Yellow in the Garden

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


Radiant Yellow

+ enlarge image Black-eyed Susan vine (Thunbergiaalata), an annual, is perfect forpot or window box, or on a trellis.

Although we normally think of yellow as an intense color that can overpower, use paler shades to link other, brighter colors effectively. Pale creamy yellow has a calming influence on other flower colors. Combine it with pale pink, blue, or white, especially in cool, overcast climates where more gaudy shades of yellow appear jarring. An all-yellow planting combining different shades looks cheerful yet sophisticated.

Yellow radiates in the shade where it pairs beautifully with pale greens, lime green, or green-yellow or green-white variegated foliage. Strong yellows for shady places include Japanese maple, kerria, ligularia, lysimachia, azalea, and rhododendron.

Increased plant choices in yellow-foliage varieties also now exist. The glow of golden-leaf shrubs, such as barberry or euonymus, among the greens turns up the wattage in a foliage garden. Here, yellow leaves provide the visual interest that flowers usually supply.

Related Slide Show: Best Yellow Flowers for Your Garden

Pairing Yellow with Other Colors

+ enlarge image In autumn, the leaves of thisJapanese maple turn electric yellow.

When bright yellow joins up with orange and its complement, blue, it sets an energetic harmony into motion. Yellow enhances both colors. When it contains a hint of orange, yellow becomes a showstopping dance partner with bright or light blue. The blue slightly mutes yellow's boldness and brings out its luminescence.

The same effect happens with yellow's opposites on the color wheel: purple and dark red. They look even better when seen in the company of yellow. Generously sprinkle yellows, both pale and bright, in areas exposed to early- or late-day sunlight, when yellow reflects rather than absorbs light.

Ways to Use Yellow in the Garden

+ enlarge image
  • Yellow increases a sense of space. A narrow side yard or dim courtyard takes on a bright new look when it features plantings with a yellow theme.
  • Yellow appears fresh and radiant on the hottest days. Use yellow flowers and leaves in window boxes and baskets to create a warm, cheerful look.
  • Pale yellows illuminate night gardens. Welcome the moonshine potential of such flowers as 'Moonbeam' coreopsis, evening primrose, brugmansia, santolina, 'Anthea' or 'Moonshine' yarrow, and 'Lady Banks' rose.
  • Fill in with green-yellow variegated foliage to showcase neighboring flowers of purple, bright pink, or red.

Related Feature: Bold Colors for Your Garden

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