Gardening With Color

Gardens are the essence of color. Plant the right hues to create a warm and inviting backyard space.

Visitors will experience a garden differently depending on what color scheme the flowers and foliage create. They may find it tranquil or invigorating, simply because of how the garden’s colors work together. Wildlife visitors are drawn to color, too. With the right hues, you can invite birds, butterflies and more to your backyard. Ready for your lesson in color? Let’s begin!

Embrace the Classics
Blues, purples and pinks are favorites for gardeners. For some beautiful purple and blue flower options, look to lavender, campanulas, salvia and lupines. Equally nice are pink blooms like purple coneflowers, cosmos, and hollyhocks. Don’t overdo it, though. Flowers in the purple, pink and blue color range give the garden a lovely watercolor look, which can have a very peaceful and relaxing effect on visitors strolling along the garden path. However, stand back 10 feet or more from the garden, and it’s a completely different effect. The colors tend to blend together so well that the garden loses much of its definition. Onlookers will see only a bluish or pinkish blur.

Gardening With Color | Birds & BloomsMATHISA_S/ISTOCK
MATHISA_S/ISTOCK Hollyhock
Gardening With Color | Birds & BloomsWALTERS GARDENS, INC
WALTERS GARDENS, INC Catmint
Gardening With Color | Birds & BloomsWALTERS GARDENS, INC
WALTERS GARDENS, INC Yarrow
Gardening With Color | Birds & BloomsANGELAFOTO/ISTOCK
ANGELAFOTO/ISTOCK Rosemary
Gardening With Color | Birds & BloomsCHRISTIAN MUELLER/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
CHRISTIAN MUELLER/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM Jupiter’s Beard

Add Contrast
To break up your pink and purple garden, you’ll want to look to the next color grouping—oranges, reds and yellows. These shades create an atmosphere that is invigorating, uplifting and feisty! Choosing plants like black-eyed Susans, poppies, zinnias and Mexican sunflowers will make you feel happy and energized in no time.
Many of those warm-colored flowers will also welcome pollinators and birds to the garden. For example, butterflies can’t resist the bright blooms of sunflowers and butterfly weed. Nearly every red tubular flower, like penstemon or salvia, will attract hummingbirds, and Mexican sunflower seeds are irresistible to goldfinches and other seedeaters. 

Gardening With Color | Birds & BloomsWALTERS GARDENS, INC
WALTERS GARDENS, INC Black-eyed Susan
Gardening With Color | Birds & BloomsHERREID/ISTOCK
HERREID/ISTOCK Butterfly Weed
Gardening With Color | Birds & BloomsCONSTANTGARDENER/ISTOCK
CONSTANTGARDENER/ISTOCK Goldenrod

The No Color Rule
You might not think of white flowers as a colorful garden staple, but they are. Including enough white flowering plants and those with silver-gray foliage is an important aspect in planning any garden. Strive for a garden that has 30 percent of its plants fall in this category.

Gardening With Color | Birds & BloomsCENKERTEKIN/ISTOCK
CENKERTEKIN/ISTOCK Alyssum
Gardening With Color | Birds & BloomsTERRY WILSON/ISTOCK
TERRY WILSON/ISTOCK Shasta Daisy

White flowers or silver-gray foliage brighten up the garden, giving it a fresh look. This is especially important in the heat of summer or at the end of the season when the garden begins to take on a tired look. If you have some white baby’s breath or chamomile planted throughout the garden, their white blooms will add a cheerful touch. The same thing happens when woolly lamb’s ears, Greek mullein and gray santolina are thrown in the mix, because all of them have silver-gray foliage.

Gardening With Color | Birds & BloomsBERNHARD RICHTER/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
BERNHARD RICHTER/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM Helichrysum
Gardening With Color | Birds & BloomsSAVANY/ISTOCK
SAVANY/ISTOCK Gray Santolina

Along with other colors, white flowers also attract plenty of beneficial insects. Ladybugs, lacewings, and hoverflies hunt pests like aphids and are just a few of the helpful insects you can expect to find in your garden. Having abundance of these insects in the garden translates to a garden mostly free of pests, so you don’t need pesticides.

Don’t Forget Foliage 
Finally, embrace color and texture in any garden by taking advantage of different types of foliage. There are many interesting shades of green and gold foliage, as well as purple and red in plants like red rubin basil or shiso. The endless varieties of shapes and textures of the leaves will keep any garden visitor interested in the landscape.

Mugwort, although invasive in some areas, is a great perennial with red stems and deeply cut leaves, which are green on top and silvery underneath. When a breeze comes, this plant shimmers. Bronze fennel, with bronzy green foliage and yellow flowers, is a tall plant making an attractive statement wherever it grows.

There’s the fine foliage of fountain grass and the leathery feel to tulip or iris leaves. All of these plants create interest, complement flowers and make the garden a true place of beauty.

Variegated foliage is nearly a whole garden world by itself, with a great many variegated thymes, dianthus, oreganos and more. Use a bit of care with some golden variegations in foliage, though, because they sometimes clash if planted next to chartreuse or bright pink flowers. Intermixing variegated foliage with rich solid leaf colors of any shade will make your garden look stunning.

Gardening With Color | Birds & BloomsZORANI/GETTY IMAGES
ZORANI/GETTY IMAGES White Veronica speedwell adds brightness among purple salvia
Top Picks for Color

Gardening With Color | Birds & BloomsKUNG41819/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
KUNG41819/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM Verbena

Flowers of Purple and Blue

  • Catmint
  • Rosemary
  • Verbena
Gardening With Color | Birds & BloomsHSVRS/ISTOCK
HSVRS/ISTOCK Rhododendron

Flowers of Pink 

  • Hollyhock
  • Yarrow
  • Rhododendron
Gardening With Color | Birds & BloomsBILDAGENTUR-ONLINE/ALAMY
BILDAGENTUR-ONLINE/ALAMY Rue

Flowers of Yellow 

  • Black-eyed Susan
  • Goldenrod
  • Rue
Gardening With Color | Birds & BloomsCZHAN/ISTOCK
CZHAN/ISTOCK Calendula

Flowers of Orange and Red 

  • Butterfly weed
  • Calendula
  • Jupiter’s beard
Gardening With Color | Birds & BloomsWALTERS GARDENS INC.
WALTERS GARDENS INC. Phlox

Flowers of White 

  • Phlox
  • Alyssum
  • Shasta daisy
Gardening With Color | Birds & BloomsAGNES KANTARUK/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
AGNES KANTARUK/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM Woolly lamb’s ears

Flowers of Silver and Gray 

  • Helichrysum
  • Gray santolina
  • Woolly lamb’s ears