19 Plants to Feature in Contemporary Home Gardens

Looking for plants to accentuate the unique features of your contemporary home? Wondering which trees, shrubs, perennials, grasses, and groundcovers are best for your property? In this article, certified master gardener Liz Jaros discusses the principles of contemporary home and garden design and suggests 19 plants to enhance and extend your 21st-century architecture.

Contemporary home plants. Close-up of blooming lavender in a sunny garden with an ornamental pond, rocks and low-growing bushes with purple-burgundy foliage against a blurred background. A Lavender bush is a sight to behold, with its slender, silver-green foliage and abundant spikes of fragrant purple flowers. Atop sturdy stems, the Lavender bush produces clusters of tiny, tubular flowers that bloom in purple.


If your home was built in the last ten years and has sleek, minimalist architectural features, its style is considered ‘contemporary.’ Exterior materials are likely stone, steel, glass, and wood, with a restrained color palette and limited ornamentation. Simplicity, sustainability, and geometry are all major priorities in contemporary home design.

The same principles apply to contemporary garden design. Think of the property around your contemporary home as an extension of its unique architecture, and you’ll be off to a great start. Create a layout that reflects and repeats the lines of your home’s structure and choose hardscape materials that harmonize architecturally. Finally, prioritize sustainability features such as water conservation, solar power, and recycled materials in the plan. 

When selecting plants for your contemporary home garden, consider form and foliage first, beginning with trees and shrubs that provide textural and structural interest without being unruly. Opt for native perennial species that are hardy in your zone and easy to maintain, limiting flower color to a single palette or sticking to one section of the color wheel

Planning a contemporary home garden does not have to be an overwhelming experience once the garden ‘bones’ are in place. To help you with plant selection, we’ve profiled 19 shrubs, trees, and perennials to get your contemporary garden juices flowing. Read on for a look at their unique characteristics, growing preferences, and maintenance requirements. 

Munstead Lavender

Munstead Lavender Seeds

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Munstead Lavender Seeds

Purple Coneflower Echinacea

Purple Coneflower Echinacea Seeds

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Purple Coneflower Echinacea Seeds

Oriental Nights Alyssum

Oriental Nights Sweet Alyssum Seeds

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Oriental Nights Sweet Alyssum Seeds

Mugo Pine

Close-up of Pinus mugo in the garden. Pinus mugo, commonly known as Mountain Pine or Mugo Pine, presents a picturesque sight with its compact, evergreen form and dense, dark green needles. The needles are short, stiff, and arranged in pairs, radiating around the branches in a dense fashion.
Slow, stylish, and versatile, perfect for modern landscapes.
botanical-name botanical name Pinus mugo
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 20-25 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-7

This soft-needled evergreen tree is slow-growing but highly attractive and easy to keep tidy. Its overall habit is rounded, but it can be encouraged to grow horizontally or vertically with targeted pruning. Mugo Pine’s blueish hue contrasts nicely with other traditional green foliage plants. 

On a contemporary property, Mugo Pine has filtering qualities and may provide relief from traffic noise or urban sound pollution. Stagger a row of ‘Columnaris’ to screen a neighbor or seclude a patio. Install a line of ‘Mini Mini’ for small-scale texture and geometry.  

Sugar Maple

Close-up of Acer saccharum tree branches with autumn foliage. Its leaves are large and deeply lobed, with serrated edges, turning vibrant shades of orange, red, and gold.
A year-round showstopper, perfect for modern landscapes.
botanical-name botanical name Acer saccharum
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 40-120 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-8

Providing four-season interest, relief from the sun, and a clean, columnar form, sugar maple fits right into a contemporary home landscape design. Its bright green leaves have five lobes and turn brilliant shades of red, orange, and yellow in the fall. 

Sugar maple’s bark and branches are light gray to gray-brown in color, and it has an attractive winter form. It’s highly resistant to insects and disease, which makes for relatively low maintenance. Park one at the Southwest corner of your property to shield your contemporary home from the hot afternoon sun and keep the utility bills in check. 

Parlor Palm

Close-up of many potted Chamaedorea elegans plants. Its slender stems bear clusters of feathery, pinnate leaves that arch gracefully outward, creating a soft and airy canopy. The foliage is a vibrant shade of green.
Create a tropical oasis with parlor palms in sleek planters.
botanical-name botanical name Chamaedorea elegans
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial to full shade
height height 6-16 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 10-12

If your contemporary home is located in a humid, tropical region, consider filling a long concrete planter with a row of parlor palms. This low-maintenance palm has compact, finely textured fronds that are bright green in color.

It grows well in containers but can also be planted directly in the soil. As an understory plant, parlor palm prefers dappled or indirect light and some protection from the hot sun. 

Paper Birch

Close-up of Betula papyrifera trees with green and yellow foliage in a park. Betula papyrifera, commonly known as the Paper Birch, presents a striking sight with its chalky white bark that peels away in thin layers, resembling paper. The tree's branches are slender and gracefully arching, adorned with delicate, triangular leaves.
Embrace modern mountain charm with elegant paper birch trees.
botanical-name botanical name Betula papyrifera
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 50-70 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-7

Giving off a modern mountain home vibe, paper birch is a go-to tree for contemporary garden landscapers, particularly in wooded and mountainous regions. Though it can be a little messy with its exfoliating bark and helicopter seed pods, this is such a beautiful tree, we think you’ll find it’s worth the fuss. 

Paper birch lends white, vertical interest to a landscape that might otherwise be low-slung, horizontal, and green. Its leaves are oval with serrated margins, and they turn brilliant shades of yellow in fall. Architects often design contemporary homes with a birch-peppered courtyard and a large glass wall to bring the outside in. As an added bonus, birch acts as a larval host to several moth and butterfly species.


Close-up of trimmed, square-shaped Boxwood bushes in a garden. Boxwood bushes are characterized by their dense, compact growth and small, glossy leaves, creating a neat and formal appearance. The foliage is evergreen and dark green in color.
Craft a sleek garden atmosphere with versatile boxwood shrubs.
botanical-name botanical name Buxus spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 2-10 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-9

Easy to shape and control, boxwood shrubs have a tidy, evergreen presence in the contemporary home garden. With small green leaves and a dense branching habit, boxwoods can be sheared into round, square, or pyramidal forms, depending on the species. 

Plant multiple boxwood shrubs in a row to extend your home’s foundation line or create a backdrop for smaller orb-shaped grasses. ‘Green Mountain’ has a conical shape and lends some height to the landscape, maxing out at five feet tall. ‘Emerald Jewel’ makes an ideal hedge. 


Close-up of a flowering Cinquefoil plant in a sunny garden. Cinquefoil is recognized for its delicate beauty, featuring clusters of bright, cheerful flowers atop slender stems. The blooms are bright yellow in color, boasting five distinct petals. The leaves are palmately compound, with five or more leaflets arranged symmetrically around the stem.
For effortless elegance, adorn your landscape with colorful cinquefoil.
botanical-name botanical name Potentilla x hybrida
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 2-4 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-7

Efficient, compact, floriferous, and very low maintenance, cinquefoil earns a place in many of today’s home landscapes. Its small, blue-green leaves are densely arranged along multi-stemmed branches radiating from a central axis, which makes shaping cinquefoil into a tidy orb an easy task.

Flowers are cup-shaped, averaging between one and three inches in width. They cover the shrub’s exterior for much of the summer in hues of red, yellow, pink, and white. Plant a string of ‘Happy Face Yellow’ cinquefoils around the arch of a backyard stone patio for a neat, sunny border. Choose ‘Creme Brulée’ for an all-white flower scheme that hits minimalist, contemporary notes. 

Maiden grass

Close-up of Miscanthus sinensis in a sunny garden. Miscanthus sinensis presents a stunning display with its graceful, arching foliage and airy plumes. The leaves are slender and green, with a silver midrib, forming dense clumps. Tall stalks rise above the foliage, bearing feathery plumes that start off pinkish and mature to a creamy white or silvery hue.
Add modern flair to your garden with non-invasive maiden grass.
botanical-name botanical name Miscanthus sinensis
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 4-12 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-9

This grass is threatening to the native flora. If you live in areas where this plant is classed as an invasive species, choose something else as a go-to for contemporary home applications. For those outside the invasive range, maiden grass has graceful, strappy leaves in shades of green, brown, and pink. They arch outward in a fountain shape, encircling the feathery seed plumes at their center.

For a small garden, try ‘Little Kitten,’ which maxes out at three feet.  Plant ‘Cosmopolitan’ for variegated green and cream foliage that adds structural interest. 

Hakone Grass

Close-up of Hakonechloa macra in a sunny garden. Hakonechloa macra captivates with its cascading, arching foliage that forms graceful mounds. The leaves are narrow and linear, with a vivid green coloration.
Transform your landscape with cascading Hakone grass varieties.
botanical-name botanical name Hakonechloa macra
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial to full shade
height height 1-2 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-9

This shade-loving, perennial grass features ten-inch strappy leaves that are chartreuse in summer and blueish-pink in fall. Perfect for a contemporary home built on a bluff or steep slope, Hakone grass has a cascading form that resembles flowing water when planted in large groups.

Small sprays of yellow-green flowers peek out above the leaves in summer, but they are often camouflaged by Hakone’s dense, mounding foliage. Choose ‘All Gold’ to replace traditional grass in a small-scale contemporary landscape. ‘Stripe it Rich’ gives you variegated leaves that help it stand apart from other grasses. 

Mondo Grass 

Close-up of Ophiopogon japonicus in a sunny garden. Ophiopogon japonicus, also known as Dwarf Mondo Grass, enchants with its dense clumps of evergreen, grass-like foliage that forms a low, carpet-like ground cover. The narrow leaves are a rich shade of green and arranged in tufts, providing a lush and uniform appearance.
Enhance your modern landscape with versatile mondo grass varieties.
botanical-name botanical name Ophiopogon japonicus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 6-18 inches
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 6-10

Also known as lilyturf, mondo grass is an evergreen groundcover from the asparagus family. Adaptable to both sunny and shady locations, mondo grass spreads by underground stolons to create a colony. In a contemporary home landscape, it often serves as a grass alternative or a decorative geometric feature.

Mondo grass tolerates heat and salt particularly well so it’s often incorporated into landscape designs for modern coastal homes. ‘Nigrescens’ has dark purple foliage that reads almost black, which is kind of cool against the steel and glass of contemporary architecture. ‘Nana’ is very dark green and small in stature at three to six inches tall. It resembles turf grass from a distance and tolerates moderate foot traffic. 


Close-up of Agave plants in a sunny garden. Agave plants are striking succulents that feature rosettes of thick, fleshy leaves with sharp, spine-tipped edges, radiating from a central point. The leaves have a green-gray tint.
Add a touch of desert chic with resilient agave plants.
botanical-name botanical name Agave spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 6-8 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 9-11

A tried and true desert landscape plant, agave gives off a contemporary vibe when paired with new construction that is slick and minimalist. With great tolerance for heat and drought, agave also ticks the sustainability box for many home gardeners. 

Agave’s leaves grow from a central rosette and radiate outward. Foliage is fleshy and finely-tipped with serrated or prickly margins. Agave blooms only once in its lifetime and it’s truly a sight to behold. Sometime between 10 and sometimes 80 years after planting, a towering spire of yellow flowers will soar to a height of up to 30 feet, which is truly a sight to behold. But this will only happen once in the plant’s lifetime. At the same time, the plant will produce pups that can be used to propagate more agaves.


Close-up of Hostas growing in a row in a sunny garden. Hostas are renowned for their lush, verdant foliage and elegant, mounding habit. The leaves are broad and heart-shaped, featuring attractive ribbing and variegation of white along the edges.
Elegant hostas add effortless beauty to contemporary landscape designs.
botanical-name botanical name Hosta spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial to full shade
height height 1-5 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-9

Simplicity in form and ease of care are major priorities for a contemporary home garden, and few perennial plants fit that requirement better than the hosta. In sizes ranging from dwarf to giant and colors ranging from blue to forest green, hosta can play a variety of roles in the landscape.

Leaves can be ovate, oblong, or strappy. They fan outward from a basal rosette at the soil surface in a form that’s neat and consistent. Plant 20 ‘Sum and Substance’ along the concrete walkway of your contemporary home or grid out 100 ‘Blue Mouse Ears’ in a shady patch where grass won’t grow. 

Lily of the Nile

Close-up of blooming Agapanthus in a garden with mulched soil. Agapanthus, commonly known as Lily of the Nile, presents a striking display with its elegant, globe-shaped clusters of trumpet-like flowers atop tall, sturdy stems. The blooms consist of tubular, star-shaped flowers of purple color. The strap-like leaves form dense clumps of glossy, dark green foliage.
Vertical accents for modern landscapes are provided by Lily of the Nile.
botanical-name botanical name Agapanthus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 1-4 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 8-11

Another plant that provides vertical structure in the modern landscape, Lily of the Nile features upright, narrow leaves that remain evergreen year-round in most zones. It also sends up one to two-foot sprays of umbel-shaped flowers in hues of purple, white, and pink each summer. 

Install Lily of the Nile in a horizontal planter box that marks your contemporary home’s property line, or plant groups of four in a checkerboard pattern with another upright perennial. Choose ‘Polar Ice’ for a restrained, white palette or ‘Blue Heaven’ for an understated light purple color scheme. 


Close-up of Speedwell plants in bloom in a sunny garden. Speedwell, belonging to the Veronica genus, showcases delicate spikes of small, vibrant flowers that bloom profusely atop slender stems. The blossoms come in blue. The lance-shaped leaves are arranged in opposite pairs along the stem.
Add a burst of color with spiky flowers in your garden.
botanical-name botanical name Veronica spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 1-4 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-9

Speedwell is a pollinator favorite that’s perfect for an eco-friendly landscape. Its spiky pink, purple, and white flowers add vertical interest while hitting modern garden notes. As a native to coastal, mountain, and piedmont regions, speedwell is a natural choice for contemporary homes in those areas. ‘Aspire’ has sharply-pointed, bright pink flowers. ‘Purple Illusion’ has a softer, more rounded form. 


Close-up of blooming colorful Coneflowers in a sunny garden against a blurry blue sky background. These herbaceous perennials boast large, daisy-like flowers with prominent, cone-shaped centers surrounded by striking, reflexed petals in shades of pink and white. The robust stems are adorned with coarse, lance-shaped leaves that provide a verdant backdrop to the vibrant blooms.
Invite pollinators with colorful daisy-like blooms in your garden.
botanical-name botanical name Echinacea spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 3-5 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-8

If your contemporary home is in an eastern or central prairie region of the United States, consider working some coneflower into the landscape. A friend to the bees and butterflies, coneflower is an important part of the ecosystem and an attractive, easy-to-grow perennial.

Blooms are daisy-like, with spiny central disks encircled by rays of elongated petals in shades of purple, pink, gold, red, and white. Leaves are lance-shaped near the bottom of sturdy stems and oval-shaped closer to the flower heads. Coneflower requires some deadheading but is otherwise low maintenance.


Close-up of flowering Lavandula angustifolia bushes. Its slender, linear leaves are a soft and silvery-green hue. Rising above the foliage, slender stems bear dense clusters of fragrant, tubular flowers in shades of lavender and purple.
Lure bees to your modern rock garden with aromatic lavender.
botanical-name botanical name Lavandula angustifolia
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 1-3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-9

An ideal choice for rocky or loamy soil, lavender works well in the modern rock garden. Highly fragrant and attractive to bees, lavender flowers are tubular, spiky, and upright. Species vary in color from dark purple to lavender to creamy white. Foliage is gray-green and feathery, offering great texture and contrast. 

Lavender can occupy a lot of space and still look tidy, which makes it perfect for contemporary settings. Choose ‘Imperial Gem’ for a rounded, shrub-like form that maxes out at two feet or ‘Platinum Blonde’ for a looser structure with light green, variegated leaves. 


Close-up of flowering Coreopsis plants in a garden. Coreopsis, also known as Tickseed, enchants with its cheerful and abundant blooms adorning slender stems. The daisy-like flowers feature vibrant, golden-yellow petals surrounding a prominent, dark brown center.
Invite summer cheer into your garden with vibrant tickseed blooms.
botanical-name botanical name Coreopsis spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial shade
height height 1-4 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-9

Another sandy soil favorite, tickseed will keep sending up cheerful yellow flowers from late spring to late summer if you’re willing to deadhead a bit. Small, daisy-like blooms cover most of the surface of this dome-shaped plant. Foliage is finely textured and densely arranged.

Plant tickseed alongside marigolds and zinnia for a restrained yellow color scheme, or use it to draw pollinators to your modern kitchen garden. ‘Sunfire’ has sheared petal edges and burgundy centers for a little pizzazz, while ‘Imperial Sun’ keeps things simple enough for a minimalist contemporary garden. 


Close-up of a flowering Lobularia maritima plant in a sunny garden. The tiny, four-petaled flowers come in shades of white, forming dense clusters that blanket the plant in a soft carpet of color. The foliage is small and lance-shaped, providing a lush backdrop to the profusion of blooms.
Transform your garden with alyssum’s fragrant, colorful carpet effect.
botanical-name botanical name Lobularia maritima
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 3-12 inches
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-9

With tiny, delicate blooms that resemble clover flowers, alyssum has an understated plant profile. When planted in a large group, however, it becomes something else altogether. Emitting a strong scent and spreading quickly to fill in a large area, alyssum becomes a colorful carpet that keeps blooming for most of the season, depending on where you live. 

In a contemporary home garden, use alyssum as a ground cover plant to insulate the soil and brighten up a dull patch of land. To hit minimalist garden notes, fill a standing planter with one of the taller varieties and let it spill gracefully over its sides. Alyssum is an annual plant, so it will not return next season, but it’s easy and inexpensive to grow from seed.


Close-up of a flowering Hylotelephium 'Sea Star' plant against a blurred background. This perennial succulent forms dense mounds of blue-green, serrated leaves. It sends up sturdy stems adorned with clusters of star-shaped, bright pink flowers, creating a striking contrast against the foliage.
Transform your landscape with stonecrop’s vibrant, drought-tolerant groundcover.
botanical-name botanical name Hylotelephium spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 3-10 inches
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-9

A prolific ground cover that tolerates drought and spreads quickly, stonecrop is heavily featured in contemporary garden design. This sun-loving succulent has fleshy leaves in shades of blue, green, gray, gold, and burgundy. The flowers are small and insignificant, but they do appear in summer or fall, depending on the species.

Plant stonecrop in the rock garden or as a lawn alternative. Choose ‘Sea Star’ for an aquatic vibe, as it resembles an aquarium plant, or ‘Angelina’s Teacup’ for a rolling chartreuse carpet of color. 


Close-up of a flowering Pachysandra terminalis plant. Pachysandra plant offers a verdant carpet of evergreen foliage that forms dense mats. Its glossy, oval-shaped leaves are deep green and arranged in whorls along creeping stems. Small, white, bottlebrush-like flower spikes rise above the foliage.
Transform your landscape with vibrant, year-round pachysandra groundcover.
botanical-name botanical name Pachysandra terminalis
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial to full shade
height height 6-12 inches
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-9

Pachysandra is a versatile plant that spreads easily and stays green year-round in most climates. A relative of the boxwood, pachysandra is native to Japan and China and looks great in almost any setting. Its toothed leaves are arranged in a whorled pattern around a central stem that shoots up from underground rhizomes. 

In a modern garden, pachysandra often replaces traditional turf grass or covers the roots of a mature tree. ‘Green Carpet’ is known for being the neatest variety with the most consistent leaf patterns and looks great in a geometric, contemporary bed. ‘Green Sheen’ has a slightly higher tolerance for sun and heat. 

Ask your local extension office before planting, as pachysandra has earned invasive status in some regions.

Final Thoughts

Think of the property around your contemporary home as an extension of the architecture, and incorporate plants that reflect its unique features. Look for hardscape and edging materials derived from the home’s exterior construction.

Choose plants that will be in harmony with your region and growing conditions to reduce strain on the environment. Focus on foliage and form while keeping flower color restrained to just one or two hues, and you’ll be well on your way to achieving the contemporary home garden of your dreams. 

native plants spring. Close-up of a flowering Echinacea purpurea plant in a spring sunny garden. Echinacea purpurea, commonly known as Purple Coneflower, boasts striking daisy-like flowers with prominent, raised centers surrounded by vivid, purple petals that gracefully reflex downward.

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A wooden raised bed filled with colorful flowers and lush green plants, basking in the sunlight. In the background, a garden teems with life, offering a vibrant backdrop to the tranquil beauty of the bed.

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