Best Silver-Leaf Plants for Your Garden

Plants that have silvery foliage are some of the most valuable in the landscape because they look good with anything. Silver helps tone down bold, hot reds, yellows, and oranges, yet harmonizes with soft blues, pinks, and whites. Here are some of our favorite silver plants.

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  • 'Jack Frost' Brunnera

    Silver is particularly effective in the shade where it helps brighten dim corners. One of the finest silvery perennials for shade is Brunnera 'Jack Frost', a stunner with sky-blue flowers in spring and glorious heart-shape foliage that keeps its cool look all summer long.

    Name: Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost'

    Growing Conditions: Shade and moist, well-drained soil rich in organic matter

    Plant Size: To 18 inches tall and 24 inches wide

    Zones: 3-8

  • Japanese Painted Fern

    Japanese painted fern is a perfect planting partner for 'Jack Frost' brunnera --- both have lovely leaves, but the fern adds a fine texture to the mix.

    It also offers a new color; the silvery-green fonds are flushed with burgundy-purple, adding depth and dimension. Happily, Japanese painted fern is slow-growing, so it won't take over the garden in the way some old-fashioned ferns can.

    Name: Athyrium niponicum pictum

    Growing Conditions: Shade and moist, well-drained soil rich in organic matter

    Plant Size: To 1 foot tall and wide

    Zones: 5-8

  • 'Silver Shimmers' Lungwort

    If you're looking for an easy-to-grow plant for shade that deer and rabbits won't eat, try lungwort. This lovely little perennial blooms in early spring, producing blue, pink, or white flowers over long dark green leaves marked in silver.

    Older varieties feature silver spots, but newer selections such as 'Silver Shimmers' (shown here), 'Majeste', and 'Silver Bouquet' feature brighter foliage.

    Name: Pulmonaria 'Silver Shimmers'

    Growing Conditions: Shade and moist, well-drained soil

    Plant Size: To 1 foot tall and 2 feet wide

    Zones: 4-8

  • 'Purple Dragon' Lamium

    A topnotch groundcover, 'Purple Dragon' lamium offers wonderful heart-shape leaves overlaid in silver and clusters of red-purple flowers throughout the summer.

    Like most groundcovers, lamium wants to grow and grow, so give it plenty of room to spread. Some gardeners have found it spreads faster than they like, but lamium is rarely considered invasive.

    Other varieties that feature silvery foliage include 'White Nancy', 'Pink Pewter', 'Red Nancy', and 'Orchid Frost'.

    Name: Lamium 'Purple Dragon'

    Growing Conditions: Shade and moist, well-drained soil

    Plant Size: To 8 inches tall and 3 feet wide

    Zones: 4-8

  • Dusty Miller

    An old favorite for mixing with red geraniums and vinca vine, dusty miller has soft, fuzzy foliage that makes just about any planting partner shine. It's particularly fun paired with purple, such as 'Purple Flash' pepper, 'Bull's Blood' beets, or 'Blackie' sweet potato vine.

    Name: Senecio cineraria

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Plant Size: To 2 feet tall and wide

    Zones: 8-10, but usually grown as an annual

  • Melianthus

    Sometimes called honey bush or peanut butter plant because its sweet-scented, silvery leaves, melianthus is one of the boldest plants in the garden. It's a shrub in warm-weather climates, but is a great eye-catching annual in cooler Zones.

    Name: Melianthus major

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Plant Size: To 10 feet tall and wide as a shrub; to 3 feet tall and wide as an annual

    Zones: 8-10; grown as an annual in colder-winter areas

  • Curry Plant

    Though it's not the plant from which curry flavoring is made, give the leaves a sniff and you'd certainly think so. Whether you grow it for its scent or not, the lovely silvery foliage acts as a great filler in containers or beds and borders.

    Name: Helichrysum italicum subsp. serotinum

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Plant Size: To 16 inches tall and 30 inches wide

    Zones: 8-10; grown as an annual in colder-winter areas

  • Licorice Plant

    A fantastic filler plant that adds drama and dimension to container gardens, silvery licorice plant is also tough, holding up like a champ in hot, dry conditions.

    Name: Helichrysum petiolare

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Plant Size: To 20 inches tall and 36 inches wide

    Zones: 8-10; grown as an annual in colder-winter areas

  • Rose Campion

    Rose campion is unforgettable in full bloom because of its abundant hot-pink flowers. But before it puts on its floral show -- and after the flowers fade -- its silvery-gray leaves are ornamental on their own.

    Note: Rose campion can self-seed abundantly; some gardeners find it a bit of a pest once it's established.

    Name: Lychnis coronaria

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Plant Size: To 32 inches tall and 18 inches wide

    Zones: 4-8

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    Snow in Summer

    An excellent groundcover for hot, sunny sites, snow in summer features fine-textured silver foliage topped by pure white star-shape flowers in late spring and early summer. It holds up to light foot traffic, too!

    Name: Cerastium tomentosum

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Plant Size: To 3 inches tall and several feet wide

    Zones: 3-7

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    Russian Sage

    A can't-go-wrong plant for the late-summer and autumn garden, Russian sage features lovely gray-green foliage and violet-blue flowers. The plant has a great scent, is left alone by hungry deer and rabbits, and looks great even in drought.

    Name: Perovskia atriplicifolia

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Plant Size: To 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide

    Zones: 4-9

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    'Fire Witch' Dianthus

    'Fire Witch' Dianthus is a lovely little groundcover that produces fragrant pink flowers in early spring. But after you shear the faded flowers off, the silvery-blue foliage takes center stage.

    There are a host of other great dianthus varieties with silvery foliage, as well, including 'Pomegranate Kiss', Neon Star, and Fire Star.

    Name: Dianthus 'Fire Witch'

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Plant Size: To 6 inches tall and 18 inches wide

    Zones: 5-9

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    Sedum

    Sedum sieboldii is a special sedum that shows off gray-green leaves often touched with pink. Rosy-pink flowers appear in autumn, adding to the cuteness factor.

    Like most sedums, this variety looks great even during extended periods of heat and drought. And it's typically not bothered by deer and rabbits.

    Name: Sedum sieboldii

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Plant Size: To 6 inches tall and 10 inches wide

    Zones: 6-9

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    Sea Holly

    Sea holly is striking in the garden or in dried-floral crafts thanks to its dramatic thistlelike flowers and spiny silvery foliage. Happily, it's easy to grow (and not invasive at all, unlike thistles) in a sunny spot that doesn't stay wet.

    Name: Eryngium amethystinum

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Plant Size: To 30 inches tall and wide

    Zones: 3-8

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    Lamb's ears

    Lamb's ears usually wins the award for softest garden plant. Its silvery leaves are coated in soft hairs, making it beautiful and also pest resistant (who'd want a mouthful of that?). It's a great groundcover for hot, dry spots -- especially slopes.

    Name: Stachys byzantina

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Plant Size: To 18 inches tall and 24 inches wide

    Zones: 4-8

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    Silvermound Artemisia

    Count on silvermound artemisia's low, rounded habit and bright coloring to add interest to your landscape, especially when paired with ornamental grasses.

    Like many silvery plants, silvermound artemisia does best in full sun and likes well-drained soil.

    Name: Artemisia schmidtiana

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Plant Size: To 12 inches tall and 18 inches wide

    Zones: 4-8

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    Silver Sage

    Silver sage looks a bit like lamb's ears on steroids -- the plant features big leaves covered in white hairs that shine in the sun. It's a biennial (or short-lived perennial when it's especially happy), though more often treated as an annual in container combinations.

    Name: Salvia argentea

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Plant Size: To 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide

    Zones: 5-8

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    Lavender Cotton

    Lavender cotton is a shrubby perennial that features gorgeous gray-green foliage and yellow flowers in summers. It's often used alongside herbs in knot gardens, though it makes a fine specimen in beds and borders, too.

    Name: Santolina chamaecyparissus

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Plant Size: To 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide

    Zones: 5-9

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    Blue Fescue

    Use blue fescue in large quantities to create big impact in the landscape. It's a great edging plant and its mounding habit is great for creating contrast with taller, more upright grasses. No matter how you employ it in your landscape, blue fescue features silvery-blue foliage that looks good from spring to fall.

    Name: Festuca glauca 'Boulder Blue'

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Plant Size: To 1 foot tall and wide

    Zones: 4-8

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    Blue Spruce

    Blue spruce is a tough, drought-tolerant tree that offers gorgeous silvery needles all year long. Plant breeders have been working on the tree for a long time, and you can now find shorter-growing versions, shrub types, and even groundcover forms.

    Name: Picea pungens f. glauca

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Plant Size: To 50 feet tall and 15 feet wide

    Zones: 3-8

  • Next Slideshow Best White Flowers for Your Garden

    Best White Flowers for Your Garden

    White flowers lend a cooling effect to the garden, especially on hot summer days. White flowers practically glow in the evening, so they're perfect for planting along pathways, or up against a deck or patio. Check out some of our favorite white flowers.
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