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How to create a perennial border on a budget

Colourful perennial plants in border

Perennial plants are a fantastic way to fill your border with colour and interest. Returning year after year, they’re also a cost-effective addition to your planting scheme. If you’re working to a tight budget, lots of perennial flowers can be grown from seed. But if you want to save time, plug plants offer excellent value for money and give your border a real head start. Here are our top tips to help you create a finance-friendly perennial border. 

Browse our full range of perennial border plants for inspiration.

How to plan a perennial border

Divide your border into three sections and be sure to include plants of different heights to fill the back, middle and front. For a successful scheme, consider complementary colours, different textures and flowering times to ensure a long season of interest. 

If you don’t have the time or knowledge to put together your own list, our horticultural team has curated a number of perennial collections designed for maximum effect. A great way to save money, these carefully curated mixtures of popular perennials are a cheap and easy way to pack your border with real wow-factor.

Start with the tallest perennials at the back of the border

Clump of yellow/green phormium grass
Phormium Yellow Wave is a tall, evergreen perennial with striking yellow and green foliage.
Image: Phormium ‘Yellow Wave’ from Suttons

If you’re designing your own border from scratch, start from the back and work forwards. The back of your border is the perfect place to put the largest and tallest plants. Choose architectural perennials, and make the most of tall and elegant stems that give your scheme height and interest. A few evergreen perennials like grasses will also maintain interest through the winter months. Some of our favourites include: 

  • Architectural phormiums – providing a striking backdrop to your planting scheme, tall evergreen phormiums like ‘Yellow Wave’ reach a height of 2m and spread of 2.5m for all year round interest. 
  • Foxgloves – a foolproof option for gorgeous colour, these statuesque blooms look great year after year. 
  • Verbena Bonariensis – these unique, tall, scented stems add eye-catching drama.

For even more inspiration, browse our full range of perennial plants for the back of the border

Add colour and structure to the middle of the border

Group of cerise pink achillea flowers
At 60cm tall, Achillea ‘Cerise Queen’ creates an explosion of colour from late spring until September
Image: Achillea millefolium ‘Cerise Queen’ from Suttons

The middle section of your border should include perennials that reach a maximum height of about 70cm tall and ideally flower for a long period of time. Although you can buy large garden-ready plants, many of our perennials can be bought as excellent value plug plants or bare roots. You can also buy summer-flowering bulbs like crocosmia, that get bigger and better every year. All you need to do is lift, divide and replant the clumps every few years to get even more flowers. We recommend:

  • Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’ – reaching a height and spread of 60cm, these vibrant yellow flowers bloom right through until October.
  • Achillea millefolium ‘Cerise Queen’ – with a height and spread of 60cm, buy trays of these explosive pink plug plants for a cost-effective way to fill a sunny border.
  • Aquilegia ‘Mrs Scott Elliott’ – these pretty nodding blooms come in an array of bright colours. Rising from a froth of green fern-like foliage, they quickly naturalise to form a crowd of spring blooms.

Browse our full range of perennial plants for the middle of the border

Plant smaller perennials at the front

Pink scabious flower with honeybee
Perfect for the front of the border, ‘Kudos Pink’ is a shorter scabious variety that flowers prolifically
Image: Scabiosa incisa ‘Kudos Pink’ from Suttons

Finally, the front of your border should be finished with smaller, more compact perennial plants that could even spill over the edges of a border onto a path or lawn. While they still need to earn their space with plenty of colour and interest, they can be on a much smaller scale. Foliage plants like heucheras make a great choice. We also like:

  • Alchemilla Mollis – spreading to 75cm wide, this zesty green foliage plant creates a pretty frame for other flowers.
  • Scabiosa incisa ‘Kudos Pink’ – with hundreds of pink blooms, this hard-working front-of-border plant has attractive seed heads for winter interest too.
  • Sedum ‘Ruby Glow’ – all sedums look great at the front of a border where you can enjoy their delicate flowers and pretty foliage. With late summer colour, ‘Ruby Glow’ keeps your display alive long into autumn. 

For more ideas, take a look at our full range of perennial plants for the front of the border.

We hope we’ve given you plenty of helpful tips for creating a beautiful, cost-effective perennial border on a budget. Returning year after year, perennials offer excellent value for money and often get better with age. For more inspiration, browse our full range of shrubs including flowering, scented, evergreen and architectural options.

Lead image: Suttons

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