The 19 Best Plants for Edging Flower Beds in Sunny or Shady Spots

Line pathways or outline planting beds with these beautiful border plants for landscaping.

Edging your landscape creates a crisp, finished look—and it also serves a more functional purpose: Traditional landscape edging materials, such as brick, stone, or steel, prevent plants from overtaking your lawn, while keeping the grass out of your beds. But as slightly overgrown looks, like the cottage garden style, have gained widespread acceptance, you may think this streamlined aesthetic is too harsh or uninviting.

Enter border plants for landscaping edges. Position these alongside edging materials to soften the look, or use lower-growing plants on their own to outline different areas of your garden. As the frontline of your flowerbeds, edging plants need to look good no matter the season or the growing conditions, unfurling new flowers and foliage from spring to fall. Bonus points go to colorful border plants that enhance the winter landscape as well.

colorful garden path
Ed Gohlich

How to Use Border Plants

The best plants for edging your landscape catch your eye and lead it forward—for example, calling attention to a garden path to help direct foot traffic. Placing colorful border plants around a flower bed also adds visual excitement, while clearly defining the planting space from other nearby features. Consider a uniform look to maintain a more orderly aesthetic: Edging your beds with just one type of plant—for example, one of many evergreen edging plants, like blue star juniper or creeping juniper—provides a consistent frame for the seasonally changing inner parts of the garden.

Evaluate Your Light Level

Before you pick your edging plants, assess the amount of sunlight your space gets. If the sun shines directly for eight or more hours a day, full-sun plants will perform best. But if the bed is shaded enough that it gets less than eight hours of direct sunlight a day, choose plants that prefer growing in shade or part shade. Refer to our lists below to find the best picks for your landscape.

Edging Plants for Sun

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walled garden boxwood design pillar
Gabriela Herman

One of the most elegant evergreen edging plants is boxwood. Choose dwarf varieties such as 'Morris Midget' and 'Wee Willie' to create a tidy hedge along the borders of your garden beds. Shear your boxwood annually to maintain its shape and size. Boxwood varieties vary in hardiness but generally will grow in Zones 4-8.

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Lavender Vista daylily
Dean Schoeppner

Graceful mounds of green foliage make daylily a solid landscaping edging choice for spring through fall. The plant sends up colorful flower spikes in midsummer; keep plants tidy by trimming away flower stalks after blooms fade. Choose from varieties in shades of yellow, orange, red, and pink. Most are hardy in Zones 3-10.

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Lady's Mantle

Lady's Mantle
Blaine Moats

This beautiful perennial produces tidy mounds of scallop-shape green leaves. The fine hairs on the foliage catch water and dewdrops, often adding a little extra sparkle. Lady's mantle blooms in early summer with clusters of tiny, chartreuse flowers. This low-growing plant makes for an elegant landscape edge in Zones 4-7.

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Laurie Black

Thriving in bright sun, heat, and drought, lavender makes a tough and fragrant bed edge. This herb is hardy in Zones 5-10 and evergreen in warmer areas. Harvest the purple, blue, or white flowers for bouquets or drying.

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Moss Rose

Sundial Fuchsia Moss Roses
Peter Krumhardt

Dry conditions and hot sun don't faze long-blooming moss rose. An annual with jewel-tone flowers, this beauty expands rapidly to create a colorful mat of flowers and foliage. Growing just 6 inches tall, it's perfect for edging beds of low-growing plants.

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Purple Emperor' sedum
Richard Hirneisen

Clumping, upright sedum varieties such as 'Matrona' add fall flair to the landscape and create a neat edge for taller plants behind them. This perennial holds up well to heat and drought. Most sedum varieties are hardy in Zones 3-10, and the flowers attract pollinators.

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Pink thrift flowers
David Speer

This pretty perennial produces tidy mounds of grassy foliage. Rounded clusters of bright pink or white flowers bloom from late spring to early summer. Thrift loves full sun and very well-drained soil in Zones 3-9.

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variegated lemon thyme
Marty Baldwin

Fragrant and full of flavor, thyme creeps to form a mound of foliage decorated with pink or white flowers in summer. Low-growing thyme is an ideal edging plant in front of low-growing perennials or in an herb garden in Zones 4-9.

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orange zinnias with butterfly
Marty Baldwin

An annual that's easy to start from seed, zinnias are available in many colors and sizes. Shorter, dwarf varieties or seed mixes such as 'Thumbelina' or 'Short Stuff' make colorful border plants.

Edging Plants for Shade

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Karlis Grants

Feathery flower plumes and fernlike foliage make astilbe a stunning addition to any shade garden in Zones 3-8. This drought-tolerant perennial's tidy shape also makes it a good choice for landscape edging. Flower colors include white, pink, and red.

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epimedium, barrenwort or Bishop’s Hat
Marty Baldwin

A top pick for edging shady landscape beds, epimedium (also called barrenwort) is a perky little perennial that blooms in spring with spidery flowers in shades of pink, purple, orange, yellow, and white. Many varieties have attractive foliage that turns bronzy in autumn. This tough plant also is drought-tolerant and hardy in Zones 5-9.

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Begonia Dragon Wing Red
Denny Schrock

An annual with lots of flower power, begonias grow best in well-drained, rich soil and warm weather. Many varieties stand less than 12 inches tall, making them well-suited to life on the edge.

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coleus 'pineapple splash'
Kritsada Panichgul

This annual's colorful foliage will wake up a sleepy shade garden. Many coleus cultivars and color combinations are available. (Some also will grow in sun.) Pinch these fast-growing plants back as needed to maintain the best height for edging your garden bed.

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Northern maidenhair fern
Matthew Benson

Thriving in moist soil and part shade to deep shade in Zones 3-9, many ferns make easy-care edging plants. Choose low-growing types for the front of a garden bed. Be aware that some ferns spread quickly—if they begin encroaching on nearby plants, you can divide them.

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Richard Hirneisen

Leathery evergreen foliage and late-winter or early-spring flowers are the hallmarks of hellebores. Plenty of varieties offer beautiful blooms in white, cream, pink, rose, bicolors, and even nearly black. Hint: Plant several of the same variety for a consistent bed edge. Hellebore is hardy in Zones 4-9.

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Pink Heuchera
Peter Krumhardt

Gorgeous foliage in shades of green, yellow, and burgundy, topped by delicate flower spikes in summer, make coralbells a high-impact edging plant. This tough perennial grows in dry conditions and a variety of soils in Zones 4-9.

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Hosta Blooms
Julie Maris Semarco

Low-growing hostas such as 'Blue Mouse Ears' and 'Chartreuse Wiggles' make excellent edging plants for a shady garden bed. Hardy in Zones 3-9, hostas feature leaves ranging in color from chartreuse to bluish. Varieties with variegated leaves will add extra brightness to the garden, while solid-hued foliage will create a sense of calm.

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Japanese Forestgrass

Japanese forestgrass
Peter Krumhardt

One of the few grasses that thrives in shade, Japanese forestgrass forms compact mounds of gracefully arching foliage. Also called Hakone grass, this perennial makes a tough, drought-tolerant plant for landscaping edging in Zones 5-9.

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variegata lilyturf liriope
Doug Hetherington

A classic edging plant in warmer regions, liriope (also called lilyturf) is a tough but showy perennial. Wands of small, purple flowers punctuate the grasslike, evergreen foliage during the summer in Zones 4-10. Look for variegated varieties for an extra splash of color.

Make Sure to Consider Mature Size

Underestimating the mature size of a new landscaping addition is a frequent mistake when selecting all types of plants, but it's especially problematic when it comes to edging plants. Take lavender: In a 4-inch nursery pot at the garden center, it's hard to imagine lavender could expand to 24 inches wide in a couple of years. Bottom line: Carefully read nursery tags and space your plantings according to their mature size, not the size they are when you purchase them.

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