12 Colorful Border Plants for Creating a Stunning Garden

These beautiful border plants offer vibrant flowers and textures through the whole growing season.

Salvia farinacea Victoria Blue deep purple flowers
Photo: David Goldberg

When planting a mixed border garden, there are tons of terrific plant varieties to choose from. The easiest (and often the most economical) choices to plant in your border garden are hardy perennials and fast-growing annuals. However, it can be daunting to mix and match these plants so they create a put-together look. The annuals and perennials in the following list make excellent border garden plants because they'll look good together. Plus, they're low maintenance, have similar growing requirements, and provide plenty of color throughout the growing season.

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angelmist dark plum angelonia
Peter Krumhardt

Angelonia is also known as “summer snapdragon,” though it's not related to true snapdragons. This annual plant is drought tolerant and thrives in the heat, blooming throughout the summer. For a cooling look in a hot garden, try 'Angelmist Dark Plum' (shown here) or 'Archangel Dark Purple,' two varieties with pretty purple blooms. The plants get about a foot tall. Grow them in drifts of several plants for the most stunning effect.

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pink astilbe chinensis 'visions'
Bob Stefko

For the parts of your border garden in dappled shade, astilbe (Astilbe chinensis) is a versatile and tough perennial that does best in a little shade. The 2-foot-tall plants offer ferny foliage as well as showy summer flowers in pink, purple, and white. For example, 'Visions' (shown here) has pretty pink flowers. And if you want something for the back of your border garden, 'Purple Candles' reaches about 4 feet tall when its upright bright purple flowers are in bloom. Astilbe is hardy in Zones 4-9.

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pink and green Caladium in planter

Marty Baldwin

Caladiums offer stunning foliage that complement colorful flowers around them. Some varieties can take some sun, while others prefer a more shady spot so choose accordingly. Plant caladiums (such as this set of three Better Homes & Gardens red caladiums, $45, Walmart) outdoors in spring after temperatures have warmed and the danger of frost has passed. In cold winter regions, you can treat caladiums as annuals, or transplant them into a pot in fall and bring them indoors to keep as a houseplant.

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Creeping Phlox

Peter Krumhardt

Spilling over rocks and creating mounds of bright purple flowers, creeping phlox (Phlox subulata) is also known as moss phlox. It's an easy-care perennial for the front of border gardens due to its low, creeping growth habit and the burst of flowers in late spring. Hardy in Zones 3-9, drought-tolerant creeping phlox prefers a full sun location.

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light orange and yellow dahlia flowers growing together in garden
Jamie Hadley

Dahlias come in myriad sizes, shapes, and colors, and many varieties make beautiful border plants. For example, 'Hypnotica Orange' gets about a foot tall with double, vibrant orange flowers, making it an eye-catching plant for the front of your border garden. Regular dead-heading and plenty of moisture will keep them looking their best throughout the growing season. Dahlias are generally hardy in Zones 9-11.

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Lamb's Ear

Big Ears' lamb's-ears
Denny Schrock

Commonly called lamb's ear (Stachys byzantina) because of the shape and texture of the leaves, this slowly spreading perennial groundcover adds a touch of silver to border gardens. Plant it in full sun to part shade and don't overwater once plants are established. Flower stems can be left to go to seed to help fill in bare spots over time. This plant is hardy in Zones 4-8.

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Verbena 'Fuego Dark Violet'
Justin Hancock

Verbena (such as this Better Homes & Gardens purple variety, $45 for 5, Walmart) is a summertime favorite for its brightly colored blooms in shades of purple, red, pink, and white. This plant has an outstanding ability to bloom throughout the season, attracting a wide variety of pollinators along the way. Its low-growing stems make it a good choice for edging your border garden. Plant in full sun and provide good drainage for best performance.

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Purple Coneflower

echinacea purpurea coneflower
Bob Stefko

Native purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) can make beautiful border garden plants and are pollinator magnets. Some newer varieties, such as 'Powwow Wild Berry', offer an extended bloom time, producing successions of stocky, purple flowers throughout the summer. Plant coneflowers in full sun in just about any kind of soil. Deadhead spent blooms early in the season to push blooms longer into the season, and then leave on the plants later in the season to provide food for birds in fall. Zones 3-9

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Panicle Hydrangea

vanilla strawberry hydrangeas

BHG / Kelli Jo Emanuel

Panicle hydrangeas (Hydrangea paniculata) are easy-care shrubs that can help anchor the back of a border garden. A popular variety to look for is 'Vanilla Strawberry' hydrangea (shown here) that gets about 6-7 feet tall with white flowers that turn pink. For smaller spaces, 'Strawberry Shake' is another option that tops out at about 5 feet tall. Its off-white flowers also slowly take on a pink hue for a pretty two-tone effect. Hardy in Zones 4-9, these deciduous shrubs grow best in full sun to part shade. Provide ample water during the hottest parts of the summer.

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Salvia farinacea Victoria Blue deep purple flowers
David Goldberg

In general, salvias are drought-tolerant, nearly immune to rabbits and deer, and are very attractive to all kinds of pollinators, so are well worth including in a border garden. Though they come in several warm hues, many salvias are perfect for adding a splash of cool color. For example, classic 'Victoria Blue' (shown here) and 'Sallyfun Blue' in the Better Homes & Gardens line ($37 for 4, Walmart) are easy-care options with purple and blue flowers respectively. They do best in full sun and moderate water.

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Black-eyed Susan

'Goldstrum' Black-Eyed Susan
Jerry Pavia

When it comes to black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida), one of the most popular varieties is 'Goldsturm', thanks to its profusion of yellow flowers, tidy habit, and drought tolerance. Other varieties offer different colors and sizes. Flowers can be deadheaded or left on the plants to provide food for wild birds. This perennial is hardy in Zones 3-9. Plant in full sun for best health and flower production.

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autumn joy sedum pink blooms detail
Peter Krumhardt

Stonecrop (aka sedum) is another classic garden plant, especially 'Autumn Joy'. This variety is an excellent choice for adding late-season color to your border garden. Needing only minimal care in a full-to-part sun location, 'Autumn Joy' will produce flowers in late summer that change from a bright pink to subdued bronze in fall. Leave flower heads intact for winter interest. This perennial is hardy in Zones 3-10.

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