How to Layer Flower Beds

A variety of colorful layered flowers

A full, naturally-looking flower bed requires some foresight in order to ensure each plant has the best growth opportunity and that the placement of your plants gives you the outcome you desire. When planning for a layered flower bed, create a visual by using a picture from the internet or a gardening book. Then do your research and start planting.

Step 1 - Pick the Right Plants

Check the USDA Hardiness Zones map to find out what region you fall into. When choosing plants, make sure your region matches the recommendations.

Step 2 - Gather Information

Layered flowers and plant in a yard

Create a list of the flowers you love and you’ve identified as likely to thrive in your region. Then gather information about each one that includes planting season, germination, blooming season, length of blooms, spacing requirements, and overall maximum size of the plant including both height and width.

Step 3 - Plan Layout

Backed with information about each plant, sketch out a design freehand, use graph paper, or have fun with an online graphic design program. However you decide to record it, the important thing is to have a visual plan for your flower beds. Always plan for the maximum size of the plant. Although things might seem a little empty in the beginning, you will thank yourself when your plants reach maturity. In the meantime, you can fill in blank spots with bird baths, potted plants, and other yard decor. Plan to plant groups of three or other odd numbers and avoid making straight rows for a more natural vibe.

When deciding on the plants for your bed, make sure you have a combination of types. For example, include some shrubs and perhaps a small tree along with reliable perennials, herbs, bulbs, and some annuals for a splash of color and an opportunity to fill in seasonal holes.

Your plan should start in the front of the flower bed with low-to-the-ground options like groundcover, crocus, succulents, and blue star creeper. Fill the space behind your groundcover with smaller or shorter plants on your list like geranium, begonia, woodruff, and short grasses. Be sure to leave adequate space between plants for growth. Next move into the row of one to three-foot plants like hyacinth, lilies, gaura, and daisies. Behind that, go for the striking shrubs intermingled with tall thin plants. For your back row include tall sunflowers, canna lilies, or hollyhock as a backdrop against the fence.

Step 4 - Plan for Seasonal Changes

Yellow flowers growing out of the snow

You’ll want to consider how your layered flower bed will change from spring through winter and design it with that in mind. Overlap plants to take over for each other as the seasons change. For example, place daffodil and Easter lily bulbs next to each other so that when the daffodils die back, the lilies are pushing through. Also remember that many plants can be divided as they grow which provides additional plants for that space or another one in your yard. Divide daylilies and hostas very early in the season or at the end of the season before there is any chance of a freeze.

Step 5 - Make Adjustments as Needed

One of the most important things to realize about layered beds is that the living items may not always perform exactly as expected. Be prepared to make adjustments throughout the season and into next year as smaller plants get overtaken by a bushy neighbor, or the bulbs fail to bloom. Update your master diagram as you make changes so that you remember what plants need replaced or thinned next year, and where you have a void from a plant you pulled at the end of the season.