Gardening Hedges Perennials

50 Plants for a Perennial Hedge

Goat’s beard hedge.

By Larry Hodgson

If you look back over the history of hedges, you’ll realize that, although today’s hedges always seem to be composed of shrubs and conifers, that wasn’t always the case. In fact, from the 1800s through the 1940s, perennials were used just as often used to draw lines in the garden and between properties. Peony hedges, goat’s beard hedges, even asparagus hedges were all considered to be valid choices back then … and there is no reason you couldn’t put in a perennial hedge today as well.

The main advantage of perennial hedges is their reduced maintenance. No need for careful shearing: you just let them grow! Each spring, just cut back anything that is still standing and voilà: the maintenance for the entire season is done!

A perennial hedge can also offer the advantage of being able to grow where conifer or shrub hedges won’t. For example, near a road cleared by snowplows or snow blowers in the winter. The tearing, crushing action of pushed snow can leave the exposed branches of woody plants in tatters, but perennials are safely asleep underground when the attack occurs and will sprout anew in the spring without any damage whatsoever.

The Right Stuff

To make a good hedge, you’ll need to choose a perennial of an appropriate height for your needs, one that is reasonably well covered with leaves from bottom to top, that can resist wind without requiring staking, has attractive foliage (for a hedge, that’s often more important than bloom!), has a long season of interest and is suitable, of course, for your growing conditions.

Here are some perennials that make excellent hedges.

  1. Adam’s needle (Yucca filamentosa) zone 5
  2. Aralia (Aralia spp.) zones 3 to 5, according to species
Asparagus has long been used as a hedge plant, giving an early spring harvest of fresh spears and a summer of intimacy. Photo: Sassy Gardener, Flickr
  1. Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) zone 2
  2. Aster (Aster spp.) zone 4
  3. Baptisia (Baptisia australis) zone 4
  4. Barrenwort (Epimedium spp.) zone 3
  5. Bear’s breeches (Acanthus spp.) zones 4 to 9, according to species
  6. Big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) zone 3
  7. Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’) zone 3
  8. Boltonia or false aster (Boltonia asteroides) zone 3
  9. Bugbane (Cimicifuga spp.) zone 3
  10. Checkerbloom (Sidalcea spp.) zone 4
  11. Culver’s root (Veronicastrum spp.) zone 3
  12. Cup plant (Silphium spp.) zone 3
  13. Cutleaf coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata) zone 3
  14. Daylily (Hemerocallis spp.) zone 3
  15. Elecampane (Inula helenium) zone 3
Feather reed grass has become quite popular as a perennial hedge in recent years. Photo:
  1. Feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’) zone 4
  2. Garden phlox (Phlox paniculata) zone 3
  3. Gas plant (Dictamnus albus) zone 4
  4. Gayfeather (Liatris spp.) zone 3
  5. Globe thistle (Echinops ritro) zone 3
  6. Goat’s beard (Aruncus dioicus) zone 3
  7. Great fleeceflower (Persicaria polymorpha, syn. Polygonum polymorphum) zone 3
  8. Hosta (Hosta spp.) zone 3
  9. Ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis) zone 4
  10. Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium spp.) zone 3
Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas) forming a double hedge. Photo:
  1. Lavender (Lavandula spp.) zones 5 to 8, according to species
  2. Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) zone 3
  3. Maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis) zones 4 to 6
  4. Maryland senna (Senna marilandica) zone 4b
  5. Meadow rue (Thalictrum spp.) zones 2 to 6
  6. Meadowsweet, Queen of the meadow (Filipendula spp.) zone 3
  7. Milkweed (Asclepias spp.) zones 3 to 10
  8. Ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) zone 3
Peony hedges were once common throughout Europe and North America. Photo:
  1. Peony (Paeonia lactiflora) zone 3
  2. Perennial hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos) zone 5
  3. Perennial hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos) zone 5
  4. Perennial sunflower (Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’) zone 4
  5. Plume poppy (Macleaya spp.) zone 3
  6. Red-hot poker or torch lily (Kniphofia spp.) zones 5 to 8, according to species
  7. Rhubarb (Rheum spp.) zone 3
  8. Rodgersia (Rodgersia spp.) zone 4
Perennial hibiscus (here the cultivar Hibiscus ‘Evening Rose’) makes a wonderful hedge plant. Photo:
  1. Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) zone 4b
  2. Showy stonecrop (Sedum spectabile) zone 3
  3. Southernwood (Artemisia abrotanum) zone 3
  4. Switch grass (Panicum virgatum) zone 4
  5. Tall moor grass (Molinia arundinacea) zone 4
  6. Tree lavatera (Lavatera thuringiaca, now Malva thuringiaca) zone 4
  7. Yellow waxbells (Kirengeshoma palmata) zone 4

Article adapted from one originally published on April 26, 2016.

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

2 comments on “50 Plants for a Perennial Hedge

  1. Mediterranean fan palm makes a wicked hedge! It does not look so mean, but it will not let anyone through. It is difficult to groom though.

  2. Pingback: 50 Plants for a Perennial Hedge — Laidback Gardener – Ninnys Nest

Leave a Reply

Sign up for the Laidback Gardener blog and receive articles in your inbox every morning!

%d bloggers like this: