Thin, Tall Plants

Updated February 21, 2017

Most garden plants have rounded, mounding shapes, so adding contrasting forms such as columnar evergreens or tall grasses helps create greater architectural interest. Tall, thin annuals and perennials can form a visually permeable screen as they blow in the wind, creating a sense of mystery as to what lies behind them. Mix tall, medium and short plants in layers for a natural-looking arrangement.

Columnar Conifers

Narrow conifers are classic tall, thin punctuation points for a garden. Italian cypress, long used for formal hedges, reaches 70 feet tall, but stays about 6 feet wide. Leyland cypress grows quickly to 100-by-25 feet. Smaller cypress varieties, such as Wilma Goldcrest, reach 10-by-2 feet; Tiny Tower grows 30-by-3 feet. Skyrocket Juniper grows to 20-by-3 feet.


Perennials that top single, thin stalks with flowers include Herbstone rudbeckia, which grows to 7 feet; Verbena bonariensis, which has purple blooms to attract butterflies; and Oriental trumpet lilies, which can reach 8 feet. Other tall perennials include Joe Pye weed, delphinium, foxglove, mullein, hollyhock, canna and calla lilies, valerian and thalictrum.


Calamagrostis is a narrow, upright grass with finely cut foliage. The variety Karl Foerster is widely planted and grows to 4 feet tall, but only 18 to 24 inches wide. Panicum varieties Prairie Sky, Northwind and Heavy Metal reach 6 feet. Miscanthus giganteus reaches 15-by-6 feet and the Strictus variety, with bands of gold across its leaves, grows 8 feet tall, but stays about 2 feet wide.


Sunflowers come to mind when considering tall, thin plants for a garden. Others include ornamental corn, which has white, green and pink stripes; broom corn (sorghum) with sprays of bronze seedheads atop 15-foot stalks; and amaranth, which also reaches 15 feet. Cosmos grow to about 4 feet on thin, airy stalks. All are easily started from seed.

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About the Author

Since 1981 Janet Bayers has written on travel, real estate trends and gardening for "The Oregonian" newspaper in Portland. Her work also has appeared in “Better Homes & Gardens,” “Traditional Home,” “Outdoor Living” and other shelter magazines. She holds a Master of Arts in linguistics from Michigan State University.