Grey foliage, whether silvery-white, deep charcoal or somewhere in between, makes a dramatic impact in the garden. Flowering plants with grey foliage are especially handsome. Light silvery-grey leaves work wonders in “moon gardens” because the pale foliage shows up so well in dim light, according to master gardener Todd Weinmann. Flowers sporting grey leaves also break up the monotony of masses of green foliage or visually neutralize hectic color schemes.
For intense color atop silver-grey leaves, choose Lychnis coronaria. The summer-blooming plant bursts forth with flowers featuring five heart-shaped magenta or red petals. The drought-resistant plants like full sun and grow between 2 and 3 feet.
As their name suggests, Everlasting flowers are renowned for their use as dried flowers. Anaphalis varieties feature silvery-grey, spear-like leaves that bloom in mid- or late-summer. The white flowers resemble daisies. Try pearly everlasting or Himalayan everlasting. The drought-tolerant plants do best in full sun.
Coral Bells, or heucheras, come in a variety of foliage colors and patterns, including greenish-grey or silver-grey, and small, bell-like flowers rising on a long stem above the broad leaves. Most bloom in late spring, although a few coral bell varieties give repeat performance throughout the growing season. Stormy seas offers masses of light and dark grey leaves with white flowers. Pewter veil and harvest silver also bear creamy white flowers, with silvery-grey streaks over the green base color. Paris has similar foliage, but its flowers are deep pink. Garden author Barbara Damrosch recommends planting heucheras in the front of an ornamental border. They do best in partial shade and appreciate moist soil.
Want to add “The Sound of Music” to your garden? Grow the Swiss favorite Edelweiss (Leontopodium alpinum), a delicately flowered plant with soft, needlelike white-grey foliage. The low-growing plant does best in cool summers and adds a soft dimension to a rock garden. Try either common Edelwiess or the mignon hybrid, which is a bit hardier and even lower-growing.
Often includes in children’s gardens because of their velvety-soft foliage, some Stachys byzantina plants also boast spectacular blossoms. Try fuzzy wuzzy for spikes of hot pink flowers in early summer, and enjoy the low-growing, soft-grey “fuzzy” leaves for the rest of the season. Lamb’s ears make appropriate rock garden plants or front-of-the-border plants. They grow in full sun or dappled shade and aren’t fussy about soil conditions, although they dislike being over-watered.
Many of the lavenders have greyish-white foliage that looks especially handsome as backdrops to their spiky purplish-blue blooms. Grow English or French lavender (or hybrids suited to your area) in dry soil with full sun. Lavenders dislike humidity and over-watering, as well as excess fertilizer. Most have long-blooming seasons. They grow between 18 and 36 inches tall, depending on the variety.
The Pulmonaria family of spring-blooming perennials offers shade-loving plants with mottled leaves. Raspberry ice foliage is green with splashes of silver grey and white, with raspberry-colored flowers shaped like bells on short stems.
Additional choices range from the succulent plant hens and chickens to any of the creeping or common thymes. Also consider options like wooly rock jasmine, rock rose, Greek horehound, lamium, grey broom, snow-in-summer and hybrid mulleins.