When choosing plants for an herbaceous border, the plants' height, width and growth habits. Border plants should be short so as not to block the interior of the flower bed. The mature width and growth habit will play an integral part in how well a plant fits into the garden as well. Plants with a fast-spreading ground-cover growth may not be a good choice for an herbaceous border in a small area, for example.
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Sea thrift (Armeria maritima) is an herbaceous perennial that is hardy in USDA Planting Zones 4 through 8. This tough little plant is native to mountain and coastal areas where it thrives in the salty environment which is where it got its name. The dark green foliage reaches only 4 inches tall in a dense mounding form with narrow fine grasslike leaves. It spreads rather slowly to a width of 8 to 12 inches. It produces either white or pink 3/4- to 1-inch flowers on 6- to 10-inch tall stems in May and June but will continue to bloom sporadically until fall. Deadheading the flowers as they fade will encourage further blooming. Both the flower and stem should be removed when deadheading this plant. Sea thrift prefers infertile soil with good drainage capabilities in a sunny location. Conditions that stay slightly dry are best for this plant. Moist fertile or heavy clay soil can cause the centres of sea thrift plants to rot.
Ear-leaved tickseed (Coreopsis auriculata) 'Nana' is hardy in USDA Planting Zones 4 through 9. The botanical name "auriculata" means "eared" in reference to the ear-shaped lobes that grow at the base of the leaves. This slow-spreading herbaceous perennial has a dense mat-forming growth habit that reaches heights and widths between 6 and 9 inches with bushy clumps of shiny 1- to 3-inch long deep green oval leaves. The bright golden or orange-yellow 1- to 2-inch diameter flowers are produced in May and June. Regular deadheading of the flowers will encourage continued blooming throughout the summer. As with sea thrift, stems should be removed when deadheading this plant. When grown in the warmer climates south of zone 6 this plant tends to stop blooming in July and August and start blooming again toward the end of September after the temperatures cool. 'Nana' is easy to grow in average soil conditions with good drainage capabilities and moderate moisture levels in full sun locations. This plant is somewhat tolerant of dry or humid conditions.
Creeping phlox (Phlox stolonifera) is a hardy herbaceous perennial in USDA Planting Zones 5 through 9 that grows naturally in wooded areas and along stream banks in the Appalachian Mountains. This plant has a mat-forming growth habit that reaches a height of about 3 inches and spreads as far as it is allowed to, hence the name "creeping." This low-growing spreading habit makes it suitable for use as a ground cover or border plant. The foliage is medium green with oval 3-inch long leaves. The fragrant lavender 3/4-inch flowers are produced throughout July, August and September in clusters on 8-inch stems. Creeping phlox prefers an acid humus soil that is rich in organic matter and stays evenly moist but drains well. It will grow in full sun or partial shade. It tolerates shade quite well.
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