Purple in the Garden

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


Round Out Your Garden with Purple

+ enlarge image Reddish-purple Mondarda (bee balm)backed by a burgundy-leaf ornamentalplum tree and edged with ornamentaloregano forms a dramatic summerscene.

Purple spans a wide range, from deep, velvety hues that appear almost black to pale periwinkle. Red-dominated hues of purple add suspense and drama to plantings. They also mediate, bridging the gap between related colors that form dissonant matches on their own, such as red and orange. Blue-violets anchor and visually blend brighter colors.

Purple's ideal partner, yellow, invariably lightens and brightens a scene. Purple and yellow announce spring's arrival in the blooms of bulbs and pansies. Yellow helps to solidify purple, whereas purple subdues yellow. This relationship of contrasts becomes more important in shade-dappled gardens, where purple would easily melt into the shadows without yellow to clarify it. White also stabilizes purple in shade gardens.

Other colors with yellow-dominant tints also flatter and define purple. Similarly, chartreuse plants make good partners. Purple and orange placed together send the color sparks flying in a match that's sultry and sophisticated.

Related Slide Show: Best Purple Flowers for Your Garden

How to Incorporate Purple

+ enlarge image Thyme and lady's mantle meld inwaves of purple, yellow, and green.

Purple rounds out many effective trios. Plant it with chartreuse and pink for a sense of depth. When blended with blues and greens, it adds substance. Purple anchors combinations of red and gold, making them appear subtle and mysterious. Purple adds weight and value in a flower border. Use it as a shading tool to separate and define other colors.

Purple-leaf plants have become a huge trend in garden design. They offer a varied and versatile palette of trees, shrubs, and ornamental grasses, as well as perennials, annuals, and ground covers. Incorporate purple-foliage plants into borders and backgrounds just as you would purple flowers to create a powerful sense of drama.

Related Feature: Purple Passion Container Garden Design

Tips for Using Purple

+ enlarge image Peach-leaf and clusteredbellflowers and yarrow are aperfect blend of blue-purpleand golden yellow.
  • Purple foliage adds a compelling dimension to the garden. Consider purple varieties of ajuga, bergenia, smokebush, barberry, coral bells, snakeroot, geranium, and New Zealand flax.
  • Because purple tends to get lost in the shade, pair it with a light-color companion, such as one with chartreuse or golden foliage.
  • Smoky purples look their most regal in the fall, especially underplanting Japanese maples and other trees with brilliant red or gold leaves.
  • Seek higher-power purples in vines: wisteria, clematis, sweet potato vine, and the dark-leaf grapes (Vitis vinifera 'Purpurea').

Related Feature: A Strawberry Jar Garden Designed for Shade

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