Stunning Silver Plants for Dry Times

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Olympic athletes may be disappointed to settle for silver, but it’s a most desirable color in the garden. Silver-leaved plants are a sophisticated design choice, and, even better, they tend to be drought tolerant. 

lambs ears

As with everything in the plant world, a silver plants didn’t come about just to dazzle gardeners. In most cases the silvery look actually comes from adaptations to harsh conditions. Some silver plants have a waxy or filmy silver coating on its leaves to reflect strong sun. Other silver plants, like the lamb's ears shown at top, have thicker silver “fur” that helps it deal with drought. This silver fuzz catches rainfall, moistening the plant’s cells and then shedding the water it toward the roots.

Here are some tips for incorporating silver-leaved plants into your garden design:

  • Like white, silver reflects light and takes on a special glow at dawn and dusk. Place silver plants along a pathway or patio that you use at those times of day.
  • Use shade-loving silver plants to brighten dark areas.
  • Sun-loving silver plants can be placed to great effect in front of dark-leaved evergreens.
  • Silver plants work well with any other color of foliage or flower. Silver intensifies the energy and excitement of hot colors like red and orange. It blends with the calm of cool colors like blue and purple.
  • Since silver works well with hot and cool colors alike, silver plants are a great choice for transitional areas (the spaces between garden beds or sections) and for a unifying repetition throughout a garden.

Favorite silver plants:

For shade:

’Blackberry Ice’ heuchera

‘Blackberry Ice’ Coral Bells Is a Humidity-Tolerant Heuchera

‘Fire and Ice’ caladium

We Love ‘Fire and Ice’ Caladium

‘Sea Heart’ and ‘Silver Heart’ bugloss

Sea Heart and Silver Heart Bugloss Stand Up Through Summer

Ghost fern

Japanese painted fern 

For sun

‘Powis Castle’ artemisia 

‘Matrona’ sedum

Plant Matrona Sedum for Cold-Season Interest

‘Blue Star’ juniper

Blue Star Juniper Makes a Great Dwarf Evergreen Shrub

Fremont’s primrose

We Love Fremont’s Primrose

Lamb’s ears (shown)

Rattlesnake master

Silver salvia 

‘Silver Falls’ dichondra

‘Silver Stone’ sedum

Main image credit: Jean-Pol GRANDMONT - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Read about gold plants here.