Gardening Hedges Perennials

50 Plants for a Perennial 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.

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

8 comments on “50 Plants for a Perennial Hedge

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  8. 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.

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