)

Closeup of orange marigold flowers and foliage
schnuddel / Getty Images

Marigold flowers come in bright reds, oranges, and yellows, and bloom all summer long if given enough water and plenty of sun. There are several varieties of marigold and they are all technically annuals, but marigolds will self-seed, so you might be able to just plant them once and they will keep going on their own. Their scent is known for repelling certain insects you don't want around, like white flies.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zone: Any.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun.
  • Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained soil.
10
of 16

Texas Bluebonnet (Lupinus texensis)

bluebonnets and fence XXXL
hartcreations / Getty Images

This is one of many types of lupines, a large group of flowering plants that includes both native varieties, like this one (found naturally growing in Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana), and cultivated ones. The Texas Bluebonnet has a beautiful purple/bright blue color that stands out in a garden and has a bit of height to it (about a foot tall), so if you need a taller border plant, this is a fun option.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 6.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade.
  • Soil: Any.
11
of 16

Petunias (Petunia)

petunias of different colors
elescordo / Getty Images

Depending on the variety, petunias can have big, showy flowers, or lots of small ones. They come in a huge variety of colors and even patterns, so if you need some color in your border, they are a great option. Petunias need full sun, otherwise the plant will expend energy on growing toward the light rather than on flowering.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun.
  • Soil Needs: Any, but a rich soil will mean more flowers.
12
of 16

Daylily (Hemerocallis)

Daylilies
bauhaus1000 / Getty Images

Daylillies are just easy. They grow in all types of soils and in pretty much every location in the United States. They bloom faithfully and don't need much attention. They spread over the places they are planted, but their bulbs are easily dug up and moved if need be. Both their long, elegant leaves, and bright flowers make a great, hardy border, and they are good at camouflaging unattractive areas, too.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun.
  • Soil Needs: Any.
13
of 16

Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum)

nasturtium
khudoliy / Getty Images

This is another plant that has many varieties and a few color options, but the most commonly available types have bright orange flowers held aloft over pretty green or variegated frilly leaves. Nasturtiums work beautifully as ground cover, making them ideal for a low border with taller plants behind them. Their flowers are edible and look great in a fresh summer salad. They're typically annuals, but do a good job of self-seeding.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing zones: 7 to 10.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun.
  • Soil Needs: Prefer poor soils.
14
of 16

Bee Balm (Monarda)

Monarda
BambiG / Getty Images

As the name implies, bees love this plant's flowers, but hummingbirds and butterflies do, too, so if you're looking for a border that will work in a pollinator garden or you just want to plant something that will help your local pollinators out, this is a great choice — plus you'll get to enjoy seeing them visit the purple, pink, or white flowers.

Bee balm is a perennial that's native to North America and is not too fussy, but it does need good air circulation, as it can be susceptible to powdery mildew.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zone: 4-9.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun.
  • Soil Needs: Well-draining regular soil.
15
of 16

Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Beautiful summer garden flower border with Echinacea purpurea, Rudbeckia yellow coneflowers
Jacky Parker Photography / Getty Images

Echinacea is a member of the daisy family, and while daisies can also make a great border plant, echinacea's bright purple color and heftier bloom means it's a little more interesting and unexpected. Native to the Eastern U.S., they grow tall and straight to about 5 feet tall, so they can form a taller border between two areas. Echinacea flowers are attractive to bees and butterflies, too.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zone: 3 to 8.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun.
  • Soil Needs: Poor soil; rich soils will result in fewer flowers.
16
of 16

English Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)

Butterfly Resting On Bluebell Flower In Early Spring

Andrea Edwards / Getty Images

Found on the forest floor in European woodlands, this perennial bulb does well in shady garden areas, so if you have a border in a shadier spot, relatively low-lying bluebells might be ideal. Once established, they spread quickly and are very low-maintenance. Be sure to look for the English Bluebell — the hardier Spanish Bluebell is an invasive plant in the U.S.

Plant Care Tips

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8.
  • Sun Exposure: Shade.
  • Soil Needs: Well-drained soil.