Mauve flowers of foxglove 'Serendipity'

Plants with spire-shaped flowers

Discover plants with tall flower spikes that will add a vertical accent to your borders.

Every border should contain some upright flower spikes – they add height and drama and contrast beautifully with other flower shapes, such as daisies and umbellifers.

As spikes don’t take up much room on the ground, they’re perfect for smaller spaces. And they’re great for wildlife, too – bees will systematically climb the spike, extracting nectar as they go.

Every border should contain some upright flower spikes – they add height and drama and contrast beautifully with other flower shapes, such as daisies and umbellifers.

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As spikes don’t take up much room on the ground, they’re perfect for smaller spaces. And they’re great for wildlife, too – bees will systematically climb the spike, extracting nectar as they go.

Tall plants like hollyhocks and delphiniums look good when ‘anchored’ by lower-growing plants, such as Geranium psilostemon, which hides their less attractive bases. Meanwhile, lower growing plants such as Salvia nemorosa provide interest in the middle or front of a border.

Here are some flowers with spikes to try – plant them in blocks or drifts and repeat throughout the border.

Every border should contain some upright flower spikes – they add height and drama and contrast beautifully with other flower shapes.

Lupins

From white to deep red, the flower spikes of lupins come in a wide range of colours. They look good in cottage gardens and more contemporary schemes – try growing them with roses, hardy geraniums or alliums. Be sure to protect the young growth from slugs and snails.

Crimson lupin 'Gallery Red' with deep-purple irises and grasses
Crimson lupin ‘Gallery Red’ with deep-purple irises and grasses

Foxgloves

Foxgloves add beautiful vertical accents in a range of pastel colours, from white to peach and from pink to purple. The biennial varieties self-seed readily, while perennial types come back year after year. Great in cottage-style gardens and shady borders.

A variety of pink and white foxgloves
A variety of pink and white foxgloves

Salvia nemorosa ‘Ostfriesland’

Salvia nemerosa ‘Ostfriesland’ has spikes of violet-blue flowers from summer through to autumn. It’s perfect for growing towards the front of a sunny border and looks great contrasted with hardy geraniums or Alchemilla mollis.

Violet salvias with pink hardy geraniums
Violet salvias with pink hardy geraniums

Foxtail lilies

The flower spikes of foxtail lilies (Eremurus) tower over borders in early summer. They come in a range of colours and make an architectural statement towards the back of the border. They look great in gravel gardens and dry, sunny borders.

Tall orange flowers of foxtail lilies
Tall orange flowers of foxtail lilies

Verbascums

Verbascums love sun and dry conditions, so are well suited to sunny borders and gravel gardens. They come in a wide range of colours and vary in height – ‘Clementine’ (pictured) reaches 1.5m, while ‘Blue Lagoon’ is a more modest 75cm.

Peach verbascum flowers
Peach verbascum flowers

Red hot poker

Red hot pokers (Kniphofia) have narrow, strap-like foliage and upright flower spikes in glowing shades of yellow, orange and more subtle pale green and white. Grow in a sunny spot.

Yellow-green flowers of red hot poker 'Limelight'
Yellow-green flowers of red hot poker ‘Limelight’

Veronicastrum

Veronicastrums have delicate, slightly twisting flower spikes in shades of lilac and white. They look great with umbellifers such as Ammi majus, shown here and look good in contemporary planting schemes. They’re very popular with pollinators.

Feathery, white veronicastrum flowers planted with pink and white umbelliferous flowers
Feathery, white veronicastrum flowers planted with pink and white umbelliferous flowers

Bear’s breeches

Acanthus spinosus is an architectural plant with flower spikes that look similar to foxgloves from a distance, and a lush rosette of glossy green leaves at the base. A dramatic plant for growing in gravel or at the back of a large border.

Spires of pale-pink and dark-purple bear's breeches flowers
Spires of pale-pink and dark-purple bear’s breeches flowers

Delphinium

Delphiniums bear spectacular spikes in shades of white, pink and blue. They’re extremely susceptible to slugs, so be sure to protect them early in spring. As they can reach quite a height – over 2m – they need subtly staking – best done while the plant is still small.

Pale-pink and pale-blue delphiniums
Pale-pink and pale-blue delphiniums

Hollyhocks

Cottage garden favourites, hollyhocks (Alcea rosea) are biennials or shortlived perennials that flower for a long time in summer. They come in a wide range of flower colours, from white to almost black, and can reach 2m tall. Their flowers are loved by bees and butterflies.

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Crimson centred, peach flowers of hollyhock 'Halo Apricot'
Crimson centred, peach flowers of hollyhock ‘Halo Apricot’
Bronze-magenta snapdragons
Bronze-magenta snapdragons

Other plants with spire-shaped flowers

Every border should contain some upright flower spikes – they add height and drama and contrast beautifully with other flower shapes, such as daisies and umbellifers.

As spikes don’t take up much room on the ground, they’re perfect for smaller spaces. And they’re great for wildlife, too – bees will systematically climb the spike, extracting nectar as they go.

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