Used selectively, silver, grey or grey-blue foliage can transform a bed or border display.
Silvery-leaved plants add contrast and interest, and bring a cool elegance to planting combinations. They look especially good combined with plants with pink, white, blue and even burgundy flowers.
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Many plants with silver foliage are drought tolerant, making them useful in areas of low rainfall or borders with very well drained soil. Most do best in full sun. Some leaves are completely silver or grey; others are more mottled.
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Here are 10 versatile, silvery-leaved plants to consider.
Lychnis ‘Gardeners’ World’
Lychnis coronaria, or rose campion, is a short-lived perennial, with clumps of silver felty leaves and long-lasting magenta flowers, popular with pollinators, in late summer. It does well in most well-drained soils but produces the best leaf colour in dry soil.
Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’
Honeywort, Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’, is a great hardy annual for filling gaps in a border. It has gorgeous silvery blue-green leaves and pretty bell-shaped purple flowers, which are a magnet for bees. It makes a good cut flower and self-seeds readily. Grow in moist but well-drained soil in full sun.
Caryopteris clandonensis ‘Sterling Silver’
Caryopteris clandonensis ‘Sterling Silver’ is an attractive shrub with silvery blue-green foliage. In late summer it bears deep blue flowers. Grow in a patio container, or towards the front of a sunny border, in well drained neutral to acid soil in full sun. Prune plants hard after flowering to enjoy the best possible display the following year.
Cardoon foliage (Cynara cardunculus)
Cynara cardunculus has striking silvery, thistle-like foliage and tall flower stems are topped by fat thistle buds that look like small globe artichokes. They open into large purple thistle flowers which attract masses of bees. Grow in fertile, well-drained soil in full sun.
Silver bush (Convolvulus cneorum)
As its common name suggests, Convolvulus cneorum has evergreen foliage that is covered in silky-grey hairs. In summer, pink buds open into blush-white trumpets with a pink stripe. Grow it in at the front of a border, in a pot, or in a rockery in well-drained soil in full sun.
Santolina chamaecyparissus ‘Pretty Carol’
Santolina chamaecyparissus, or cotton lavender, is neat, rounded evergreen shrub with finely divided, fragrant foliage and small yellow pompon flowers. Grow as groundcover, at the front of the border, or in pots. Santolina chamaecyparissus ‘Pretty Carol’ (pictured) is a small cultivar.
Eryngium ‘Silver Ghost’
Eryngiums, or sea hollies, bear small spiky flowers on sturdy, upright stems from July to September and have grey/blue foliage; Eryngium giganteum ‘Silver Ghost’ is especially silvery. Grow in a gravel garden or large herbaceous border in free-draining soil in full sun.
Curry plant (Helichrysum italicum)
The curry plant or Helichrysum italicum is a dwarf sub-shrub that bears clusters of small, bright yellow flowers throughout summer. ‘The aromatic foliage smells of curry. Grow in a sunny, sheltered position in well-drained soil. Prune regularly to keep it compact.
Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Silver Queen’
Pittosporum ‘Silver Queen’
Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Silver Queen’ bears white markings on the edge of it leaves, making it appear silvery. During late spring and early summer small, bell-shaped, purple flowers are produced in clusters. It makes a good specimen shrub and can be trimmed into a hedge. Grow in a sheltered spot.
Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ AGM
More plants with silver foliage