Have you noticed that the “age of beige” has passed? We seem to be in a world of gray, which is the new fashion color for home furnishings, clothing and accessories. Perhaps now is the time to bring gray outside and into the landscape.
Gray plants help eye focus in landscapes
Plants with silver or gray color provide space between intense colors of flowering annuals and help draw the eye to the focal point in the garden. When gray and silver plants are used on their own, the effect is muted and can be soothing and calm.
Silver and gray plants can be used in flower beds, containers and rock gardens. Some can even be used as house plants.
Gray plants in Coastal Bend
Silver/gray plants that do well in the Coastal Bend area retain water in arid, dry soils. Generally, they do best in quick-draining soil. If these plants get too much water, they become dull-looking and leggy.
A sun-loving perennial, artemisia, is gray-neutral and looks elegant when paired with most flowering plants. Artemisia is effective in drifts in garden beds as borders or in mass plantings. When planted with bright orange or red flowering plants, artemisia softens the intensity of the setting. It blends beautifully with blues, lavenders and pinks. Depending on the variety, artemisia can grow 2 to 6 feet tall.
Often called “pinks,” dianthus likes sun to partial shade and grows 8 to 15 inches tall. Dianthus is low and tends to mound, so it works well as a border plant. The silvery foliage keeps dianthus attractive even after the flowers fade. It is fragrant and cold hardy. Dianthus’ grassy, fine-textured leaves are an ideal accent to bright flowers.
A perfect “spiller” for container plants, dichondra gracefully falls over the sides of pots and planters. Two dichondra that are highly recommended for this area are Silver Pony-Foot and Silver Falls. Both are low-maintenance.
Since it only grows 3 to 4 inches tall and spreads 20 to 30 inches, it makes an excellent groundcover or border plant.
- Dusty Miller
A versatile annual that has soft silvery-gray hairs on textured foliage, dusty Miller complements most plants, and is especially elegant when paired with shades of blue, lavender and pink. Since it is moderately cold-tolerant, you can plant it with snapdragons to annual lobelia, and it will do well November through March.
Dusty Miller also does well in summer container gardens because it tolerates heat and dry periods. It grows 10 to 16 inches tall making it an excellent filler for containers.
- Icicles Licorice Plant
A flowering perennial plant that sold at the recent Master Gardener spring plant sale, it is an upright, compact perennial that has long, narrow, silvery foliage that feels like velvet. It produces yellow flowers in the summer and grows 10-16 inches tall. With its upright growing pattern it makes an excellent filler for container arrangements. It grows best in partial sun.
- Japanese Painted Fern
Adding light to shade landscapes with its silver foliage, it is a small, slow-growing fern that grows about 8 to 20 inches tall. It is an excellent front border plant for hosta and hydrangea. It prefers rich, damp soil and shade.
- Lamb’s Ears
Getting their silvery color from soft pubescence hairs reflecting light and keeping the plant cool in hot weather, Lamb’s Ears is a perennial that serves as a low-growing groundcover. If you would like a silver/gray combination of plants, try growing Lamb’s Ears, lavender and Texas sage together in a large container.
It is not always easy to grow, but with its wonderful scent and attraction for both bees and butterflies, lavender deserves a place in coastal gardens. Lavender does well in hot, arid areas and is resistant to deer and rabbits. It requires ample light and good drainage. Be aware that lavender can rot in wet soil. Lavender does well in container gardens as long as its companion plants like sun and thrive with little moisture. Consider planting catmint, rosemary or verbena with lavender. Prune lavender immediately after it blooms to keep plants compact and neat.
- Texas Sage
A tropical evergreen shrub that thrives in hot, dry weather, this sun-loving plant with silvery green foliage has a cooling effect when paired with flowers that have strong shades of orange, red and yellow. It grows up to 5 feet tall, prefers dry soil and blooms after a rain. Texas sage is a versatile plant that does well in containers or as a backdrop in flower beds.
Yes, silver and gray plants provide a new look in the landscape and tend to be low-maintenance choices for the Coastal Bend area. The new neutral has arrived outside.