Plants for edging or borders

Written by jacob j. wright
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Plants for edging or borders
Various low plant materials can edge or outline the flat carpet of a lawn. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

To better define the transitional area between lawn and garden beds, often an edging or border is used -- in the form of a row of bricks or band of gravel or even plant material. Plant edging also helps create geometric parterres. Edging plants need to be compact, low and not have a tendency to uncontrollably sprawl. The edging ideally grows to form a rather neat, well-defined edge; otherwise, it looks jagged and unkempt. Pruning the plants is an option, but such maintenance can make some edging plants look straggly and unhealthy.

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Short-growing annual flower can create visually striking borders to lawns and garden beds with their colourful flowers or foliage. Sweet alyssum bears white flowers on plants that sprawl about 15 inches wide but only 3 inches tall. It works well if planted at least 12 inches away from a lawn, so there is no issue of damage from the lawnmower. The same is true of blue-flowering lobelia. Compact, upright annuals useful in making a border include wax begonia, ageratum, pansy and moss rose in sunny areas and impatiens, short-growing coleus and torenia in shadier garden locations.

Plants for edging or borders
Red wax begonia and ageratum planted among rows of tightly pruned boxwood (Medioimages/Photodisc/Valueline/Getty Images)


Much like with annuals, perennials used as border edging in the garden need to be compact and rather low in stature. Low-growing types include candytuft, creeping phlox, rockcress and groundcover stonecrop. Upright, tufted perennials also make attractive borders, especially lilyturf, also called liriope as well as dwarf forms of dusty miller. Dwarf mondo grass remains particularly short, only 1 to 3 inches tall. Pinks or dianthus also makes a tidy border. In shady areas, grow coral bells or hosta as the border.

Culinary herbs

Whether a border is needed in or out of the herb garden, some culinary herbs remain compact with attractive foliage worthy of a border. Parsley, lavender, rosemary and thyme can be used as borders, depending on your aesthetics of leaf colour or texture. Lavender and rosemary can be continually trimmed to keep short or cut into more geometric, hedgelike forms.

Plants for edging or borders
Rows of lavender shear well to create a low hedge. (IT Stock Free/Polka Dot/Getty Images)


Choose dwarf cultivars of shrubs to use as edging. Ideally, the shrub species is slow-growing, so any pruning maintenance is diminished each year. English boxwood, Japanese holly, dwarf yaupon and snowrose respond well to pruning or shearing to maintain a dense rounded or box-shaped border edging.

Plants for edging or borders
A freshly trimmed row of boxwood (Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Tropical plants

In frost-free regions, such as in subtropical and tropical regions, many shrubs and perennials remain evergreen year-round and make good edging plants. Examples include dwarf mother-in-law's tongue, bromeliads, variegated spiderplant, dwarf croton, dwarf golden dewdrop and blueberry flax.

Plants for edging or borders
A row of neoregelia bromeliads would make a stunning border. ( Images)

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