Good Plants For Berms: What To Grow On A Berm


By: Mary Ellen Ellis

A berm can be a useful and an attractive part of your landscape, adding height and visual interest while also providing a wind or noise barrier or even changing and improving drainage. Whatever the reason you choose for creating a berm in your garden, don’t forget to choose and put in the best berm plants to make it really pop and look like more than just a random hill. Looking for some ideas for planting on a berm? Read on to learn more.

What to Grow on a Berm

A berm is essentially just a raised bit of the landscape, which you may choose to add to your yard for any variety of reasons: improved aesthetics, as a focal point, for a wind break, as a privacy screen, or to redirect drainage.

Regardless of the reason, your new berm will be just a hill until you add plantings to it that make practical sense and that add to the beauty of your garden. For instance, trees are an obvious choice if your berm is for privacy or blocking wind or noise. But you can also add any number of other plants to make a beautiful garden structure. Here are some great ideas for plants for berms:

  • Arborvitae. For screening and windbreaks, you’ll want some type of tree. Arborvitae grows narrow, dense, and tall. These trees also grow quickly and provide year-round cover.
  • Rose of Sharon. This pretty flowering tree/shrub provides some screening but in addition, the rose of Sharon produces bright, cheerful blooms all summer long.
  • Hackberry. This often-forgotten tree is tough and can tolerate dry soil, which is often what you end up with in a berm. Hackberry will also tolerate a lot of wind and pollution, making this a good choice for an urban or suburban wind and privacy screen.
  • Native grasses. Ornamental grasses are great for berms and provide some degree of screening, although less than trees do. Grasses have extensive roots and will help hold in the soil of the berm and resist erosion.
  • Cacti and succulents. If you have the right climate, use these desert-like plants, which won’t need to be watered often. The soil at the top of a berm can get dry easily, so these plants will thrive.
  • Perennial flowers. To add color and beauty to your berm, and for a mostly hands-off option, add in several different types of flowering perennials: black-eyed Susan, evening primrose, false indigo, hummingbird mint, and others.

Planting on a Berm

A landscape berm planting is not quite like your other beds. The ground is raised up and the soil can become too compacted and dry. To plant a successful berm, make sure you use good soil, cultivate it well, and choose plants that will help prevent erosion. Water your plants regularly, as the soil can dry out quickly. You can also use mulch around plants to reduce erosion and help keep moisture in the soil.

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About Berm Plants

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Any plant that is grown in mounds of soil called berms can be described as a berm plant. Berms are sometimes used to break up the monotony of a flat landscape, and they allow you to plant in areas where moisture is a problem. A berm can also make an eye-catching feature in your landscape. Designing, building and planting in a berm is not difficult, but plant selection is important.


What is a Landscape Berm?

A landscape berm is a catch-all term for a rounded mound of soil constructed to visually improve a landscapes layout, assist water run off to the correct drainage spots, or to create a privacy barrier.

Landscape Berm vs Raised Bed

A mound of dirt, isn’t that just a raised bed? While you could consider a big mound of dirt a raised bed there are some distinctions on design and function between berms and raised beds. A landscape berm is normally rounded and contains no retaining walls while raised beds are normally rectangular and are walled. Both can be used for plants and landscaping.

Berm Landscaping Ideas

  • Privacy Berm – You can construct a 2-foot wall to set aside areas of the garden or limit exposure to a neighbor. You can plant the berm with further barrier plants like trees or shrubs.
  • Native Bed Berm – Highlight the native plants in your yard by installing them on a berm.
  • Flowering Berm – Plant a small berm with loads of differently colored flowers for a focal point in your garden.
  • Vegetable Berm – Berms make excellent mini-planters. Plant veggies in a berm for ease of access and excellent drainage.

How to Create a Landscape Berm

Homeowners with some time, dirt, and other landscape resources can construct their own berms. It is a labor intensive project, so we highly recommend calling in the professionals. However, if you’re feeling spry, here are some tips on how to create a landscape berm. It’s also important to check with your town about whether a permit is needed for a Berm. Most professional landscape companies can pull permits on your behalf and save you some trouble.

Use online resources or the help of a local landscape designer to design your berm. You can choose a kidney bean, oval, or other designs – but keep it simple. Most berms are only one to two feet high.

Take time choosing your berm’s site. Choose a site that offers plenty of space or accomplishes the job you set out for. Double-check the site for any utilities like sprinkler heads. Mark your planned build area with a garden hose or outdoor paint.

Prepare your base by starting sod removal / cleanup at the border and work inward. Remove all grass, topsoil, and other debris.

Ideally, you’ll build the foundation with gravel or river rock for improved drainage though this isn’t necessary for small berms or yards with good drainage.

With the base down you can begin building your mound. Use a high-quality fill soil from your local garden supplier to evenly fill the mound. Tamp the dirt as you fill for a compact mass.

Ideally your berm will slope at a 5:1 ratio. For every 1 foot of dirt height, you will need 5 feet of base support. You also want to slope your berm for the best possible drainage. If one area of your berm slopes into the yard while the other slopes into a drain area, sculpt the berm with more slope on the drainage side.

Use simple landscape edging to provide an edge to the berm to decrease erosion. Back fill the edging with more dirt to hold it in place.

Wait until a good rain to check your berm. Check for any erosion or drainage issues and fix them as necessary.

If your berm holds solid, you’re ready to plant. Be careful not to choose any plants that will overgrow the berm or root through the bottom.

Hiring a Custom Landscaper for your Berm

A berm is only a rounded mound of dirt, but there might be more to berms than you think. Berms need to be built on the right spot, constructed with the appropriate material, sloped the right way, and then appropriately planted. While some homeowners can do this on their own many choose a custom landscaping company. You can do the work yourself or have a professional do it the right way the first try.

Installing Landscape Berms

Berms provide better drainage, create privacy, and add much more aesthetic appeal to your property. Consider installing a berm yourself or use the help of JS Enterprises for an excellent berm that matches your property and needs.


Berms are mounds of soil that slope into the surrounding landscape. Berms have a multitude of benefits and uses ranging from drainage to beautification of landscape design.Rain Gardens, bioswales and other elements of a sustainable landscape utilize berms, but berms can also be used individually to enhance a garden.

Follow these steps to help you build your berm(s):

Step 1: Choose the perfect place for your berm(s). The berm’s slope should be gradual to prevent erosion and blend into the surrounding garden. Crescent and kidney are the best berm shapes. There should be five feet of base for every one foot of berm height. Be mindful of berm placement as it can reroute water into parts of your landscape where it is not intended to go.

Step 2: Construct the shape of your berm. Create an outline of your berm and then dig out all sod and topsoil within the outline. Place a fill such as gravel or rubble in the hole and build up the berm to desired size, slope and shape. Keep fill about a foot or so away from the border of your berm as this area will be filled with topsoil. For a visual representation of berm layering please see: http://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/landscaping/implement/soil_berms.html.

Step 3: Apply layers to the berm. First, apply the clay soil layer over the entire berm and then rake it out and pat it down. Next, apply a layer of topsoil. Rake it out and pat it down. Spray water onto the topsoil layer to remove air pockets and then adjust thickness of soil layer according to desired plant coverage. Keep in mind that plants need at least 6 inches to a foot of soil to grow properly.

Step 4: Plant your berm with native plants, trees or shrubs.

  1. Construct your berm to be asymmetrical rather than symmetrical by placing the peak of the berm more towards one end than the other. Asymmetrical berms are more efficient.
  2. If plants are on the west or south slope of the berm they will receive more sunlight and therefore experience higher temperatures. Select plant coverage based on temperatures throughout the year to give plants the best chance of survival.
  3. Maintain a thick layer of mulch on the berm to prevent soil erosion after heavy rain.


Watch the video: How to Build Raised Garden Beds on Hillsides or Steep Slopes with no Soil or Water Erosion Easy DIY


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