Silver is a surprisingly versatile foliage color that can be used to great effect in home landscapes. Planted in deep shade, silver perennials catch the light and brighten dark corners. In sunny gardens, silver foliage can stand out as an accent or fade into the background and help unify colorful borders. Whatever your desired effect, here are eight ways to use silver-leaved plants in your yard.
1. Create harmony in perennial borders.
Silver can act as a unifying hue in mixed borders, creating a neutral foil for colorful blooms. In this garden outside Boston, landscape architect Matthew Cunningham wove swaths of silver-leaved Russian sage
, USDA zones 5 to 9; find your zone
) and lamb’s ears (Stachys byzantina
, zones 4 to 9) among deep purple salvias (Salvia nemorosa
‘May Night’), lavender-colored alliums
and white-blooming peonies
2. Add drama to garden beds.
The silver foliage of a cardoon (Cynara cardunculus
, zones 7 to 9)
brings a bright spark to a perennial garden outside London. “
The cardoon acts as a punctuation mark,” says landscape designer Sam Butler, “drawing the eye and relieving what could be a monotonous spread of green.” Given their large size and bold leaf form, cardoons provide drama even from a distance.
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3. Brighten dark shade.
Silver foliage stands out like a ray of sunshine in shadowy gardens. Here, ‘Silver Shimmers’ lungwort (Pulmonaria
‘Silver Shimmers’, zones 4 to 9) brightens a low-light border.
Since most silver-leaved plants are native to the sun-drenched Mediterranean region, plants that thrive in shady or damp conditions can be difficult to come by. Butler’s favorite shade-loving silver plants include Astelia chathamica ‘Silver Spear’ and ‘Silver Falls’ Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum var. pictum ‘Silver Falls’).
4. Break up all green borders. Avoid foliage monotony
by interspersing bright silver and softer gray-green foliage among medium and dark green foliage plants. In this garden in St. Helena, California
, landscape designer Katharine Webster designed a low-water border peppered with silver-leaved Mediterranean perennials.
The border includes a loosely alternating pattern of medium green boxwood, dusty miller, jasmine, sweet-pea shrub and wormwood, between bands of lavender and low-growing lemon thyme.
5. Grow a light, airy canopy. Trees with silver and pale green foliage cast cooling pools of shade while still feeling light in a landscape. To take advantage of this effect, plant silver-leaved trees, such as olive (Olea europaea, zones 8 to 11) or European white birch (Betula pendula, zones 2 to 7), to provide a light, inviting shade over outdoor patios.
6. Highlight specimen plants as focal points.
Many silver plants have a wow factor that allows them to work as featured specimens. To show them off to best advantage, grow silver plants against dark green hedges or move potted containers in front of moody backdrops. Here, a silver-needled weeping blue atlas cedar
‘Glauca Pendula’, zones 6 to 9) stands out like a living sculpture against a slate-gray exterior wall.
Fluffy foxtail fern (Asparagus densiflorus ‘Myers’) shares space with trailing ‘Silver Falls’ dichondra.
7. Mimic a cascade.
Create an illusion of water with ‘Silver Falls’ dichondra (Dichondra argentea
‘Silver Falls’, zones 9 to 11) planted to spill over the sides of containers or to ripple down rock walls.
8. Contrast with deep purple foliage.
Make silver plants shine by planting them close to purple-leaved neighbors
or against dark fences
. In this backyard in San Jose, California, the designer created a dramatic vignette with a very simple planting scheme. A redwood fence with a semitransparent slate-gray finish sets the stage for feathery purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum
‘Rubrum’, zones 8 to 11) and brilliant silver wormwood (Artemisia
sp., zones 4 to 9).
via Silvery Plants Brighten Garden Beds