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Landscape Layering Guide by Size & Height

What Is Landscape Layering?

The most efficient way to create a lush green space filled with the gorgeous trees, shrubs and plants that you order from K. van Bourgondien is through landscape layering. Think of it as layering plants and flowers, based on their height, so they mesh well while growing together. For example, if you have a planting area beneath a stand of leafy trees that creates a lot of shade, think about growing hostas, astilbes or other shade perennials there. If you decide during landscape planting that an area's bottom layer will receive more sunlight, consider using some shorter sun perennials, such as dwarf irises or dwarf daylilies, as ground cover. The middle of those areas is where small ornamental trees, shrubs or taller perennials can be placed to create an even more luxuriant, layered landscape.

Choosing the Best Plant Size & Height for Garden Layering

When choosing your plants or bulbs for a layered flower bed or garden, don't forget to consider the natural, fully-grown height of the flower. Just as mixing colors can create a visual appeal, adding plants of different heights can complement your bulbs. In general, taller-growing plants and bulbs for landscape layers such as lilies, some crocosmia varieties, and gladiolus should be planted toward the back of the beds. Shorter plants and bulbs, such as begonias, tulips, and daffodils make for good front-facing plants. Just like in group photos—put the short ones in front!

However, you may want to make your own exceptions to that rule. For example, a shorter bulb may emerge and bloom early before the plant located in front grows large enough to screen it. Once the bloom period is passed, the larger, front plant will screen the maturing foliage of the shorter plant. A tall, lacy plant can be treated as a short plant since its delicate foliage won't hide others behind it.

Tips for Creating the Best Landscape Layers

When it comes to layered landscape design and choosing the best bulbs and plants for your garden, here are some key landscape layering tips to keep in mind:

  • Use plants of differing heights to complement each other, as well as your landscape structures.
  • Tall flowers like dahlias may be used in the corner of the garden or yard, where they are viewed from a distance.
  • Shorter-growing bulbs can be used at the bases of taller plants, trees, and other landscape elements.
  • Remember that a tall, full plant may look short and spindly for the first growing season or two. Try planting a group of young plants and thinning them as they mature, or fill in the empty spaces with annuals or some bulbs you lift in fall, giving you the opportunity to reassess the number you'll need to replant in the spring. To keep the garden interesting, try providing a variety of sizes all season long.

    Tall Bulbs for Landscape Layering

  • Lilies
  • Crocosmia
  • Gladiolus
  • Iris
  • Dahlias
  • Alliums
  • Short Bulbs for Landscape Layering

  • Begonias
  • Tulips
  • Daffodils
  • Hyacinths
  • Wrapping Up Landscape Planting

    It's our hope that you'll find this guide's information about layered planting useful. Figuring out an effective design for layering your green space to give it a more three-dimensional appearance should be a fun and engaging challenge, not something to dread and avoid doing. By following our advice, trusting your own instincts and choosing the right types and sizes of plants for the job, you'll greatly increase the likelihood of success. One more thing: If your first attempt at garden layering doesn't quite work out the way you'd hoped, don't stress about it. Just search our site to find a different shrub or plant to grow here or a better-suited flower to plant there—until you get it just right!

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