8 Plants for a White and Silver Shade Garden

  • 01 of 09

    Brighten a Shady Garden With White and Silver Flowers and Foliage

    Garden Design Plan for a White Themed Shade Garden
    Marie Iannotti

    By adding some white; silvery shimmer; or gray, feathery foliage, a shady spot in the garden becomes a bright highlight because white flowers and foliage seem to glow in the shade. 

    You can plant a white shade garden by following this design plan exactly or use the plan just as inspiration. If a plant isn't suited to your area or is hard to find, alternatives are listed. Every year new variegated plants are introduced that make it easier to create glints of white in your garden.

    For the first year of any perennial garden, filling in with annual flowers makes the garden look mature while still leaving room for the new perennial plants to spread. For color early in the season, consider planting drifts of white ​tulips, such as "Albion Star," "Best White," "Evita," "Ice Princess," or "Purissima." Or perhaps "Spring Green," with its green-streaked white petals.

    Continue to 2 of 9 below.
  • 02 of 09

    Goat's Beard (Arunus dioicus)

    Flowering goat´s beard (Aruncus dioicus)
    Justus de Cuveland / Getty Images

    Plant No. 1 in the design is goat's beard (Arunus dioicus). These large, towering plants can make wonderful focal points in a garden—a design technique that is sometimes overlooked in woodland gardens. 

    Goat's beard is easy to grow and makes a wonderful choice, provided your garden isn't in full shade. It grows slightly smaller in partial shade than it does in sun, but it still offers an imposing presence and will flower just fine. Goat's beard is recommended in United States Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 3 to 7. It blooms from May to July.

    As an alternative to goat's beard, consider white flowering Astilbe. Two good choices are:

    • Astilbe japonica "Deutschland"
      USDA zones 3 to 9
      2 feet by 3 feet 
      Bloom period: July to August
    • Astilbe "White Gloria"
      USDA zones 4 to  8
      3 feet by 2 feet
      Bloom period: July to August
    Continue to 3 of 9 below.
  • 03 of 09

    Lungwort (Pulmonaria)

    Variegated Pulmonaria saccharata
    Marie Iannotti

    Plant No. 2 is lungwort (Pulmonaria), one of the earliest flowers to bloom in spring. The blooms offer brilliant shades of azure blue and hot pink, but it is Pulmonaria's foliage that makes it so welcome in a shade garden design. Breeders have taken the old-fashioned "Mrs. Moon" and expanded both her spots and her leaves so that pinwheels of white and frosted silver glint throughout the growing season. Pulmonaria also spreads in a controlled way, making a tidy blanket along the front edge of a shade garden.

    Good choices include: Pulmonaria saccharata "Moonshine," "Excaliber," and "British Sterling." Pulmonaria is recommended in USDA hardiness zones 3 to 8. It blooms from April to May. 

    As an alternative to Pulmonaria, consider:

    False Forget-me-not (Brunnera macrophylla "Jack Frost" ) 
    USDA zones 3 to 8
    12 inches by 15 inches
    Bloom period: May to June

    Continue to 4 of 9 below.
  • 04 of 09

    Perennial Geramium

    Clark Geranium
    Chris Burrows / Getty Images

    Plant No. 3 for the white shade garden is perennial geranium (Geranimu spp.). "Johnson's Blue," "Rozanne," and Geranium sanguinium are the most popular varieties due to their flashy colors. For a white garden, Clark's geranium (Geranium clarkei) "Kashmir White" is a perfect choice.

    You may get fewer blooms when planting perennial geraniums in partial shade, but you'll notice them even more. Perennial geraniums require little attention, as they spread a bit farther every year. They are also extremely easy to divide and transplant, allowing you to fill in any bare spots as your garden matures.

    Geranium clarkei "Kashmir White" is recommended in USDA hardiness zones 4 to 8. It grows to 20 inches by 15 inches and blooms from May to July. 

    For an alternative, consider:

    Meadow Anemone (Anemone canadensis)
    USDA zones 2 to 6
    18 inches by 12 inches
    Bloom period: May to July

    Continue to 5 of 9 below.
  • 05 of 09

    Bleeding Heart (Dicentra Spectabilis)

    White Bleeding Heart
    shene / Getty Images

    Plant No. 4 is the bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis). Romantic and delicate looking, bleeding hearts are actually very durable plants that make themselves right at home in partial shade, particularly if the soil is rich and moist. The white-flowered form, usually called "Alba," is a perfect feature for a white garden. One large specimen of Dicentra spectabilis is enough to grab your attention; however, it can be ephemeral and disappear after the weather warms. If that's the case in your garden, one of the fringed-leaf varieties, S. eximia or S. formosa, might be a better choice.

    Dicentra spectabilis "Alba" is recommended in USDA hardiness zones 3 to 9. It grows 30 inches by 36 inches and blooms from April to May. 

    Good alternatives include:

    • Eastern Fringed Bleeding Heart (D. eximia "Alba")
      USDA zones 3 to 9
      18 inches by 9 inches
      Repeat bloomer
    • Western Fringed Bleeding Heart (D. formosa "Alba")
      USDA zones 4 to 10
      18 inches by 24 inches
      Bloom period: May to June
    Continue to 6 of 9 below.
  • 06 of 09

    Lamb's Ear

    Lamb's ears (Stachys byzantina)
    Ron Evans / Getty Images

    Plant No. 5 is lamb's ear, a wonderful edging plant. Lamb's ear doesn't bloom profusely in partial shade, but it is on this list because of its foliage. The fuzzy texture of the leaves catches whatever light makes its way through to the garden as well as holds raindrops that act as prisms.

    A good choice for a partial shade garden is Stachys byzantina "Helen Von Stein," recommended for UDSA hardiness zones 4 to 9.  Because it doesn't usually flower, the plant instead puts its energy into larger foliage. Plants grow to about 12 inches by 15 inches.

    An alternative to lamb's ear is:

    Woolly thyme (Thymus praecox/Thymus serpyllum var. lanuginosus)
    USDA zones 6 to 8
    6 inches by 12 inches

    Continue to 7 of 9 below.
  • 07 of 09

    Variegated Ornamenatl Grasses and Sedges

    Using Ornamental Grasses in Shade Garden Design
    Marie Iannotti

    Plant No. 6 calls for one of the many variegated ornamental ​grasses. These plants bring a triple treat to garden design: visual appeal, movement, and sound. Plenty of variegated grasses grow well in partial shade, but don't overlook the sedges (Carex). True, some sedge varieties can grow a bit too aggressively, as is also true of some ornamental grasses. But the partial shade conditions can help to keep most of these spreaders in check. If you do find your choice has grown significantly in just one season, don't wait to see what happens—replace it sooner rather than later.

    The grass shown here is a variegated ribbon grass, one of the varieties that must be watched closely. Dry shade is the best growing condition to prevent ribbon grass from becoming invasive. Better choices include:

    • Variegated broadleaf sedge (Carex siderosticha "Variegata")
      USDA zones 4 to 9
      8 inches by 18 inches
    • Hakonachloa macra "Albo-Striata"
      USDA zones 5 to 8
      24 inches by 18 inches
    Continue to 8 of 9 below.
  • 08 of 09


    Silver Green Foliage of Mugwort (Artemesia)
    Ron Evans / Getty Images

    Plant No. 7, Artemisia, is an herb that has become well-liked for its lacy, often feathery foliage. It makes a wonderful contrast to plants with large leaves, such as hostas. Artemisia is also used in flower arrangements, fresh or dried. Many varieties are fragrant, although not everyone agrees that the fragrance is pleasant.

    Good choices for tall-growing ​Artemisia include:

    • Wormwood (Artemisia "Powis Castle")
      USDA zones 6 to 9
      3 feet by 2 feet
    • Western Mugwort (Artemisia "Valerie Finnis")
      USDA zones 3 to 10
      24 inches ny 18 inches
    Continue to 9 of 9 below.
  • 09 of 09


    Garden Design with Hosta Leaves in Assorted Textures and Colors
    Garden Design with Hosta Leaves in Assorted Textures and Colors. Marie Iannotti

    Plant No. 8 is the ever-popular Hosta. It is hard to imagine shade gardening without the abundance of wonderful Hosta varieties available. Every shade garden should include at least one or two contrasting and complementing varieties. 

    The large, white-edged Hosta ventricosa "Aureomarginata" is a lovely choice. But there are many extraordinary variegated varieties available. Some choices to look for include:

    • Hosta "Patriot"
      USDA zones 3 to 8
      18 inches by 36 inches
    • Hosta "American Sweetheart"
      USDA zones 3 to 8
      20 inches by 24 inches
    • Hosta "Center of Attention"
      USDA zones 3 to 8
      10 inches by 18 inches

    And if Hosta just isn't going to make it in your garden, an alternative to try is:

    • Variegated Sweet Flag (Acoris calumnus)
      USDA zones 5 to 9
      3 feet by 2 feet