Add Contrast to Your Garden With Silver Foliage

Updated on July 6, 2019
Gloriousconfusion profile image

Diana was a Member of the Royal Horticultural Society. She & her family all love gardening. She enjoys photographing & painting plants too.

Thinking About Your Garden

Gardening is quite an art. You need to think about not only whether they are shade or sun lovers and what sort of soil and drainage they need, but also where they should be placed, what time of year they flower, how tall they are and whether they are invasive.

Once all that has been considered, it's also useful and enjoyable to think about leaf shapes and colour contrasts if you don't want your flower borders all looking too same-y.


A Bit of Thoughtful Planning Won't Come Amiss

A little forethought brings satisfying rewards and will take your garden out of the ordinary and into the spectacular.

5 Silvery Leafed Plants to Add to Your Garden

  1. Santolina Chamaecyparissus
  2. Mullein or Verbascum Bombyciferum
  3. Buddleia or Butterfly Bush
  4. Lavatera or Rose Mallow
  5. Globe Artichoke

I've kept the list short to make it easier to absorb, but if you want to read about more silver leaf plants, you might like my companion article: 5 Plants With Silver Leaves to Make Your Garden More Interesting

Santolina Chamaecyparissus
Santolina Chamaecyparissus | Source

1. Santolina Chamaecyparissus

This is a small shrub, no more than 2 feet (60 cm) tall, in the sunflower family. It is evergreen, has very silvery textured leaves, slightly woody stems and produces small yellow flowers in July and August. It needs full sun and well-drained, poor to moderately fertile soil.

Verbascum Bombyciferum or Mullein
Verbascum Bombyciferum or Mullein | Source

2. Verbascum Bombyciferum or Mullein

It grows well in full sun and poor, well-drained soil. Verbascum (Silver mullein) has furry silver leaves which spread out to about 3–4 ft (0.9–1.2 m) and grow to a height of about 4–6 ft (1.2–1.8 m) after 1–2 years.

It is a biennial or a short-lived perennial and does not bear flowers in the first year. Instead, it produces a spectacular furry silver rosette of leaves. The following year, small yellow flowers appear on silver furry stems about 4–6 ft (1.2–1.8 m) tall in mid to late summer for a disappointingly short period .

Budleia or Butterfly Bush
Budleia or Butterfly Bush | Source

3. Buddleia or Butterfly Bush

Buddleia are very attractive to butterflies, and for that reason are also known as butterfly bush. They can grow up to about 12 ft (3.7 m) high with a spread of 4–15 ft (1.2–4.6 m), but drastic pruning in early spring keeps them under control. They flower in summer, and it helps to deadhead them to encourage new flowers.

According to the gardening experts, they prefer full sun and fertile, well-drained soil, but mine grows happily in semi-shade on clay soil. I've also seen several of them growing out of cracks in a concrete parking area, and they are known to be invasive. But they certainly haven't misbehaved in my garden and have been growing modestly for 10 years without spreading, until I found a single seedling this year.

Lavatera or Rose Mallow
Lavatera or Rose Mallow | Source

4. Lavatera or Rose Mallow

I would call this glorious shrub one of the best value plants I know. I'm not talking about money, but about the fact that it has a particularly long flowering season and is very low maintenance. The specialists say that it blooms from summer through to the first frost, but my bushes started blooming with abundant flowers in late May, so that's about seven months.

It requires well-drained soil in a sunny or partially shaded position and benefits from heavy pruning in spring to encourage new growth. It will grow in poor soil and is fairly drought resistant, although in very hot weather it does need some watering.

It grows to a height and width of 3–6 ft (1–2 m).

Globe Artichoke
Globe Artichoke | Source

5. Globe Artichoke

They have beautiful, silvery-green, serrated-edged leaves. They are members of the thistle family and are cultivated as food, with large edible buds. If not harvested, they develop beautiful pale purple thistle heads.

They take up quite a lot of space in the garden when fully grown, spreading both outwards and upwards. They are about 4.6–6.6 ft (1.4–2 m) tall and about 4 ft wide. They like sun or partial shade and well-drained, light fertile soil, growing best in areas that have a mild winter and damp summer. The flower buds form in early summer, usually several on each stem. The best time to harvest them is when the buds are at least 3 inches in diameter but before they open into flowers, when they become inedible.

Although artichokes are grown as a vegetable, they are so good-looking that they can be planted in a flower bed, in which case it's probably best to grow them at the back of the flower border. That way, when the leaves start to fade, they are hidden by the plants in front of them and do not hide smaller plants because of their bulk.

In the right conditions, they are perennials and live for about five years. In colder climates they may only last for one season.

Which Tools to Use When Gardening

I was quite an experienced gardener before I started paying attention to collecting my own gardening equipment. It was easier for me than it might be for some of you, because I lived in the same street as my family—so I could get advice from them and borrow tools easily.

These are my best gardening tools.
These are my best gardening tools. | Source

It Helps to Have the Right Tools to Assist You When Gardening

  • The one at the bottom of the photograph is a weeder. Because it is long and narrow, it is easier to dig down into the earth than just using a trowel. I use it for planting out seedlings as well, simply because it is easier to dig a hole. In fact, it's my favourite gardening tool.
  • The one above that is a trowel, used for general superficial digging.
  • Then come the secateurs for cutting stems and deadheading. I've had mine for several years, and they are still sharp and efficient.
  • Above that are two tools for raking and softening the soil before planting. I don't use these quite so much, but they are still helpful around the garden.

Some people might prefer a more modest green or brown colour for their tools. But think about it. How often have you mislaid a tool in the garden because it has blended in with the surroundings to the extent that it has become invisible? I can't tell you the number of times I have spotted my lost tools quickly because of their stand-out colour!

Gardena 08965-30 Basico herramientas para Plantar y trasplantar, cortar Flores y hierbas Contiene 8950, 8935, 8754, 206 Equipamiento, 17,0 x 11,2 x 41,0 cm, Estándar
Gardena 08965-30 Basico herramientas para Plantar y trasplantar, cortar Flores y hierbas Contiene 8950, 8935, 8754, 206 Equipamiento, 17,0 x 11,2 x 41,0 cm, Estándar
These are the tools which I've been using for several years. They are very strong and hardwearing. I particularly like the very effective weeder and the sharp secateurs.

How do you choose your plants?

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© 2019 Diana Grant

Comments, Suggestions and Questions Are Welcome

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    • Gloriousconfusion profile imageAUTHOR

      Diana Grant 

      12 months ago from United Kingdom

      Peggy Woods - I've seen Dusty Miller (also known as senecio cineraria) growing, and always thought it very attractive, but I never knew its name until I read your comment and subsequently looked it up to see what it was.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      12 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Right now, I am using Dusty Miller in our backyard to give some silver colored contrast to my other plants. I had used mullein in the past as well as having grown some globe artichokes when I had more space. I like your other suggestions. Thanks!

    • Gloriousconfusion profile imageAUTHOR

      Diana Grant 

      12 months ago from United Kingdom

      Virginia Allain - I've noticed more mullein sprouting up in my garden than usual this year - we had a very wet and cold Spring in the UK and maybe that helped the seedlings to sprout

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      12 months ago from Central Florida

      I use silver a lot in my garden. Love the mullein which reminds me of childhood days in Kansas.


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