What indestructible plant would you recommend for borders?
February 27, 2021 8:49 AM   Subscribe

I'm doing some guerilla gardening on our housing estate, and there are some borders where I'd like to establish some plants that will gradually spread on their own and require no maintenance.

The borders in question are along a paved sidewalk next to a parking lot. There is no grounds maintenance so it always fills with weeds like grasses or thistles. I remove the weeds periodically, but I'd like to plant something that looks nicer, doesn't get too tall or messy, benefits insects, and can hold its own against weeds and neglect.

I'm considering campanula or mint. Creeping thyme would be nice but in my experience not hardy enough. Anything else I should consider?

This is in London, UK. The location is sunny and fairly dry.
posted by snarfois to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Black eyed Susan
Verbena bonariensis (annual but it reseeds like champ)
Sedum - both creeping (Angelique) or other.

Stipa (feather grass)
Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’
Any Panicum
posted by sciencegeek at 8:57 AM on February 27

posted by aniola at 9:07 AM on February 27 [2 favorites]

I'm in the US, but I think these are plants that are okay.
Sage is really hardy, spreads prettily, nice to harvest.
Some thyme established itself on a slope in my yard, to my surprise. I think there were seeds in old soil I put there.
on 2 separate occasions, I have been given a bunch of hostas and they are very hardy.
Daylilies - in the US, they plant lilies that don't spread much in landscaping areas, but wild daylilies will fill an area happily.
yellow flag iris


I don't care much for lawn, but grasses often do well, and look quite nice unmown. Grass seed is inexpensive.

aside: What have you got against thistles? I love them.
posted by theora55 at 9:40 AM on February 27

Verbena bonariensis (annual but it reseeds like champ)

This is a common sight in San Francisco and I love it here. It genuinely requires zero care, and seems to thrive on neglect. It gets quite tall in SF, maybe 3-4 feet, and can form these beautiful stands that lazily bow in the breeze.

Common calamint (or any of the calamints hardy to London) would make a nice interspersed companion planting.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 9:50 AM on February 27

Lavender is perfect for this when it grows, but I'm struggling to get mine started. Because of lock-down, I may succeed this year (last year I was distracted at the most important point in time), but that all points to the fact that, for me at least, lavender needs some care in the the beginning. Then it becomes a fragrant, sturdy, solid cover which weeds can't penetrate.
The sturdiest plant I have is a sage. It's glorious, the flowers are very pretty and filled with bees in the season. The leaves stay on for a really long while into the winter. It is from one of those little plastic pots from the supermarket. It's not really spreading, just the same plant growing very large, from kitchen counter size to more than 2m wide and about 1.60 high. I cut it down a bit sometimes, but it doesn't need any care at all. I'm going to plant some more when it thaws here.
posted by mumimor at 10:29 AM on February 27 [1 favorite]

Phlox, short varieties like Sugar Stars.


Ezscholtzia, Californian poppy.

There's a seed mix I believe available in UK called "farmers nightmare" that would work for you.

2nding strawberries, any of the larger thymes.

With some of my spaces I try to establish red clover, and then plant other things into it, I have several at the moment in the hectare range but it persists once established. In very hard situations I get it going from pots.
posted by unearthed at 10:58 AM on February 27

Bergenia, big leaves, hard pink or white flowers, is very tough, persists in dry sites, spreads far and wide.

Eupatorium, a tall sedum. Can become wide persistent clumps.

The farmers nightmare mix above has yellow rattle, a parasitic plant that reduces grass growth, very useful when establishing wild flower spaces.
posted by unearthed at 11:12 AM on February 27

Violets are pretty indestructible with enough water and space. You might have to consider how far they can spread, though, since they will take over wherever they’re planted.
posted by corey flood at 11:29 AM on February 27 [1 favorite]

Alyssum saxatile, "basket-of-gold" is a nice little border plant with a long springtime bloom season, tough as nails and tends to self-sow.
posted by drlith at 12:53 PM on February 27 [1 favorite]

posted by jgirl at 1:03 PM on February 27

Rosemary sounds like the perfect solution - comes in short, medium and taller varieties and takes well to hedging if you are so inclined. Bees love it, it's drought-tolerant and you literally don't have to do anything to it once established. It is a go-to plant for difficult spaces where I live - coastal Northern California. Smells divine when you brush by it or crush a little between your fingers.
posted by flowergrrrl at 2:21 PM on February 27 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Great answers, thanks everyone!
posted by snarfois at 4:32 PM on February 27

posted by matildaben at 6:42 PM on February 27

If you do consider mint, it grows like a weed and spreads horizontally - if it's next to a garden then the neighbours will hate you. However, with one plant to start you can take infinite cuttings.

Given London has rain and not too much heat, I also think standard thyme would be nice if you can get it to start. Poppies might also work (and self-seed). You might also check for wildflower seed mixes.
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 9:37 PM on February 27


Borage will reseed itself and you can use the star shaped flowers in food
posted by kitten kaboodle at 1:14 AM on February 28

« Older Looking to print a custom plastic sign (from PDF)...   |   Any experiences with convertible... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments