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17 Tall Annuals for the Middle of the Border

It’s true—we all want to create interesting, dynamic flower beds, so here are a few tips to help you accomplish your goal this season.

Contributors: Kerry Meyer

Keep in mind when you are getting ready to design a new flower bed that layering plants into your beds according to height can help bring the layered look you are after. And if you choose to use annuals to add height then you’ll have the chance to change your color scheme and layout every year.  Short plants for the front of the bed tend to be easy to identify. Quite tall plants for the back of the border also rarer, but also easy to select. But when you get to the middle of the border, things get a little less clear. Here is a list of plants that are great options to consider for the area between your tall plants in the back, and your shorter varieties upfront. In this article, we have split these medium height plants into two groups to help add height gradually as you move towards the back of the border.


Medium Tall Annuals For the Border

This subset of annuals are approximately 18 to 24” tall and are well suited to fill in the space just behind the short plants you used at the front of your bed. They step up the height, but will still blend into the plants you used at the edge of your bed.

Angelface® Angelonia

Our main line of Angelface® Angelonia is the perfect choice to plant just behind your short plants. They come in 5 different colors – Blue, White, Perfectly Pink, Steel Blue and the bicolored Wedgwood Blue. The plants handle heat well, put up tall wands of colorful flowers, do not need to be deadheaded and will handle a bit of drought stress with aplomb. They’ll reach 18 to 30 inches in height and prefer full sun.



Vermillionaire® Cuphea

This is one of my all-time favorite plants. The glossy, deep green foliage sets off the cigar-shaped, orange flowers that hummingbirds flock to all season long. It also loves heat and humidity, can tolerate drought and is a wonderful landscape plant. It is best in full sun and grows 18 to 28 inches tall.



Graceful Grasses® Baby Tut® and Prince Tut® Cyperus

If you are looking for a plant to engage children, it would be hard to go wrong with a Cyperus, common name Egyptian papyrus. Prince Tut looks like a plant Dr. Seuss would have devised. The short stems support a shaggy whorl of leaves and the small stature, only 18 to 30 inches tall, makes it perfect for the middle of the border. Its brother, Baby Tut is just a bit shorter, topping out at around 2 feet tall. While Prince Tut is a very sturdy and upright plant, Baby Tut creates a more rounded silhouette, with the stems ending in umbrella-shaped whirls of leaves. This makes its common name, Umbrella Grass, perfectly apt. Both plants like part to full sun and grow best in moist soil, wet spots and pond edges.



Luscious® Lantana (not Royale)

If you are looking for a no care workhorse for your borders, our line of Luscious® Lantana is the perfect choice.  While our two Luscious Royales and Luscious Grape are a bit shorter and better suited for the front of the bed, the rest of the Luscious varieties are durable plants to add heft and constancy to the middle of your landscape design. Lantana generally offers hot colors in various shades of red, yellow, orange and hot pink. Once you plant them you can walk away, they are fairly self-sufficient and will grow to 20 to 30” tall.



ColorBlaze® Royale Coleus

We have two different subsets within our series of ColorBlaze® coleus.  The Colorblaze Royale group is a bit shorter, around 20 to 30” tall, which means they will work the best right behind your shortest plants in the front, and the taller ColorBlaze varieties will be wonderful towards the back. One wonderful thing to note about our line of ColorBlaze varieties—they love life in both the sun or the shade! These plants are prized for their colorful foliage and will add consistent color to your garden with ease.



Sunstar Pentas

Sunstar Pentas have huge blooms that will be easy to see from afar. They are available in four colors, Lavender, Pink, Rose, and Red. These are very heat tolerant plants and attract all kinds of pollinators – butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds! The large umbels are made up of petite flowers and will add wonderful texture and interest to your flower bed. At 18-22” tall, they are perfect for colorful height just behind your low growing plants.



Truffula® Pink Gomphrena

Truffula has only been available for a few years but has quickly won the hearts of many gardeners. If you are used to using bedding plant types of Gomphrena then the size of this version will amaze you. It grows up to 28” tall and is a perfect plant to layer just behind your short plants. The rich pink flowers will grace the plants all summer. Truffula appeals to bees and butterflies just as much as it does to us.  It’s an awesome landscape plant and is also beautiful as a cut flower.



Meteor Shower® Verbena

The soothing lavender flowers sit atop airy plants. They’ll add height to the middle of your landscape design without adding weight, yet the petite pops of color certainly add to the design. You may choose to plant them singly to float above the surrounding plants, or you can add them in masses—either way, they are wonderful additions to borders and are also good pollinator plants. Butterflies and hummingbirds will be common sights with Meteor Shower. The plants will grow up to 30” tall. Plant them in a sunny spot.




Tall Annuals for the Border

This subset of annuals are approximately 24-36” tall and are well suited to fill space between the medium tall annuals and back of the border plants. These tall annuals can add a great deal of all summer color.

Butterfly Argyranthemum

The Butterflies are an utterly classic plant. They are tall and graceful and if you ask a kid to draw a flower, they are most likely going to draw a daisy just like these. The Butterfly’s come in 3 colors – Golden Butterfly®, Pure White Butterfly® and Vanilla Butterfly® and grow up to 3 feet tall. You can’t go wrong when you select these beautiful plants. Plant them in a sunny spot.


Angelface® Super Angelonia

Angelface Supers are a taller version of our traditional Angelonia, growing up to 3 feet tall, versus 2 feet for the regular Angelface varieties. The extra height these plants offer is great for filling a bit further back in the border and they are heat tolerant and easy to grow. Angelface Supers can adapt to wet feet and can take some drought as well, also a great choice for height in a cut flower arrangement. They will do best when used in a sun-drenched area.



Senorita Rosalita® and Senorita Blanca® Cleome

These are highly underutilized plants for landscapes and are easy plants to grow. They need at least 4 hours of sun a day, 6 or more hours is better, to do their best. Other than that, they will look best if they aren’t drought-stressed, but can tolerate some dry conditions.  We offer these in two colors, lavender-pink, and white. If you’ve grown old-fashioned cleome, the Senoritas have some key differences. Senoritas have dark green, non-sticky foliage, do NOT have sharp spines and they bloom up and down the stem, not just at the top of the plant. They don’t need to be deadheaded and are not prone to disease or pest issues.  However, according to the Cincinnati Zoo, peacocks will munch on the flowers. So barring a peacock invasion in your garden, they should be a cinch to grow! I do sometimes trim mine back by around a quarter of their height and then after a few weeks they bounce back strong and tend to look fuller as the season moves towards fall—but by no means is this a necessary task with these annuals. They grow 2-4’ tall.




Mystic Illusion Dahlia

This is the most heat tolerant dahlia we’ve ever found and it’s beautiful as well. The black foliage sets off the brilliant lemonade-yellow blooms to great effect, I adore the contrast and presence you get from this plant. The flowers are single and abundant. Bred in New Zealand, Mystic Illusion will invite butterflies to your landscape. The foliage is blackest with abundant sun. The plants are generaly 1.5 to 3 feet tall.



Diamond Mountain® Euphorbia

This super-sized version of Diamond Frost® is just what you need to add height, but not weight to the middle of your border. I know it looks frilly and delicate, but looks, in this case, are very deceiving. This is one tough plant—it loves heat, tolerates drought and just one feeding with a controlled release plant food and you can just sit back and enjoy. They’re a perfect filler plant for nearly any situation. Diamond Mountain will do fine in shade, but is at its best in sunny locations. They will grow 2 to 3 feet tall.



Graceful Grasses® Fireworks, Graceful Grasses® Sky Rocket and Graceful Grasses® Rubrum Pennisetum

The unsung heroes of the middle of the border might well be annual ornamental grasses. Grasses add texture and movement to gardens, which brings a wonderful element to the areas where they are used. Those with dark or variegated foliage add even more dimension. You can find similarly colored foliage in perennial versions of these plants, but the long, arching cattails found on the annual version are shorter and less dramatic in perennial types. If grasses aren’t already a staple in your garden, you should consider adding a few. These three Pennisetum will get 2 to 3 feet tall and prefer to be planted in sun.



Rockin’® Salvia

There’s a lot to love about the Rockin’ Salvia. They are nice, tall plants with spikes of flowers. In addition to the flowers themselves, several of them have black stems and calyces, which adds an extra dimension of color. Dark green foliage accents the flowers. Rockin’s are one of the best pollinator plants around.  They attract the big three – butterflies, hummingbirds, and butterflies. I’ve been lucky enough to capture photos of both bees and butterflies on the same flower spike. Salvias love the heat, do not need a lot of plant food, and can take some drought stress, although keeping the soil moist will help them look their absolute best. The colors are blue, purple and fuchsia. Plant them in a sunny spot. They’ll top out at 2 to 4 feet tall.

2-4’ Tall. Part Sun to Sun.



ColorBlaze® Coleus

We talked about our shorter group of our ColorBlaze coleus earlier in this article. These ColorBlaze varieties are taller and will reach up to 3.5 feet at maturity. They are awesome foliage plants and will add consistent color toward the back of the border. These foliage beauties offer a nice range of color—from chartreuse to almost black—so you’ll be sure to find at least one ColorBlaze to bring home to your garden. They work just as well in sun as they do in shade.



Suncredible® Yellow Helianthus and Kerry to check for updates. Hot Topic: Norman: 6 Featured Plants: Annual Perennial Shrub Caladium 2 Proven Harvest, vine, tree, calla, houseplant Q&A: Featured Topic: Small bed/big ideas + large beds/bigger ideas (new photo-based article for inspiration.) Also include link to this related page somewhere in this newsletter: Botanical Term: Featured This Month: Featured New Variety: Shop Online: Featured on Social: Featured Recipe: Featured Pairing: Choose a photo from here and link to this article: Featured Video:">Suncredible® Saturn Helianthus

These are one of my favorite types of Proven Winners plant. Suncredible grows to more than 3 feet tall, with multiple branches and swarms of 3 to 4” wide flowers. Last year, at the end of August, I had the chance to see how well it performed in trial gardens from Tennessee to Northern Minnesota. At each stop this plant was in full bloom, adding height and sassy color. The flowers last up to three weeks in cut flower arrangements, bees and butterflies adore it and deer don’t find it particularly tasty. While giant sunflowers might be a bit hard to incorporate into your landscape, Suncredible is easy as pie to use. The more sun you can provide, the happier Suncredible will be.

Learn More:

Explore our Pinterest Board of Plants for Landscape Color.

Discover our Landscape Planting Plans.

Watch Laura from Garden Answer give an Update on Plants One Year After Planting

Check out our Idea Board of Tall Plants for the  Middle of the Border.

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