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GARDENS BY THE BAY

a montage of silver foliages

SILVER FOLIAGE PERENNIALS & THEIR COMPANIONS - 1


Our earlier plant partnership pages were mostly about flower colour. But the colour silver in a garden generally comes not from flowers but from foliage. The silvery effect is created when numerous tiny hairs covering the surface of leaves reflect sunlight with a silvery sheen. These hairs also catch and hold moisture in the leaves.

What do you picture in your mind's eye when you hear the word "silver"? In truth, silver is not just one colour or shade, but myriad variations as the montage above depicts.

Silver can serve many purposes in a garden setting, from the effect it creates by itself or in combination with certain other colours. Silver foliage is often described as neutral, soft, calm, soothing, refreshing, relaxing, even subtle. So use it to good advantage with any of the partnership ideas below.


* Watch for the animated hummingbird and butterfly with the plants that attract them. *
The deer icon indicates plants that deer are not usually attracted to.

The best time and method to propagate plants can be found on our image-intensive PROPAGATION page.

To help your plants grow their best, check out our FERTILIZATION page.

To create your own plant partnerships based on tried and true color theory, check out our GARDEN COLOR page.

To see if a particular plant is on this page press Ctrl+F, type in the name, then click the Find button.


ACHILLEA

The foliage of many Yarrows is some shade of green. But there are forms whose foliage is clearly greyish or silvery. For repeat bloom in autumn cut flower stalks down to the basal leaves after flowering. Yarrow will attract beneficial insects. To use them dried in arrangements, either dry them upside down in bunches in a warm, dry place or dry them upright in 2-3" of water. Once the water is gone, do not replace it.

Achillea 'Moonshine':  Moonshine Yarrow, grey-green foliage, sulphur yellow flowers

    Achillea x 'Moonshine'
    with:  cream and blue Iris, pale pink Paeonia, blue Linum perenne, Veronica, Dictamnus albus
      with:  Nepeta 'Blue Wonder', Coreopsis 'Moonbeam', Arrhenatherum elatius bulbosum & Stachys 'Silver Carpet'
    Achillea clavennae:  Silver Yarrow, white flowers on stalks to 4", June-July bloom
      what:  silvery grey-green foliage, to 2", is fuzzy and dissected, forming a ground-hugging mat
        uses:  ground cover in full sun, rock gardens
          asset:  a nectar source for the Checkerspot Butterfly species
        Achillea tomentosa:  Woolly Yarrow, 8-12"x24", soft yellow flowers over woolly gray leaves, June bloom
          Achillea tomentosa
          seen above with pink Armeria maritima, another short edging plant for spring
            like:  a miniature Achillea 'Gold Plate'
              assets:  medicinal herb, attracts bees, butterflies and birds
                uses:  rock gardens with perfect drainage, flowers for cutting
              Achillea tomentosa 'King Edward':  6-10", soft primrose yellow
                with:  any of the companions suggested above for the species

              Follow the links below to other colours and forms of Yarrow and information that will help you grow them well.

            • orange-flowered Yarrow
            • pink-flowered Yarrow
            • red-flowered Yarrow
            • white-flowered Yarrow
            • yellow-flowered Yarrow



            • AJUGA

              Bugleweed is beautiful when its showy flower spikes are in bloom in late spring. These are usually a shade of blue or purple, further enhanced when they bloom above foliage with a silvery sheen that stays lovely throughout the gardening season. All Bugleweeds, not just the silver-foliaged ones, do well around shrubs and under trees, as they can tolerate somewhat dry shade. Use particularly striking forms as edgers or accents in a garden.

              Ajuga reptans 'Burgundy Glow':  silvery-green foliage with deep wine-red tones

              Ajuga reptans 'Silver Beauty':  gray-green foliage edged with creamy white If you are looking for more Bugleweed cultivars with some degree of silvering to their foliage you might want to try the ones below. Do your own research and find the perfect companions for them.

            • Ajuga reptans 'Purple Brocade' - purple foliage with silvery sheen
            • Ajuga reptans 'Silver Carpet' - entire leaf is silver-gray with green margins


            • You can find even more forms of Bugleweed by following the links below.

            • blue-flowered Bugleweed
            • Bugleweed with variegated foliage
            • Bugleweed for shade



            • ANAPHALIS

              Pearly Everlasting, in full sun to light shade, provides an air of coolness to otherwise bright and hot mid-summer borders. This bushy perennial has lance-shaped silvery-grey leaves with white margins. Flowers grow on erect stems and can be used freshly cut or dried. Its own white flowers are the perfect companion for its silvery leaves. Be advised that it may spread quickly in the moist sites it prefers.

              Anaphalis margaritaceae:  Pearly Everlasting, to 36"x12-15", late summer white papery flowers



              ARTEMISIA

              Artemisias, sometimes called Wormwood, are sub-shrubs or shrub-like perennials, grown mainly for their foliage. Most prefer average, well-drained soil. Generally finely cut, aromatic and grey-green, the foliage of some forms has the effect of a lovely silver described as pure silver, near white, silvery-green or soft grey, depending on type, such as the ones given below.

              Artemisia:  Sagebrush, Mugwort

                in front of:  salmon Oriental poppies
                  use to:  unify discordant colour combinations, deepen adjacent colours
                    paired with:  complementary partners
                      near:  foliage of Coreopsis verticillata
                        with:  pink or magenta-flowered hardy Geranium
                          with:  Geranium cinereum spp. subcaulescens 'Ballerina'
                        Artemisia abrotanum:  
                          uses:  as a filigreed background for other plants
                        Artemisia absinthium:  Common Wormwood
                          with drought-tolerant perennials:  Achillea
                            with:  Ornamental Grasses
                          Artemisia x 'Powis Castle':  3'x3', silver-gray, non-blooming, Zone 6
                            use as:  foil for cool or bright colours, a bright splash in dark borders
                              lovely with:  Geranium himalayense 'Graveteye'
                                with flowers with more intense colours:  Viola 'Arkwright Ruby'
                                  backdrop for:  spring bulbs
                                    accent near:  taller shrubs
                                      foil for:  Penstemon, Dianthus, Scabiosa
                                        with:  Hemerocallis (lemon yellow)
                                          with various Aster forms:  Aster (Michaelmas Daisy), Aster x frikartii 'Monch' (the finest perennial Aster),
                                            Aster novae-angliae 'Hella Lacy' (royal-purple), Aster novi-belgii 'Benary's Composition Mix'
                                          combined with:  Elymus canadensis (blue lyme grass) & Crocosmia 'Emily McKenzie' (orange)
                                            with:  Chrysanthemum parthenium, Chrysanthemum x rubellum 'Clara Curtis'
                                              contrast with:  Heuchera 'Palace Purple'
                                                behind:  Sedum 'Autumn Joy'
                                                  with yellows:   Kniphofia (primrose-yellow), Lilium (lemon-yellow)
                                                    behind yellows:  Achillea x 'Moonshine', Coreopsis 'Moonbeam'
                                                      with blues:  Delphinium 'Belladonna' (sky-blue), Eryngium, Echinops ritro
                                                        behind blues:  Nepeta 'Blue Wonder'
                                                          behind edgers:  Arrhenatherum elatius var. bulbosum 'Variegatum', Stachys byzantina 'Silver Carpet'
                                                            beside:  tall Allium sphaerocephalum 'Drumsticks' or Allium caeruleum
                                                          Artemisia 'Lambrook Silver':  "the best of the aromatic family" - Patrick Lima
                                                            with:  Achillea 'Summer Pastels' (lilac)
                                                              with:  Papaver orientale (salmon-pink forms)
                                                                with:  Aster ericoides 'Blue Star' (pale blue)
                                                                  leaning over:  Allium 'Beau Regard' (an expensive bulb with large lavender heads)
                                                                Artemisia ludoviciana:  Silver Sage
                                                                  with:  crimson Rosa, Phlox paniculata (esp. pink forms)
                                                                Artemisia ludoviciana 'Silver King':  Silver Sage
                                                                  combined with:  Chrysanthemum x rubellum 'Clara Curtis' & Aster x frikartii
                                                                    combined with:  Phlox paniculata 'Franz Schubert' & Hemerocallis 'Joan Senior'
                                                                      combined with:  Eupatorium fistulosum & Ceratostigma plumbaginoides
                                                                        with:  crimson roses, pink Phlox paniculata
                                                                      Artemisia ludoviciana 'Valerie Finnis':  a lovely upright hybrid
                                                                        Artemisia ludoviciana 'Valerie Finnis'
                                                                        first behind:  Aster alpinus (early) and then, later behind:  Aster x frikartii (later bloomer)
                                                                          with:  Iris x germanica
                                                                        Artemisia pontica:  Roman Wormwood, Old Woman, soft grey, lacy foliage
                                                                          with:  green-leaved plants
                                                                            with:  Salvia 'East Friesland', rosy Lupinus, brassy yellow Allium moly
                                                                              as ground cover at base of:  purplish Rosa rugosa
                                                                            Artemisia schmidtiana nana 'Silver Mound':  Silvermound Artemisia
                                                                              Artemisia schmidtiana 'Silver Mound'
                                                                              with:  bluish foliage of pink Dianthus forms, purple Allium senescens, blue Festuca, Lychnis coronaria
                                                                                a silver on silver effect with:  the huge silvery-blue leaves of Salvia argentea
                                                                                  for more partnership ideas, follow the link to Edgers & Their Companions - 1
                                                                                Artemisia stelleriana:  Beach Wormwood, to 6", felty, thick, whitish, deeply-cut foliage
                                                                                  with:  blues, purples and pinks of Consolida ajacis, Delphinium, Salvia, Dianthus
                                                                                Artemisia stelleriana 'Silver Brocade':  Perennial Dusty Miller, elegant
                                                                                  Artemisia stelleriana 'Silver Brocade'
                                                                                  care:  shear plants back to close to the ground when small yellow flowers appear
                                                                                    for partnership ideas, follow the link to Edgers & Their Companions - 1
                                                                                  Artemisia versicolor:  petite, delicate, lacy, 12"x3'
                                                                                    with:  Malva alcea
                                                                                      behind:  Heuchera micrantha 'Palace Purple'
                                                                                        echo with:  Helictotrichon sempervirens (Blue Oat Grass)
                                                                                          with:  Ornamental Grasses
                                                                                        The links below will take you to more Artemisias on other pages of this site.

                                                                                      • Artemisia edgers
                                                                                      • green-foliaged, white-flowered Artemisia forms



                                                                                      • ATHYRIUM

                                                                                        The Lady Ferns are always delicate and lacy, with triangular fronds divided into numerous smaller leaflets. Add a hint of silver and their beauty can only be enhanced even more.

                                                                                        Athyrium filix-femina:  Lady Fern

                                                                                          Athyrium filix-femina - Lady Fern
                                                                                          the plant in the image above is only in its second year of growth

                                                                                        Athyrium nipponicum 'Pictum'

                                                                                          Athyrium nipponicum 'Pictum' - Japanese Painted Fern
                                                                                          with:  Asarum europaeum, Eranthis hyemalis
                                                                                            with:  Astilbe chinensis 'Pumila'
                                                                                              with:  Dicentra eximia 'Alba'
                                                                                                with:  Phlox x chattahooche, Lamium 'Pink Pewter' & Pulmonaria longifolia 'Bertram Anderson'
                                                                                                  with:  dark Heuchera & Brunnera 'Jack Frost'
                                                                                                    with:  Heuchera americana 'Eco-Magnififolia' & Hosta (dark green centre with lime-green edging)
                                                                                                  How lucky we are to be gardening today, with so many silvery options available, especially in the fern category. Should you wish to experiment with other silver-foliage Athyrium cultivars, you might want to Google some of the ones listed below.

                                                                                                • Athyrium x 'Branford Beauty':  2', graceful reddish stems, silvery-grey flecked foliage, prefers moist sites
                                                                                                • Athyrium nipponicum 'Ghost':  2-3'x12-18", silvery white fronds that change to green
                                                                                                • Athyrium nipponicum 'Pewter Lace':  stunning metallic pewter foliage, compact plant
                                                                                                • Athyrium nipponicum 'Samurai Sword':  10-20", for moist sites
                                                                                                • Athyrium nipponicum 'Silver Falls':  lustrous silvery fronds, contrasting red veins, silver effect grows as the season progresses
                                                                                                • Athyrium nipponicum 'Ursula's Red':  12-18"x12-18", broad silver leaves traced and flushed with wine red
                                                                                                • Athyrium nipponicum 'Wildwood Twist':  smoky grey-green foliage, 18", fronds of this hybrid twist as they ascend


                                                                                                • If your garden is shady, you will want to follow the link below to find more ideas and information.

                                                                                                • Lady Fern in shade



                                                                                                • BRUNNERA

                                                                                                  There are so many Bugloss forms with degrees of silvering in their heart-shaped leaves that it is difficult to keep up with all the new cultivars. Unfortunately some of these revert to solid green so investigate beforehand and make purchases of new ones carefully to avoid this happening.

                                                                                                  Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost':  Zone 3, 12-15"x12-15", dark green foliage has a silvery overlay with a crackle-like finish

                                                                                                    Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost' - Bugloss
                                                                                                    bloom:  mid to late spring
                                                                                                      care:  leave foliage in fall for winter protection, then cut back old foliage in spring to tidy, mulch for winter protection
                                                                                                        where:  woodlands, with full shade and moist soil
                                                                                                          woodlands with:  Astilbe, Epimedium, Bergenia cordifolia, Dicentra, Heuchera, Tiarella, Carex morrowii, Hosta,
                                                                                                            Polemonium caeruleum, Lamium maculatum, Pulmonaria longifolia, Phlox divaricata 'Laphamii', Polygonatum odoratum 'Variegatum'
                                                                                                          in shade with:  Athyrium nipponicum 'Pictum' & dark Heuchera forms
                                                                                                        Brunnera macrophylla 'Looking Glass':  soft silvery mounds, 12-15"x12-15", flowers Wedgewood blue
                                                                                                          with:  Helleborus, Ligularia, Cimicifuga racemosa
                                                                                                            superb with:  purple-foliaged perennials
                                                                                                          Not all forms of Bugloss have foliage with silvery overtones. For a number of other choices, and the companions that suit them best, follow the links below.

                                                                                                        • Brunnera with variegated foliage
                                                                                                        • Brunnera for shade



                                                                                                        • CARYOPTERIS

                                                                                                          Bluebeard, sometimes called Blue Spirea, is actually a woody shrub that should be cut back in spring, as you would do with Butterfly Bush. Bloom, consisting of fragrant blue flowers in clusters, will occur in fall on new wood. If the foliage has a hint of silver in it, so much the better.

                                                                                                          Caryopteris x clandonensis, 2-3'x24-30"

                                                                                                          Caryopteris x clandonensis 'Blue Mist':  lavender-blue flowers Caryopteris x clandonensis 'Dark Knight':  violet-blue flowers (deep purple), one of the darkest forms Caryopteris x clandonensis 'Longwood Blue', sky blue, silvery-grey leaves, floriferous There are forms of Bluebeard whose foliage is missing the silver tones of the cultivars listed above. Follow the link below to find at least one of them.

                                                                                                        • Bluebeard with golden-green foliage



                                                                                                        • CENTAUREA

                                                                                                          Knapweed or Cornflower has many lovely forms including some with grey or silvery foliage. Such foliage will not only enhance other plantings nearby, it will do so with its own flower colours as well.

                                                                                                          Centaurea montana:  Mountain Bluet, Perennial Cornflower, oval, pointed, gray-green foliage, blue flowers

                                                                                                            in front of:  Allium aflatunense
                                                                                                              behind:  Heuchera (red or pink)
                                                                                                            Although the flowers of the above species are usually an electric blue, you can find other flower colours in the cultivars below.

                                                                                                          • Centaurea montana 'Alba':  white flowers
                                                                                                          • Centaurea montana 'Carnea':  pink flowers
                                                                                                          • Centaurea montana 'Violetta':  mauve flowers


                                                                                                          • Centaurea dealbata rosea:  elegant, silvery-green foliage, long whitish hairs on undersides, mauve flowers
                                                                                                              uses:  a tall edger
                                                                                                                in front of:  Tulipa (a pink cultivar) which is, in turn, in front of Sedum spectabile
                                                                                                              Flower colours of this species may vary. Try the cultivars below for different shades of pink.

                                                                                                            • Centaurea dealbata 'Rose':  soft rose-pink
                                                                                                            • Centaurea dealbata 'Steenbergii':  deep rose


                                                                                                            • blue-flowered Centaurea
                                                                                                            • pink-flowered Centaurea
                                                                                                            • yellow-flowered Centaurea



                                                                                                            • CERASTIUM

                                                                                                              Mouse-Ear Chickweed, also known as Snow-In-Summer for its white flowers that bloom in late spring to early summer, is a prime example of a perennial with silvery-grey foliage. Forming ground-hugging mats, this is a vigorous-growing plant that does just fine in a dry raised bed where it can drape over a rocky front edge.

                                                                                                              Cerastium tomentosum:  Snow-in-Summer

                                                                                                              Cerastium tomentosum 'YoYo':  more restrained than the species, only 4-6"x12-15"
                                                                                                                with:  Campanula poscharskyana, Nepeta x faassenii, Paeonia, Centranthus ruber, Euphorbia polychroma,
                                                                                                                  Achillea millefolium
                                                                                                            • Snow-in-Summer as edger



                                                                                                            • FOR MORE SILVER FOLIAGE PERENNIALS & ORNAMENTAL GRASSES, FOLLOW THE LINKS BELOW.


                                                                                                              All of our own Gardens By The Bay pages can be accessed by clicking on the links below.


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                                                                                                              CORNER GARDEN CONSTRUCTION  |  CORNER GARDEN PLANTING  |  LONG GARDEN

                                                                                                              EAST GARDEN  |  HOSTA GARDEN  |  NORTH GARDEN  |  WINTER GARDENS

                                                                                                              PLANT PARTNERSHIPS

                                                                                                              BLUE PERENNIALS    Aconitum - Geranium  |  Iris - Vinca

                                                                                                              BULBS    Allium - Hyacinthus  |  Narcissus only  |  Tulipa only  |  Minor Bulbs

                                                                                                              BUTTERFLY MAGNETS    Anaphalis - Hemerocallis  |  Liatris - Veronicastrum
                                                                                                              DAYLILIES      Spider & Unusual Form

                                                                                                              EDGERS    Arabis - Iris  |  Nepeta - Veronica

                                                                                                              FOLIAGE PERENNIALS     Alchemilla - Tanacetum

                                                                                                              HOSTA    Hosta - all

                                                                                                              HUMMINGBIRD-FRIENDLY PERENNIALS    Alcea - Salvia

                                                                                                              ORANGE PERENNIALS    Achillea - Tulipa

                                                                                                              ORNAMENTAL GRASSES    Acorus - Imperata |  Miscanthus - Spodiopogon

                                                                                                              PINK PERENNIALS    Achillea - Lilium  |  Lychnis - Veronica

                                                                                                              PURPLE PERENNIALS    Aconitum - Liatris  |  Polemonium - Veronica

                                                                                                              RED PERENNIALS    Achillea - Veronica

                                                                                                              SHADE PERENNIALS    Aegopodium - Erythronium  |  Ferns - Polemonium  |  Polygonatum - Vinca

                                                                                                              SILVER FOLIAGE PERENNIALS    Achillea - Cerastium    |    Cornus - Limonium    |    Lunaria - Veronica

                                                                                                              SIMPLY SPECIAL PERENNIALS    Acanthus - Saxifraga

                                                                                                              WHITE PERENNIALS    Achillea - Iris  |  Kalimeris - Yucca

                                                                                                              YELLOW PERENNIALS    Achillea - Hypericum  |  Inula - Verbascum

                                                                                                              VARIEGATED-FOLIAGE PERENNIALS    Acorus - Erythronium  |  Hakonechloa - Lysimachia  |  Miscanthus - Yucca

                                                                                                              PLANT PROFILES

                                                                                                              Dianthus 'Tiny Rubies'  |  Geranium  |  Geum coccineum  |  Kerria japonica  |  Knautia macedonica

                                                                                                              Paeonia tenuifolia  |  Papaver somniferum  |  Rudbeckia  |  Salvia 'East Friesland'

                                                                                                              Trollius  |  Veronica 'Sunny Border Blue'

                                                                                                              PROPAGATION

                                                                                                              DIVISION - SPRING ONLY  |   DIVISION - FALL ONLY  |   DIVISION - SPRING OR FALL  |   DO NOT DIVIDE

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