Catch The Drift on Mass Planting!

Catch The Drift on Mass Planting!

mass planting

Amber waves of grain are just the start! Creating a mass planting involves filling large areas with the same kind of plant. Turning a barren eyesore into a uniform block of color, texture, or motion.

These drifts and banks of continuous plants are ideal for drawing the eye, forming solid blocks of color, filling large areas in a hurry, and covering large areas of ground! Like seeing a field of one crop, or a landscape of one color - it draws the eye and pulls you right in!

So which plants are up to the challenge of sharing the spotlight?

The Art of Planting En Masse

Just imagine… An airy drift of Huron Sunrise Maiden Grass seed heads showing off their burgundy cloud of plumes and waving in the breeze, showing off against a bank of taller, dark Summer Wine® Ninebark in the background. Then a flowering block of Rainbow Happy Trails™ Roses fills the rest of the garden bed, punctuated by blocks of Yellow Star Tiger Lily and intersected by weaving rows of Pink Autumn Sage spires. In the very center, a grouping of tall Twilite Prairieblues False Indigo.

This is the art of planting en masse!

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By grouping and massing multiples of the same plant and keeping to a color scheme in the garden, you’ll create superb impact and continuity. Simplifying the garden design process by repeating this theme throughout the landscape just seems to pull everything together and make you look like the landscape design diva!

While more is not always better, taking a showy plant, a color theme, or a unique characteristic and then multiplying it - seems to only magnify these traits tenfold!

The subtle harmony of using the same species, or type of species as the only plant, creates a uniform effect and pulls entire sections of landscape together beautifully! By planting in large block plantings, in large groupings and tight clusters, or in rows that are winding or straight, you will inspire calm and Zen, create drama and impact, or meld different parts of your landscape together!

Planning & Spacing Mass Plantings

Mass planting landscape design does take some planning. There is no planting willy-nilly. Select plants for your growing zone and sun requirements first, then check on their mature size and spread.

Whether you use all the same specific plants, all the same type of plant species, or different plants that are all the same color, you'll achieve a unique look! Especially if you alternate banks, rows, and groupings of the same color combination or texture!

Groupings & Blocks

Groups of 3, 5, 7, or more, whether they are spaced strategically or in uneven natural spacings, create an incredible impact! Combine clusters of different types of plants to create a 'meant-to-do-that' naturalized look in the garden bed or border.

Formal vs Informal

Formally pruned and sheared rows of the same hedge plant, plants spaced with military precision, or boxes of one plant type around garden borders - especially when repeated around every planting area and your home, tie in every aspect of your yard for a burst of major curb appeal. Try planting concentric rings or squares, straight hedges, or plants spaced out by patio stones to create a grid for a formal effect without needing too many plants!

garden formal

For a more low-maintenance and carefree look, informally spaced groupings and winding rows of shrubs and plants are left to grow naturally and unpruned. Cottage and country garden borders and hedges that zigzag or weave let you relax and feel surrounded by nature at its finest! Try to mimic nature with drifts that taper off into each other and create a rolling hills effect and follow the contours of your landscape.

  • Evenly spaced plants in rows
  • Alternating rows or zig-zags
  • Checkerboard or alternating grids
  • Banks of color on a berm or hillside
  • Round, triangular, or irregular groupings and clumps
  • Concentric circles or curved swaths


After you have decided on a style and selected what plants you’d like to use, now it comes down to spacing out your plants aesthetically!

To avoid overcrowding, your plants should be spaced around their mature width. Called 'planting on center' where you measure from the trunk or center of one plant to the trunk or center of the next. This ensures there is no competition for resources and light.

garden spacing

Informal plantings don’t have measured spacing and have looser configurations (still allowing for mature spread). For formal plantings, once you’ve prepared the ground, create a grid using landscaping paint, flags/markers, or some other means to mark the area. Lay out your hardscapes and pavers (if using), and then plant! Try these handy pre-planned garden design layouts!

Keep the areas weeded between plants until they grow together and can block weeds on their own, and maintain a 3-4 inch thick layer of arborist bark chips or other mulch types to reduce weeds and moisture evaporation.

Mass Planting Care and Maintenance

However you choose to employ this landscaping technique, mass plantings reduce how much work you must perform by reducing the individual needs of a wider variety of plants!

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When it’s the proper time to shear or prune your mass planting, get all your equipment ready and have a tarp and wheelbarrow at the ready. Then perform the same task at once - saving you time. 

A mass planting doesn’t need to happen in a day. Gradually expanding your massing with the addition of a few new plants each year - all growing into a congruent bank or drift over time.

Types of Mass Planting Applications

Planting en masse can be as simple as adding spring ephemerals throughout your lawn to give you a burst of spring color while the grass is getting going in the spring, to fully replacing large swaths of ground with the same

formal garden

bunching bulbs, rhizomes, or corms! You can tie in an entire landscape by mass planting one plant grouping into every garden bed on your property to maintain a common thread everywhere!


Or as complex as constructing a harmonious wave of solid color on a large scale by installing hundreds of the same variety of plants in measured orderly-spaced grids!

Bring structure and uniformity, be formal or informal, without worrying you will be introducing monotony to your garden - large or small!

Do It Themselves Massing Plants

Need plants that spread and fill the landscape on their own? Check out these naturalizing, colonizing, and self-rooting plants that politely take over without much work from you! Spreading by runners, stolons, self-seeding, or self-rooting stems, these plants also save you time without getting into too much trouble by jumping their borders and coming up where they’re not wanted.

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  • Ajuga
  • Allman’s Compact Dogwood
  • Bugbane - Queen of Sheba
  • Bush Honeysuckle
  • California Lilac
  • Chokeberry Bushes
  • Drift Roses
  • English Ivy
  • Fall-Planted Spring Bulbs
  • Ostrich Ferns
  • Pachysandras/Japanese Spurge
  • Rozanne Geranium
  • Silver and Gold Dogwood
  • Strawberries
  • Sumac - Try Gro-Low 
  • Viburnum
  • Vinca/Periwinkle

Mass Planting Slopes & Hillsides

Hard-to-mow hillsides and eroding slopes need plants that can handle a wide variety of conditions while slowing rainwater and holding soil firmly in place. Many of these plants root when their stems touch the ground, spread by runners and stolons, naturally colonizing and naturalizing to fill more space!

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  • Arnold Dwarf Forsythia
  • Audubon® Native Prairie Rose
  • Autumn Amber Sumac
  • Catmint
  • Cotoneaster
  • Dianthus
  • Euonymus/Wintercreeper
  • Ferns
  • Gold Tide Forsythia
  • Ground Hug® Aronia
  • Honeysuckle Vines
  • Maiden Grass
  • Mints
  • Perennial/Hardy Geranium
  • Potentilla
  • Creeping Sedum
  • Spreading/Creeping Juniper
  • Strawberries
  • Vinca/Periwinkle

Fill Barren ‘Useless’ Ground, Hell-Strips & Parched Landscapes

These plants can survive the toughest, xeric landscapes without flinching! Surviving drought, poor soil, compacted conditions, and full sun requires a plant with just the right stuff!

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  • Daylilies
  • CatmintCranesbill/Perennial Geranium
  • Muhly Grass
  • Perennial Onion
  • Poppy Mallow
  • Prairie Dropseed Grass
  • Red Hot Pokers
  • Russian Sage
  • Salvia
  • Stonecrop Sedum
  • Spurge
  • St. John’s Wort
  • Native Yarrow
  • Yucca

Massing Plants in Wet Areas

Soggy ground, Rain Gardens, occasionally flooded areas, along banks of streams and ponds, or just an area with very poor drainage? You need plants that are up to the riparian challenge.

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  • Audubon® Native Swamp Rose
  • Black Chokeberry (Aronia)
  • Horsetail
  • Hot Lips Turtlehead
  • Liriope/Lilyturf
  • Loosestrife
  • Marsh Marigold
  • Pampas
  • Red Twig Dogwood (Cornus)
  • Rush and Sedge
  • Summersweet (Clethra)
  • Swamp Privet
  • Willow
  • Winterberry/Inkberry (Ilex)

Unique and High-Impact Plants

Need to make more of a spectacle? Try some of these plants with unique color and form!

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  • Agave
  • Agapanthus
  • Allium
  • Anise Shrubs
  • Sheared or Natural Boxwood
  • Colorful Coral Bells
  • Elephant Ears
  • Flax Lily
  • Hollyhock
  • Indian Pink
  • Mondo Grass
  • Silver Mound Artemisia
  • Purple Lance-Leaved Loosestrife
  • Privet
  • Sheared Yews
  • Yucca

The Backyard Prairie

Create a no-mow natural-shaped drift for beneficial insects and wildlife to roam while filling an unused area in your backyard with something nicer to look at than steady green turf that takes water, time, money, and energy to keep tidy!

Mixing tall and short native and Ornamental grass, with pollinator-friendly perennials, and self-seeding wildflowers gives you a varied en masse look and saves you the struggle of mowing except once or twice a year! Create a buffer strip between your backyard prairie with a strip of native Buffalo grass or some other type of mass-planted lawn alternative to keep the neighbors happy.

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  • Blue Flax
  • Butterfly Weed
  • Coneflower
  • Culvers Root
  • Daisies
  • Goldenrod
  • Ironweed
  • Joe-Pye Weed
  • Grasses
  • Tickseed


Mass Planting in the Shade

Fill the understory with gorgeous plants that are adapted to less sun and add a lushness beneath the canopy.

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  • Astilbe
  • Barrenwort
  • Bergenia
  • Bleeding Hearts
  • Boxwood Hebe
  • Brunnera
  • Bush Honeysuckle
  • Buttonbush
  • Cleyera
  • Coral Bells/Foam Flower
  • Corydalis
  • Daphne
  • Ferns
  • Flowering Currants
  • Hosta
  • Kerria
  • Lenten Rose
  • Lily of the Valley
  • Lungwort
  • Solomon's Seal
  • Sweet Box
  • Sweetspire
  • Turtlehead

Envelop Your Landscape and Yourself in a Sea of Consistency!

Fill your landscape with all the same hue or texture, and say goodbye to staring at blank, bare ground! Make a statement on a grand scale with the help of Nature Hills Nursery! 

Happy Planting!

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