GARDENS BY THE BAY
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.
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 clavennae: Silver Yarrow, white flowers on stalks to 4", June-July bloom
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'
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 'King Edward': 6-10", soft primrose yellow
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
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.
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.
Bugleweed with variegated foliage
Bugleweed for shade
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
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'
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),
Artemisia 'Lambrook Silver': "the best of the aromatic family" - Patrick Lima
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
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 pontica: Roman Wormwood, Old Woman, soft grey, lacy foliage
first behind: Aster alpinus (early) and then,
later behind: Aster x frikartii (later bloomer)
with: Iris x germanica
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 stelleriana: Beach Wormwood, to 6", felty, thick, whitish, deeply-cut foliage
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
with: blues, purples and pinks of Consolida ajacis, Delphinium, Salvia, Dianthus
Artemisia stelleriana 'Silver Brocade': Perennial Dusty Miller, elegant
Artemisia versicolor: petite, delicate, lacy, 12"x3'
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
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.
green-foliaged, white-flowered Artemisia forms
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 nipponicum 'Pictum'
the plant in the image above is only in its second year of growth
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.
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)
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
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 'Looking Glass': soft silvery mounds, 12-15"x12-15", flowers Wedgewood blue
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
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
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
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
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,
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.
GARDEN POETRY |
GARDEN POETRY MUSE
GEORGIAN BAY VIEW
BOTANICAL LATIN - BASICS
CORNER GARDEN CONSTRUCTION  |
CORNER GARDEN PLANTING |
EAST GARDEN |
HOSTA GARDEN |
NORTH GARDEN |
BLUE PERENNIALS Aconitum -
Iris - Vinca
BULBS Allium - Hyacinthus |
Narcissus only |
Tulipa only |
BUTTERFLY MAGNETS Anaphalis - Hemerocallis |
Liatris - Veronicastrum
DAYLILIES Spider & Unusual Form
EDGERS Arabis - Iris |
Nepeta - Veronica
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
Dianthus 'Tiny Rubies' |
Geum coccineum |
Kerria japonica |
Paeonia tenuifolia |
Papaver somniferum |
Salvia 'East Friesland'
Veronica 'Sunny Border Blue'
DIVISION - SPRING ONLY |
DIVISION - FALL ONLY |
DIVISION - SPRING OR FALL |
DO NOT DIVIDE
ORNAMENTAL GRASSES |
LOCAL GARDENS |
GARDENING BOOKS |