How to Use Warm Colors in the Garden
Ignite your garden with quick-color plantings in warm colors: red, orange, yellow, and nearly black. These colors set outdoor scenes ablaze with fiery hues that command attention. Warm shades are frequently the colors of high summer, when heat chases the mercury upward and full sun spills freely through the garden.
Winning Warm Color Combos
When blending warm hues, stage theatrical combinations by placing full, saturated hues side by side. Smoldering red with neon chartreuse, deep wine-purple with flaming orange, deep burgundy with sassy red -- these combos festoon any setting.
As you dream up plant blends, don't overlook orange. This color offers a range of shades from bronze to copper to tangerine, which mingle happily with other warm hues. Orange embodies versatility and manifests subtle changes depending on its partner. For instance, with a dark burgundy, a citrus orange glimmers; placed with a blue-ink tone, it merges and presents a pleasant tableau.
On the color wheel, blends result where cool and warm colors meet. Depending on how much of a warm (or cool) hue contributes to these blends, their character can shift from cool to warm. For example, a strong Kelly green has more blue in it, making it a cool green. A neon lime green boasts a large yellow (warm) component, which renders it sharp and sizzling.
As you design plantings, you'll get the most pop when you pair opposites, such as a warm-tone chartreuse or yellow-green with a deep cool blue, or a red-violet with a clear yellow. The effect is vivacious and vibrant and can even convey a sense of being alive with movement. You might not want an entire bed planted with these types of combinations, but when tucked into containers and placed in outdoor living areas or spaces viewed from indoors, these ensembles can make a garden sing.
Don't Overlook Black
In a recent trend for gardens, dark colors are taking center stage in the form of foliage plants with very dark leaves. These not-quite-black beauties feature deep burgundy or purple leaves that add snap to quick-color plantings.
In containers or beds, dark-leaf plants disappear when used in shadowy settings. Keep them in full sun and sited against a lighter background for best effect. For a never-fail pairing that gives the garden a jolt, team these dark introductions with golden-leaf plants.
Many kinds of plants boast deep-tone leaves. Groundcovers include 'Illusion' Midnight Lace sweet potato vine and Alternanthera. Look for 'Black Pearl' ornamental pepper and 'Purple Lady' Iresine to fill midheight roles in color groupings. 'Mahogany Splendor' hibiscus, Cordyline, and 'Purple Majesty' millet add height to plantings.
Tips for Warm-Color Success
Like their cool-hue cousins, warm colors look their best when used in certain places in the garden. In general, warm colors strut their stuff best in full sun locations.
In shadier, low-light conditions or against a dark backdrop, the more saturated (darker) versions of these hues can appear washed out and flat, even recede into the background. This is especially true of deep wine red, burgundy, brown-beige, or rusty orange -- shades that are traditionally considered fall colors.