Top 10 Edge Plants for Three Seasons of Color

These native grasses, perennials and plants can brighten your garden boarders while inviting butterflies and hummingbirds!

Never underestimate the value of great border plants. They can dress up a bare fence, create a colorful screen and add a bit of needed color next to your house or shed. For the best results, use a mix of plants. Add options that provide color from spring through fall, and that range in height. In addition, include plants with fine foliage and flowers to contrast with the bold leaves and blooms of neighboring plants. It’s time to conquer those edges!

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Peony

Paeonia, Zones 3 to 8

Add three seasons of charm with this old-fashioned favorite. Known for their large and often-fragrant flowers, the foliage also provides interest for multiple seasons. Watch as the leaves emerge with a reddish tint in spring, turn deep green for summer and finish off the season with purplish red shade in fall. Select varieties with stiff stems that do not need staking, like buckeye belle.

Why we love it: It’s a long-lived, low-maintenance perennial for sunny borders.

Caradonna Salvia

Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna,’Zones 3 to 9

The fragrant green foliage is topped with spikes of indigo flowers on purple-black stems in early summer. Deadhead faded flowers for additional bloom throughout the summer. Though it prefers full sun and moist, well-drained soil, it will tolerate drought, heat and humidity.

Why we love it: It brings those hummingbirds and butterflies out to the border where we can get a closer look.

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Willow amsonia

Amsonia Hubrichtii, Zones 4 to 9

Light blue, star-shaped flowers top the fine foliage of this spring blooming native, and the leaves seem to glow when they turn yellow-gold in the fall. You’ll have the best results growing this 3-foot tall plant in full sun. Avoid shade and over fertilization because it can lead to floppy growth.

Why we love it: It’s drought-tolerant once established, and the deer tend to let it be.

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Garden Phlox

Phlox paniculata, Zones 4 to 8

Great for the middle or back of the border, garden phlox adds color to summer and fall garden borders. The white, pink, red, blue or purple flowers are often fragrant. Select powdery, mildew-resistant varieties, and grow in full sun to light shade and moist, well-drained soil.

Why we love it: You’ll enjoy it in so many ways—including in the garden or as a cut flower. Plus, all the butterflies and hummingbirds it brings to your garden.

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Switchgrass

Panicum virgatum, Zones 3 to 9

In late summer the delicate light pink flowers hover above the fine foliage of this tall North American native grass. The yellow fall color and persistent seed heads extend your enjoyment into fall and winter. Select a clump-forming cultivar like Heavy Metal, Northwind or Shenandoah, which are more suitable for the garden.

Why we love it: You’ll enjoy the butterflies that visit the flowers and finches that feed on the seeds.

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Snowbank False Aster

Boltonia asteroides ‘Snowbank’, Zones 4 to 8

The large size and fine texture of this plant make it a nice addition to the middle or back of the border. The small, white daisy-type flowers appear late summer through fall. Grow in full sun and well-drained soil for best results and to avoid the need for staking.

Why we love it: The flowers look like a cloud has descended onto your garden. The white blossoms brighten the night and fall garden.

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Dark Towers Beardtongue

Penstemon ‘Dark Towers,’ Zones 3 to 9

Border plants aren’t just for the front of the garden. This tall, summer-blooming perennial will add color and vertical interest to the middle or back of the border. Bi-colored bell-shape blooms top the colorful foliage, which hummingbirds will love. Heat, humidity and drought tolerance makes this a good choice for sunny borders.

Why we love it: The reddish-purple foliage color persists throughout the season.

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Zagreb Coreopsis

Coreopsis verticillata ‘Zagreb,’ Zones 3 to 9

Brighten the border with a long-blooming coreopsis. The ferny foliage creates a nice backdrop for small daisy-shaped flowers. This short coreopsis makes a great stand-alone edger plant, or tuck it along the front of other border plants for added color. Regular division will keep this perennial blooming with minimal deadheading.

Why we love it: Not all border plants give such reliable color. Yet, these flowers will enliven spaces from early summer all the way through fall.

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Hardy Hibiscus

Hibiscus moscheutos, Zones 4 to 9

The 6- to 12-inch flowers of this back-of-the-border plant will wow you from summer through fall. Grow in full sun to partial shade with moist soil. It is one of the last perennials to emerge in spring. This means you’ll want to mark its location with a stake or spring flowering bulbs, so you don’t accidentally damage it during spring cleanup.

Why we love it: The plants are tall and make a statement, yet they seldom need staking.

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Blazing Star

Liatris spicata, Zones 3 to 8

The purple or white spikes of blossoms add vertical interest to the flower garden and cut flower bouquets. Native to moist meadows and marshes, this native perennial prefers full sun and moist, well-drained soil, and it grows up to 4 feet. Select the variety Kobold, if you want more compact plants.

Why we love it: The seed heads provide winter interest and food for the birds.

Melinda Myers
Nationally known gardening expert, TV/radio host, author, columnist and speaker.