Stunning Silver Plants for Dry Times
Olympic athletes may be disappointed to settle for silver, but it’s a most desirable color in the garden. Silver-leaved plants are a sophisticated design choice, and, even better, they tend to be drought tolerant.
As with everything in the plant world, a silver plants didn’t come about just to dazzle gardeners. In most cases the silvery look actually comes from adaptations to harsh conditions. Some silver plants have a waxy or filmy silver coating on its leaves to reflect strong sun. Other silver plants, like the lamb’s ears shown at top, have thicker silver “fur” that helps it deal with drought. This silver fuzz catches rainfall, moistening the plant’s cells and then shedding the water it toward the roots.
Here are some tips for incorporating silver-leaved plants into your garden design:
Like white, silver reflects light and takes on a special glow at dawn and dusk. Place silver plants along a pathway or patio that you use at those times of day.
- Use shade-loving silver plants to brighten dark areas.
- Sun-loving silver plants can be placed to great effect in front of dark-leaved evergreens.
- Silver plants work well with any other color of foliage or flower. Silver intensifies the energy and excitement of hot colors like red and orange. It blends with the calm of cool colors like blue and purple.
- Since silver works well with hot and cool colors alike, silver plants are a great choice for transitional areas (the spaces between garden beds or sections) and for a unifying repetition throughout a garden.
Blackberry Ice’ Coral Bells Is a Humidity-Tolerant Heuchera
Virtues: We love Heuchera ‘Blackberry Ice’ for its stunning, rounded bundle of silverish purple foliage with deep black veins. These leaves enchant onlookers all season long. Beautiful flower wands with clusters of tiny white flowers bloom in midsummer on top of reddish-purple scapes.
Common name: Coral bells; ‘Blackberry Ice’ coral bells
Botanical name: Heuchera DOLCE ‘Blackberry Ice’
Flowers: In midsummer, tall, slender maroon-colored scapes carry wands bursting with small, creamy white flowers for a spectacular contrast against the icy, purple foliage.
Foliage: Large, peculiar bursts of silverish-purple leaves adorned with dazzling black veining offer a charming display throughout the growing season. In the warmer end of its growing range it will be evergreen.
Habit: Blackberry Ice coral bells is an evergreen perennial with a low-mounding habit reaching 10 to 12 inches in height with a 18 to 22 inch spread.
Origin: Bred by Walters Gardens, Zeeland, Mich., and introduced to the market by Proven Winners. ‘Blackberry Ice’ is part of the DOLCE series of coral bells. These plants were bred using Heuchera villosa, a species native to the southeastern U.S.
Season: These striking perennials with intriguing foliage can offer interest all year, and will add a little extra flair with their blooms in summer.
How to grow Heuchera Blackberry Ice: Coral Bells thrive in most well-drained soils enhanced with organic matter prior to planting and average watering. They are most successful in part shade to full shade in the South, but they will tolerate full sun in northern climates. They are evergreen in areas with mild winters. USDA Zones 4–9.
We Love ‘Fire and Ice’ Caladium
Virtues: Artful ‘Fire and Ice’ caladium is exactly that, artful. Its gorgeous coloring is hard to resist. Adaptable to the garden and containers as well as an indoor setting, ‘Fire and Ice’ prefers heat and humidity to thrive. A mass planting of ‘Fire and Ice‘ is dramatic and the season-long color of the foliage is most welcome, especially to gardeners who struggle with achieving continuous blooms in the garden. In a container garden, one or three caladiums (depending on size of container) make for a great focal point.
Common name: ‘Fire and Ice’ angel wings or elephant ears
Botanical name: Caladium hortulanum ‘Fire and Ice’
Foliage: Mostly silvery white with accents of green, pink and red
Height: 18–30 inches
Spread: 12–18 inches
USDA Zones: 10–11
Light requirements: Sun or shade
Plant with the tubers’ pointed end facing up and about 2 inches below the soil line. Be stingy with the fertilizer. Caladiums do not require a lot of fertilizer and the leaves of the plant, especially the white portion, can be burned by over fertilization. When adding caladiums to a container garden, or in a mixed garden bed, select plants with similar fertilization requirements to make gardening easier.
Caladiums prefer humus-rich soil that is reliably moist. Wilting and drooping of leaves is a sign the plant is in need of water. When planted in USDA Zones other than 10 and 11, remove tubers after first hard frost/foliage die back and store in dry peat where the temperature stays above 45˚F.
When planted inside the home, caladiums require temperatures above 65˚F and frequent misting to address humidity requirements. Avoid hot, direct light and keep an eye on the soil—indoor heating can dry the soil, a situation not compatible with good caladium health.
Plant Matrona Sedum for Cold-Season Interest
Virtues: We love Sedum ‘Matrona’ for its stunning, blush colored flower heads that bloom atop of stout, radiant red stems in late summer lasting into fall. Beneath the large flower heads you will find a spectacular display of lush, silverish-green succulent foliage that rivals the beauty of the charming blooms.
Common name: ‘Matrona’ stonecrop, ‘Matrona’ sedum
Botanical name: Sedum ‘Matrona’
Flowers: By midsummer a huge, cluster of tightly compacted green buds begin to appear atop of the robust, reddish-purple stems. In late summer through early fall, the giant flower heads begin to burst with clusters of tiny, star-shaped pale-pink flowers, often attracting swarms of butterflies to their lovely blooms.
Foliage: Thick and fleshy gray-green leaves create a striking backdrop against the shiny, strong ebony-red stems and attractive pink blooms.
Habit: These eye-catching plants have a sturdy, upright habit, typically reaching 2 to 3 ft in height and 1 to 2 ft wide.
Season: With distinctive foliage, beautiful blooms and brightly colored stems, Sedum ‘Matrona’ has heaps of spring, summer and fall interest. If you leave the spent flowers standing, the seed heads can add winter interest to the garden.
Origin: A selection first cultivated in Germany.
How to grow Sedum ‘Matrona’: Stonecrops thrive in most average to poor, dry well-drained soils in full sun to light shade. With succulent foliage, they are drought-tolerant, so make sure not to over water the plants. They are intolerant to overly moist soils. USDA Zones 3-9.
Blue Star Juniper Makes a Great Dwarf Evergreen Shrub
Virtues: We love Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’ for its striking, lush, silverish blue needle-like foliage and wide, mounded form. These dwarf shrubs are perfect for the front of the border, rock gardens or showcased as a focal point plant to be admired for its color and shape.
Common name: ‘Blue Star’ juniper; ‘Blue Star’ singleseed juniper
Botanical name: Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’
Flowers: This evergreen shrub is grown for its foliage.
Foliage: Bundles of evergreen, prickly, intense silver-blue foliage tightly fills the spreading branches in rich color.
Habit: With a dense, mounded habit, these charming shrubs reach 1 to 3 feet in height with a slightly larger spread.
Season: Singleseed junipers provide gardens and landscapes with color all year round.
Origin: Cultivar of a juniper species native to regions of western and central Asia.
How to grow Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’: These easy-to-grow dwarf conifers are successful in most average, well-drained soils. They thrive in full sun and should be watered regularly until established. Once established, reduce watering, as they are relatively drought tolerant. Pruning is not necessary for these low-maintenance evergreen shrubs. USDA Zones 4–8.