How to Use Cool Colors in the Garden

When working with color, it helps to understand that some colors are cool while others are warm. Cool colors fall on the purple-blue-green side of the color wheel and also encompass white, gray, and silver. Warm colors include red, orange, and yellow tones. You can design a garden that caters to cool or warm colors, or one that melds both with artistic ease.

Classic cool-color combinations include blue and pink, a range of blues arranged in a monochromatic scheme, or purple and silver. Pastel forms of traditionally warm colors such as yellow, salmon, and apricot also fit into a cool-theme garden plan. Don't overlook leafy plants when pondering quick-color groupings. Many annuals and tropicals feature foliage in blue tones, pastel hues, or white variegation patterns. Grass or grasslike plants frequently offer cool tones, including pinkish 'Field of Dreams' or 'Tricolor' ornamental corn, rubygrass, or Vertigo ornamental millet. Many coleus varieties sport leaves splashed with pink. In general, cool-color foliage plants present a well-choreographed garden when partnered with orange or yellow tones in either blooms or leaves.

White: A Lone Tone

White, used on its own, also falls into the cool-color category. You can partner white with warm colors to give combinations a little zest,
 although white tends to recede when placed with yellow. Or use white as 
a quiet yet robust punctuation in cool arrangements. When planted with soft blue-tone foliage or flowers and silvery hues, white absolutely sparkles. The effect is magical and enchanting, ideal for a garden viewed at dusk or when illuminated by starlight.

See the best white flowers for your garden.

Cool-Color Dos and Don'ts

Cool colors have their place in the garden, and when you master the basics, the effect is fabulous. Follow these guidelines to get the most impact from your quick-color cool-tone plantings.

With White and Lighter Hues of Cool Colors:

DO place plants

  • In dark corners or shady garden spots to reflect light and illuminate the area.
  • In themed evening gardens or areas where night lighting dances across plants.
  • Against a dark backdrop, such as a bank of evergreens or a deep red brick wall.

DON'T place plants

  • In beds primarily viewed during early to midafternoon when light is harshest because they will appear faded.
  • Thickly in poolside plantings if your pool is in full sun, for the same reason.

With More Saturated Hues of Cool Colors:

DO place plants

  • Where morning sun or dappled deep shade prevails.

DON'T place plants

  • In dark corners or other places where shadows linger. The colors will disappear into the darkness.

Create a Cohesive Look

Feel like your landscape doesn't match your house? Follow these tips for a house and garden that go together.


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