White cosmos growing with helichrysum, diascia and calocephalus

Plants for a white-themed border

Create your own single-colour border design, with the help of our planting tips.

To restrict your planting scheme to one colour may sound a little dull, but far from it. Limiting your palette can reveal the amazing variety of shades within one area of the colour spectrum. Plus, it allows you to make the most of contrasts in the form, habit and size of your border plants.

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When growing a range of white-flowered plants together, the variety soon becomes apparent. Tones range from ‘pure’ white to cooler whites with hints of blue or purple, and warmer, creamier whites that have touches of yellow.

Below is a list of white-flowered plants to try.


Shrubs and climbers

Trachelospermum Jasminoides
Trachelospermum jasminoides

Choose shrubs and climbers that form the backbone of a border, to give it the structure it needs. Examples include:

  • Philadelphus ‘Virginal’ – an arching shrub with fabulous highly fragrant, white double flowers in June and July, which are shown up by the dark foliage. Its leaves turn buttery yellow in autumn and it’s worthy of a spot in any garden, particularly a white one.
  • Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ – a reliable flowerer with rounded soft flowers and mid-green leaves that turn a light yellow. It can reach up to 2.5m, but is easy to keep smaller if pruned in spring.
  • Hebe rakaiensis – grown more for its tight evergreen foliage and neatly domed form than its white flowers, which means it’s ideal for holding together the corner of a planting scheme.
  • Trachelospermum jasminoides – or star jasmine, forms a neat, evergreen plant clothed to the ground with small, glossy leaves, it has deliciously scented, small white flowers in summer. It performs well in sun or semi-shade, which is a bonus.

Herbaceous perennials

White agapanthus growing with Ammi majus
White agapanthus growing with Ammi majus

Herbaceous perennials play a key role in boosting the flower count in a white scheme. The following selection covers all seasons:

  • Helleborus niger – The Christmas rose thrives in dappled shade and has dark leaves and pink-white flowers in January/February.
  • Lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘Alba’ – in April and May, this beautiful plant has lovely sprays of pure-white flowers held above fresh, green foliage. It’s good for partial shade as long as there’s moisture in the ground.
  • Geranium sanguineum ‘Album’ – a delicate, white, repeat-flowering cranesbill, ideal for the front of border, its finely cut foliage adds to the overall mixed textural composition of a scheme.
  • Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Album’ – at over 1.5m, its whorls of foliage and lovely tall spires of white frothy flowers are an asset in any planting arrangement. It looks great in bud and in flower.
  • Libertia grandiflora – an extremely useful plant with upright, slender, almost spiky mid-green leaves that help to break up a composition nicely. Its white flowers float along the stems and it grows pretty much anywhere.
  • Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’ – excellent for a shady dry spot once established. The flowers are held high on wiry stems and last for ages.

Annuals

Cosmos bipinnatus 'Purity'
Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Purity’

Any border can be enhanced with annuals, and a white scheme is no exception. They’re cheap to buy, quick to grow and perfect for filling gaps – what’s not to like?

  • Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Purity’ – a robust, white cosmos with ferny foliage that flowers all summer long if deadheaded regularly.
  • Orlaya grandiflora – a hardy annual, which flowers for ages and can be sown in early autumn or spring. It’s a white umbellifer with delicate flowers and ferny foliage.

Bulbs

Snowdrops, Galanthus nivalis
Snowdrops, Galanthus nivalis

Don’t overlook bulbs, they’re perfect for kicking off a white display before the perennials really kick in:

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  • Snowdrops – the earliest white-flowered bulbs to put on a show, they may be small, but you’ll welcome their delicate blooms in the gloomiest months of the year.
  • Crocus – white-flowered varieties such as ‘Snow Bunting’ can be naturalised in a lawn.
  • Cyclamen hederifolium ‘Alba’ – perfect for growing at the base of  tree or in a woodland border.
  • Tulipa ‘White Dream’ – an ivory-white trumpet tulip that has a long-flowering season through to May. It does well in the ground or a pot.
  • Allium ‘Mount Everest’ – produces perfectly spherical white heads held high on stout stems, and is fabulous in any scheme.