Silver Plants: Using Silver Leaved Plant To Add Interest To The Garden


By: Nikki Tilley, Author of The Bulb-o-licious Garden

Silver or gray foliage plants can complement nearly any garden, and many of them are low maintenance too. Most of these interesting plants perform well in hot or dry areas. In fact, a large number of plants with gray and silver foliage are even native to drought-like environments. The main reason for this is their hairy foliage or the waxy texture that some silver leaf plants have. Both of these characteristics enable them to reflect sunlight and conserve water.

In the garden, silver leaf plants may take on several different roles. They can add unique interest anywhere, working well on their own as focal points or with other plants. A silver leaved plant can be an excellent contrast to green plants while breaking up the monotony of single colored gardens. They can also tone down bright colors. Silver plants blend nicely with shades of blue, lilac, and pink. They also contrast well with purple, red, and orange.

A List of Silver Plant Names

No matter how to choose to use them in the garden, this neutral color will add some dimension and interest to nearly any landscape. Here is a list of some of the most common silver plants for the garden:

  • Lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina) – its fine white hairs give it a soft, fuzzy gray appearance. Great ground cover with inconspicuous blooms.
  • Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) – lavender blue flowers with gray aromatic foliage
  • Faassen’s catmint (Nepata x faassenii) – somewhat hairy gray green foliage with blue flowers
  • Amethyst sea holly (Eryngium amethystinum) – steel blue flowers hovering over gray green foliage
  • Sivermound mugwort (Artemisia schmidtiana) – wooly gray clumps with tiny pale yellow flowers
  • Rose campion (Lychnis atriplicifolia) – showy rose colored flowers rise high above its silver green foliage
  • Dusty miller (Senecio cineraria ‘Silverdust’) – annual grown for its hairy, silvery white foliage
  • Lungwort (Pulmonaria saccharata) – speckled silvery gray foliage with blue flowers
  • Woolly thyme (Thymus pseudolanuginosus) – low growing ground cover with gray felt-like foliage
  • Mediterranean lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) – aromatic gray green foliage and purple flower spikes
  • Edelweiss (Leontopodium alpinum) – leaves and small yellow flowers are covered with white hairs, giving silver appearance
  • Snow-in-summer (Cerastium tomentosum) – ground cover with small metallic, silvery leaves and bright white flowers
  • Ornamental mullein (Verbascum) – resembles lamb’s ear but with attractive flower spikes of white, yellow, pink, or peach

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Read more about General Foliage Care


Silver-Leaved Plants In Garden Design

Silver-Leaved Plants In Garden Design – Plants that have colorful foliage are commonly found in ornamental gardens. Often or not, they are just thrown in without sufficient thought or consideration. They are most effective however, when their specific design potential is understood. This is true for a large number of garden plants whose foliage color is some variant of silver, grey or bluish-green.

Silver grey foliage is both typical and indicative of dry climates and arid conditions. Sage, lavender, santolina, Lamb’s Ears and herbs or aromatic plants like Artemisia originate from the Mediterranean, while the silver-leaved bush Leucophyllum frutescens grows wild in Texas. The leaf size of such plants is characteristically small, narrow and delicate in texture.

Therefore, in stylistic terms, grey-leaved plants are most suited to Mediterranean-type gardens, associating well with olive and Cypress trees, junipers, small-leaved shrubs like pistachio and sumac, herbs and cushion plants. Small, grey-leaved grasses like Festuca glauca can serve as a subtle transition between silvery-grey plants and a group of larger ornamental grasses such as Pennisetum and Miscanthus. They blend beautifully with blues, lilacs and pinks and enhance the effect created by ornamental pebbles.

Cypress trees in Mediterranean garden

Another role for silver plants is as a sharp contrast with plants that have deep purple foliage. The Dusty Miller plants, Centaurea cineraria, or Senecio cineraria, can be quite dramatic against a background of Prunus pisardii, or Euphorbia cotinifolia. Similar effects can be created when they are combined with reds and oranges. It is here though that the inexperienced tend to get carried away. Contrast plants should be used sparingly and judiciously, with green being the dominant foliage color.

Grey plants do not combine well with obviously tropical plants. Typically, plants of tropical origin are deep green and possess large, sometimes massive leaves. Bird of Paradise and philodendron ‘Beefy’ are two examples, with which silver plants appear incongruously out of place.

Senecio cineraria combined with marigolds


12 thoughts on “Silver Leaf Plants in Containers (Give Contrasts to your Garden)”

Wow! Being a season gardener myself, I like this post so much and I will bookmark it. What a huge list of silver leaf plants you have given up here and having a couple of these in the garden would really give an awesome and welcoming look to the home. This is simply excellent. Thanks so much for this

Thank you for those kind words and hope you pick one or two.

Wow, this is a really large list of silver leaf plants to grow. As a child, I always watched my aunt grow some very nice plants at their balcony and the way she showed them so much care. She asked me to help her on a little research on silver leafs and I didn’t ever think they’re was such a comprehensive list. Thanks for this educative post, you must’ve put in a lot of work to get all this up. Very good.

Silver leaf plants add an extra dimension to container gardens and will get your neighbours talking. You do not often see them in gardens at all. Be different.

Thank you for this article. Your knowledge of plants is very extensive. I got some indoor plants a year or two ago so that I could have fresh air in my house. I have this theory that if I am always breathing out carbon dioxide then where does the new oxygen come from?

I am a little worried that they are getting too big for their containers and they are sad because their Roots can’t spread out as much. I don’t know to what extent plants have feelings but I tend to believe that everything has feelings. So I feel sorry about my negligence it’s just that Planters are so expensive. So is indoor soil kind of for me anyway.

The photos of the plants are really nice. I go to an arboretum and they have a cool Garden with some exotic plants. I think they smell nice too.

Great website and I will probably be back again in the future.

If plant pots are too expensive buy plastic,as they tend to be cheaper than ceramics, terracotta or stone. Look out for future articles on houseplants.

Hi there!
I loved your post, my wife and I have a large garden and she has been looking for something like this idea. I will definitely share it to see what is the best idea for her.
She has the idea to put flowers but she really wanted something like this, I think is good to read this kind of vlogs.


Silver foliage plants include:

Artemisa ‘Powis Castle’
  1. Stachys byzantina – Lambs Ears
    An old time favourite with soft felty foliage, excellent as a ground cover plant. It will spread to over 1m and will form a dense silvery matt.
  2. Plectranthus argentatus – Silver Plectranthus
    Excellent as a ground cover plant, easy care
  3. Buddleja crispa – Butterfly Bush
    A taller growing shrub with silvery green foliage that adds interest to the rear of the boarder.
  4. Senico cineraria – Dusty Miller
    Very widely used and has been a garden favourite for years. Soft grey foliage and yellow flowers.
  5. Conostylis candicans -Grey cottonheads
    A clump forming perennial, yellow flowers with grey green foliage. From western Australia and drought tolerant,
  6. Artemisia pycnocephela – Sandhill Sage or Beach Sagebrush.
    From California and an excellent low growing grey foliage plant for coastal areas.
  7. Artemisa ‘Powis Castle’ -Wormwood
    Another all time favourite, drought tolerant, easy to prune and good ‘true silvery grey’ foliage.
  8. Senecio serpens – Blue Chalk Sticks
    With upright spikes this low growing succulent provided blue grey foliage and texture as well. A well drained soil and a frost free position are essential.
  9. Astelia banksii
    A very attractive silver leafed strap like foliage plant. From New Zealand and suited to coastal conditions.
  10. Astelia chathamica
    This species has a cultivar named ‘silver shadow’. Taller than above with flax like foliage.
  11. Adenanthos sericea ‘Silver Streak’
    This is the Woolly Bush, foliage is a silvery green, soft to touch and as it can reach 2m, is excellent for adding a bit height to the garden.
  12. Arcotis – ‘Silver Pink’, ‘Blood Red’ and others.
    A hybrid with silver foliage and colourful flowers as well. Drought tolerant as well.
  13. Actinotis helianthi – Flannel Flower
    Soft wooly silvery foliage on an iconic Australian native plant.
  14. Eucalyptus macrocarpa
    This is red flowering low growing species with grey green foliage.
  15. Eucalyptus kruseana
    Very unusual Eucalyptus, brilliant silvery foliage with yellow flowers.
  16. Salvia officianalis – Sage
    Looking for Silver foliage for the herb garden?This is the plant for you.
  17. Lavendula angustifolia – English Lavender
    Another widely used plant with silvery grey foliage, purple flowers as well.
  18. Convolvulus cneorum
    An upright shrub with white flowers, and good silvery foliage.
  19. Cerastium tomentosum – Snow in summer
    Useful ground cover plant, white flowers in summer, drought tolerant and silver foliage as well.
  20. Dudleya pulverulenta. – The Chalk Lettuce
    Rosettes of silvery green foliage on this low growing succulent.
  21. Tanacetum densum ssp. amanum

And that is just 21 of the many silver foliage plants that you can use to add variation, colour and texture to any landscaping scheme.


Hosta

It is hard to imagine shade gardening without the ever-popular Hosta. Every shade garden should include at least one or two contrasting and complementing varieties.

The large, white-edged Hosta ventricosa "Aureomarginata" is a solid choice. But there are many extraordinary variegated varieties available. Some additional options include:

  • "Patriot"
    USDA zones 3 to 8
    18 inches by 36 inches
  • "American Sweetheart"
    USDA zones 3 to 8
    20 inches by 24 inches
  • "Center of Attention"
    USDA zones 3 to 8
    10 inches by 18 inches

And if you decide to exclude Hosta in your garden, try this alternative:

Variegated Sweet Flag (Acoris calumnus)
USDA zones 5 to 9
3 feet by 2 feet

Ribbon Grass. University of Illinois Extension


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