Color Commentary: Using Gray Foliage in the Garden

Color Commentary: Using Gray Foliage in the Garden

Gray leaves make the colors around them simply pop. See how. 
Plants with gray or silver foliage play a pivotal role in any garden plan. At first glance, these humble, unassuming annuals and perennials might not scream for attention at the garden center, but when you mix them with more brightly colored plants you soon realize why they need to be on your shopping list. That’s because these beauties provide a cooling, visual respite when tucked between their bolder neighbors.

In addition, gray and silver leaved plants maintain their good looks from spring until fall, holding the color fort while other plants come in and out of bloom. Many of these easy care plants also sport fuzzy or finely cut leaves that add an extra textural element to your garden. Plus, a few even have pretty flowers, generally in shades of pink, white, or blue.

Gray and silver-leafed annual flowers are ideal for window boxes, hanging baskets, pots, planters, and the landscape. Some of our favorites include: dusty miller, eucalyptus, dichondra, annual dianthus, flowering kale, and licorice plant.

Perfect perennials with gray or silver leaves work well along the edge of the flower border or tucked between large drifts of showier plants such as coreopsis, daylily, or coneflower. Some of our top perennial picks include: artemisia, perennial dianthus, Japanese painted fern, juncus, lamb’s ears, lavender, Russian sage, Texas sage, brunnera, and snow-in-summer. 

And don’t forget that gray and silver leaved plants look terrific in fresh cut arrangements, too. Be sure to plant enough so that you can clip extra branches to mix into summer bouquets. Just as they do in the garden, gray- and silver-leaved plants will play a starring role in the vase as well.


Written by Doug Jimerson