A white border brings a sense of peace and fresh coolness to the garden. With flowers all the same colour there’s no risk of clashing, so you can concentrate on the shape, height and texture of plants rather than colour combinations. What’s more, the colour white brings out the green of the foliage, and you can play with other, softer foliage colours such as silvery grey.
If planning a white border then it’s a good idea to keep it small. Treat it as a calm space where you can retreat from from the rest of the garden. Many white plants are night-scented so it’s a good idea to create your white border around a seating area or patio, where you can enjoy the evening fragrance.
Think too about the backdrop to your white border. Dark colours provide the best contrast, so if you can paint your fence panels or wall before planting, you’ll reap the rewards later on. If you have a large garden or a particularly deep border then you might consider planting a hedge as a backdrop. Yew or copper beech are ideal.
Bear in mind that most white flowers contain other colours as well, such as the pink centre of lilies or the yellow centre of daisies. However the white colour will dominate, with the others just flashing as gentle hints to draw the eye.
Browse our suggestions for plants for a white border, below.
Cosmos has daisy-like flowers and is easy to grow from seed. Blooming from summer until the first frosts, the flowers attract a range of pollinating insects. They’re useful for filling gaps in the border and look good in a range of situations, including container displays. Cosmos ‘Purity’ (pictured) bears large flowers over a long period. Team with taller white foxgloves or similar-flowered dahlias.
Height x Spread: 1.2m x 60cm
White cultivars of bleeding heart bear heart-shaped blooms from elegant, arching stems in late spring. Lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘Alba’ (pictured) is perfect for shady situations but actually does better if given a bit of light. Grow at the front of your border, where it will remain compact for many years.
H x S: 1.2m x 45cm
Star jasmine is a fantastic climber that bears fragrant, star-shaped flowers in summer, against a backdrop of rich, dark green, glossy foliage. It’s a great choice for growing against a south- or west-facing fence or wall, and needs support for its tendrils to wind into.
H x S: 9m x 5m
Echinaceas are the perfect garden plants, coming in a variety of heights and colours. There are several white varieties, all with large central cones to provide contrast with the white of the petals. Echinacea ‘White Swan’ (pictured) is a shorter variety than most, so it doesn’t require staking. Grow it in drifts through your white border or mix with grasses. The flowers are popular with pollinators, but leave them in place in autumn and birds will enjoy the seeds, too.
H x S: 60cm x 45cm
Ox-eye daisies have a loose, informal look, making them perfect for wildlife gardens and cottage gardens. They’re a magnet for bees and other pollinators and are ideal for naturalising in areas of long grass or planting in groups in a large, informal border.
H x S: 40cm x 30cm
Agapanthus have large, structural flowerheads, and can be used to dramatic effect in a border. Grow them among lower-growing plants, as pictured, or among taller plants with contrasting flower shapes, such as white foxgloves. Smaller cultivars can be planted in pots.
H x S: 1m x 45cm
Tulips add charm and colour to the garden early in the season, and can be among the first to flower in your white border. There are several white-flowered varieties to choose from. ‘Spring Green’ (pictured) has cream-white flowers with fresh green markings in the centre.
H x S: 38cm x 15cm.
For a white-flowered shrub, look no further than mock orange, philadelphus. Philadelphus ‘White Rock’ has cascading stems of fragrant semi-double blooms, Grow it at the back of the border or in a large container.
H x S: 3m x 2m
White foxgloves have a serene quality, and can be dotted through a border to provide an elegant touch, or planted in groups for a mass of colour. Team with contrasting flower shapes such as agapanthus and Ammi majus. The fresh green of neighbouring foliage will make the most of thse white tubular bells.
H x S: 1.2m x 45cm.
White roses have an elegance and beauty in their own league. There are few roses with pure-white flowers. Instead – they’re creamy white with hints of apricot or pink. ‘Desdemona’ (pictured), is an old style rose with pink-white double blooms and an intense, fruity fragrance.
H x S: 1m x 1m