Green in the Garden

Learn how the color green affects you and your garden. Then discover the best ways to use green, both alone and in combination with other colors.


The green season begins with the pale green cones of uncurling hostas and coils of fiddlehead ferns. Summer deepens new green into mature shades. Boulders, tree trunks, and ponds may disclose the startling lime green of lichens, mosses, and algae. Mediterranean and other dry-climate plants offer a palette of dusty gray-greens that diffuse the sun's burning rays through summer's hottest days.

Green makes shady places appear fresh and cool, especially when the picture is woven with white flowers or variegated foliage. Two-tone leaves that pair green with white, silver, or gold dapple the shade with bright highlights. In coleus, houttuynia, and tovara leaves, green mingles with reds, purples, and blues, resulting in a wide palette of possibilities for shade.

Ways to Use Green in the Garden

  • Choose green arbors, benches, fencing, furniture, and containers whenever possible. They'll enhance nearby flower colors.
  • Contrast different shades of green foliage in deep shade, where some of the showiest flowering plants won't thrive. Use chartreuse, yellow, and variegated green-white or yellow-green foliage plants for the most pronounced effects. Add light-color statuary, a birdbath, a bench, or a temporary pot of vibrant flowers to make this area of your garden shine.
  • Green flowers offer novel appeal. Try viburnum, lady's mantle, tulip, hellebore, bells of Ireland, and hydrangea. These make great cut flowers, too.
  • Many plants lend their names to shades of green, including pea, olive, fern, bean, lime, kiwi, mint, and ivy. It's no wonder there's a green named spring!
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