19 of the Prettiest Plants with Silvery Leaves to Brighten Up Your Garden

rose campion silver-leaf plant
Photo: Lynn Karlin 

Plants that have silvery-tone foliage are some of the most valuable in the landscape because they look good with anything. Silver helps tone down bold, reds, yellows, and oranges, yet harmonizes with soft blues, pinks, and whites. Here are some of the most reliable annuals, perennials, trees, and shrubs to consider.

01 of 19

'Jack Frost' Brunnera

Brunnera leafing plant
John Reed Forsman

One of the finest silver leaf plants for shade is 'Jack Frost' brunnera, a stunner with sky-blue flowers in spring and heart-shape, silver foliage with narrow green veins and edges. Silver leaf plants are particularly effective in the shade where their color helps brighten dim corners.

Name: Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost'

Growing Conditions: Part shade in moist, well-drained soil rich in organic matter

Size: Up to 18 inches tall and wide

Zones: 3-8

Buy It: 'Jack Frost' Brunnera ($20, Etsy)

02 of 19

Japanese Painted Fern

Japanese Painted Fern
Brie Passano

A perfect planting partner for 'Jack Frost' brunnera, Japanese painted fern adds a fine texture to the foliage mix. Its silvery-green fronds flushed with burgundy-purple add 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: Part to full shade in moist, well-drained soil rich in organic matter

Plant Size: Up to 18 inches tall and 24 inches wide

Zones: 3-8

Buy It: Japanese Painted Fern ($15, Etsy)

03 of 19

'Silver Shimmers' Lungwort

silver shimmers lungwort silver-leaf plant
Denny Schrock

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

Growing Conditions: Part to full shade in moist, well-drained soil

Plant Size: Up to 1 foot tall and 2 feet wide

Zones: 3-8

Buy It: Pulmonaria Diana Clare Lungwort ($17, Etsy)

04 of 19

'Purple Dragon' Lamium

purple dragon lamium silver-leaf plant
Andre Baranowski

A topnotch groundcover, 'Purple Dragon' lamium offers pretty 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, commonly called spotted deadnettle, 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: Part to full shade in moist, well-drained soil

Plant Size: Up to 8 inches tall and 3 feet wide

Zones: 3-8

Buy It: Purple Chablis Dead Nettle (Lamium) Live Plant ($15, The Home Depot)

05 of 19

Dusty Miller

dusty miller silver-leaf plant
Marty Baldwin

A popular foliage plant for mixing with red geraniums and vinca vine, dusty miller has soft, fuzzy leaves that makes just about any planting partner shine. It's particularly pleasing to pair it with purple plants, such as 'Purple Flash' pepper, 'Bull's Blood' beets, or 'Blackie' sweet potato vine.

Name: Senecio cineraria

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in evenly moist, well-drained soil

Plant Size: Up to 18 inches tall and 12 inches wide

Zones: 7-10

Buy It: Dusty Miller ($16, The Home Depot)

06 of 19

Melianthus

melianthus honey bush
Denny Schrock

Sometimes called honey bush or peanut butter plant because of its sweet-scented foliage, melianthus always makes a bold statement in the garden. Its six-foot stems bear long, blue-gray leaves and dark maroon flower spikes that can grow up to two feet tall. It's a shrub in warm-weather climates, but is an eye-catching annual in cooler zones.

Name: Melianthus major

Growing Conditions: Full sun in moist, well-drained soil

Plant Size: Up to 10 feet tall and wide as a shrub and up to 3 feet tall and wide as an annual

Zones: 8-10

Buy It: Melianthus Major ($5, Etsy)

07 of 19

Curry Plant

curry plant silver-leaf plant
Matthew Benson

Though it's not the plant from which curry flavoring is made, you'll certainly think it is when you give the leaves of curry plant a sniff. Whether you grow this plant for its scent or its ornamental beauty, the lovely silver foliage works well as a filler in containers or beds and borders. Once the plant matures, small, round flowers bloom on the stalks of the plant.

Name: Helichrysum italicum subsp. serotinum

Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

Plant Size: Up to 24 inches tall and 36 inches wide

Zones: 8-11

Buy It: Curry Plant (from $15, Etsy)

08 of 19

Licorice Plant

licorice plant silver-leaf plant
Peter Krumhardt

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. It is known for its slight licorice aroma in the heat of the summer. Add licorice plant to hanging baskets or let it trail over a stone wall for added beauty and contrast.

Name: Helichrysum petiolare

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in dry to medium, well-drained soil

Plant Size: Up to 9 inches tall and 36 inches wide

Zones: 9-11; grown as an annual in colder-winter areas

Buy It: Licorice Seeds (from $4, Etsy)

09 of 19

Rose Campion

rose campion silver-leaf plant
Lynn Karlin 

Unforgettable in full bloom, rose campion is known for its abundant hot-pink flowers. But before it puts on its floral show and after the flowers fade, its densely woolly, silvery-gray leaves are ornamental on their own. Deadhead the flowers from this plant immediately after bloom to prevent any unwanted self-seeding.

Name: Lychnis coronaria

Growing Conditions: Full sun in average, well-drained soil

Plant Size: Up to 3 feet tall and 18 inches wide

Zones: 4-8

Buy It: Rose Campion ($7, Etsy)

10 of 19

Snow-In-Summer

snow in summer silver-leaf plant
Denny Schrock

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. The clusters of white blooms form a snow-like carpet and holds up to light foot traffic, too!

Name: Cerastium tomentosum

Growing Conditions: Full sun in dry, sandy, well-drained soil

Plant Size: Up to 1 foot tall and wide

Zones: 3-7

Buy It: Snow-in-Summer Ground Cover Seeds ($20, Walmart)

11 of 19

Russian Sage

russian sage silver-leaf plant
Peter Krumhardt

An especially pretty plant for the late-summer and autumn garden, Russian sage features lovely gray-green foliage and violet-blue flowers in summer into fall. This woody-based perennial of the mint family has a pleasant scent, isn't appealing to deer and rabbits, and doesn't miss a beat in drought. However, in some regions it can become weedy, spreading aggressively by underground stems, so make sure to grow it where you can keep it contained.

Name: Perovskia atriplicifolia

Growing Conditions: Full sun in dry to medium, well-drained soil

Plant Size: Up to 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide

Zones: 5-9

Buy It: Denim 'N Lace Russian Sage ($27, The Home Depot)

12 of 19

'Fire Witch' Dianthus

fire witch dianthus silver-leaf plant
Lynn Karlin 

A lovely little groundcover, 'Fire Witch' dianthus produces fragrant pink flowers in early spring atop wiry stems that rise from mounds of grassy, silvery-blue foliage. After this plant blooms, shear the faded flowers off to promote additional bloom in the late summer or early fall and allow the silvery-blue foliage to take center stage. There are a host of other excellent dianthus varieties with silver foliage, including 'Pomegranate Kiss', Neon Star, and Fire Star.

Name: Dianthus 'Fire Witch'

Growing Conditions: Full sun in evenly moist, well-drained soil

Plant Size: Up to 6 inches tall and 12 inches wide

Zones: 3-8

Buy It: 'Fire Witch' Dianthus ($10, Etsy)

13 of 19

Sedum

sedum silver-leaf plant growing on rocks
Jay Wilde

One group of plants that comes in a range of foliage colors is sedum, including silver. Low-growing Sedum sieboldii shows off gray-green leaves often touched with pink. Rosy-pink flowers appear in autumn, adding to this plant's overall appeal. Like most sedums, this species can tolerate extended periods of heat and drought. And it's typically not bothered by deer and rabbits.

Name: Sedum sieboldii

Growing Conditions: Full sun in average, well-drained soil

Plant Size: Up to 6 inches tall and 10 inches wide

Zones: 6-9

Buy It: Sedum Sieboldii ($12, Etsy)

14 of 19

Sea Holly

sea holly rattlesnake master flower
Denny Schrock

Thanks to its dramatic steel-blue, thistlelike flowers and spiny silvery foliage, sea holly is striking in the garden or in dried-floral crafts. Happily, this coarse, clump-forming perennial is easy to grow and not invasive at all, unlike thistles.

Name: Eryngium amethystinum

Growing Conditions: Full sun in dry, well-drained soil

Plant Size: Up to 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide

Zones: 5-9

Buy It: Big Blue Sea Holly ($19, Breck's)

15 of 19

Lamb's Ears

Big Ears' lamb's-ears
Denny Schrock

One of the most tactile garden plants, lamb's ears has silvery leaves that are coated in soft hairs, making it feel velvety to the touch. Its leaves resemble a lamb's ear in both shape and texture. This low-growing, spreading perennial makes an excellent groundcover for hot, dry spots such as slopes.

Name: Stachys byzantina

Growing Conditions: Full sun and dry to medium, well-drained soil

Plant Size: Up to 18 inches tall and wide

Zones: 4-8

Buy It: Silver Carpet Lamb's Ear ($26, Breck's)

16 of 19

Silver Sage

silver sage silver-leaf plant
Julie Mikos

Looking a bit like the beefier cousin of lamb's ears, silver sage features big leaves covered in white hairs that seem to 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 in dry to medium, and well-drained soil

Plant Size: Up to 12 inches tall and 18 inches wide

Zones: 5-8

Buy It: Silver Sage 'Artemis' ($4, Etsy)

17 of 19

Lavender Cotton

lavender cotton silver-leaf plant
Lynn Karlin 

A shrubby perennial, lavender cotton features gorgeous, silver-gray foliage and yellow flowers in summer. It's often used alongside herbs in knot gardens, though it works just as well in mixed beds and borders, too. The plant's aromatic foliage has historically been used as an insecticide and moth repellant.

Name: Santolina chamaecyparissus

Growing Conditions: Full sun in dry to medium, well-drained soil

Plant Size: Up to 2 feet tall and 3 feet wide

Zones: 6-9

Buy It: Lavender Cotton ($24, Etsy)

18 of 19

Blue Fescue

blue fescue silver-leaf plant
Andrew Drake

To create a big impact in the landscape, use blue fescue in large quantities. It makes an eye-catching edging plant and its mounding habit is ideal for creating contrast with taller, more upright grasses. No matter how you employ it in your landscape, blue fescue features silvery-blue foliage that shines from spring to fall.

Name: Festuca glauca 'Boulder Blue'

Growing Conditions: Full sun in dry to medium, well-drained soil

Plant Size: Up to 12 inches tall and 9 inches wide

Zones: 4-8

Buy It: Blue Fescue Grass ($18, The Home Depot)

19 of 19

Blue Spruce

silver-leafed evergreen bush
Robert Cardillo

A tough, drought-tolerant tree, blue spruce shows off short, silvery needles all year long. Plant breeders have been working on the tree for a long time, and you can now find compact versions, shrub types, and even groundcover forms.

Name: Picea pungens f. glauca

Growing Conditions: Full sun in acidic, medium moisture, well-drained soil

Plant Size: Up to 60 feet tall and 20 feet wide

Zones: 2-7

Buy It: Blue Spruce ($68, Etsy)

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