How to Design a White Flower Garden

Tips for Designing a White Flower Garden

Garden with white flowers

The Spruce / Almar Creative

Ever since the 1930s when poet and writer Vita Sackville-West created the all-white garden at Sissinghurst Castle Garden in the UK, gardeners have been taken with the idea of an all-white design. All-white gardens are often referred to as evening or nocturnal gardens because the white blooms seem to glow and become more prominent as the sun goes down.

There certainly are plenty of white-flowering plants you can use to create an all-white garden, but it can be a little tricky to create a combination you like. You never really notice how many shades of white there are until you start grouping the plants together.

Options for Combining Whites and Colors

Most white flowers are not pure white; many contain subtle undertones of yellow, pink, green, or blue. You will have to experiment with the plants and hold them next to each other to really appreciate the subtle color differences. As you do, you'll discover the combinations that work well for you.

There is no single method or design plan to create a white garden and more often than not, the addition of a secondary shade gives the garden dimension and makes the white more prominent. White does have a cooling effect when paired with other colors, but an all-white garden can become too monotonous if you don't inject diversity into your garden design.

Avoid monotony by using plants with contrasting textures and forms, both in foliage and flower shape. For instance, a diverse planting of tall, spiky, white iris with ruffled, white peonies, white trumpet lilies, single-flowered white clematis, and mop-head hydrangea can be stunning. To provide even more interest, you can include plants with strong texture and plants with white variegated, silver, or gray foliage, which has the effect of providing interest and softening the white colors.

The same tenets of basic garden design apply to an all-white garden. Use varying heights, repeat plants and shapes, and include large focal points. It's easy enough to fill your white garden with tall plants, grasses, ground covers, seasonal blooms, and climbers. The list of white plants is huge and is getting longer every year; consider some popular classic white or variegated plants as a starting point.

Silver Foliage Plants Enhance a White Garden

Many silver and gray foliage plants have fuzzy leaves that provide a textural contrast to bright white flowers and create a backdrop that will make the white flowers even more eye-catching.

White Flowers for Edging Walkways

White reflects light, so that's why white flowers are favored in evening gardens. Play up that feature by using low-growing white flowers along the edge of flower borders and walkways, particularly those paved in pale concrete or stone. You can create a white-edged walkway near or within an all-white garden. Here are a few suggestions for low-growing plants with varieties that offer white blooms,

Silver and Blue Needled Evergreens Accent a White Garden

Silver evergreens can help fill the winter void until your white garden sparkles again under a summer moon. Options to consider include:

  • Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar: 10–15 feet x 8–10 feet; USDA Cold Hardiness Zones 6–8
  • 'Blue Star' Juniper: 2–3 feet x 2–4 feet USDA Zones 4–8
  • 'Moonglow' Juniper: 12 feet x 3 feet; USDA Zones 3–7
  • Bruns Weeping Serbian Spruce: 15–30 feet x 4–8 feet; USDA Zones 4–8
  • Spruce 'Sester Dwarf': 6–8 feet x 2–3 feet; USDA Zones 3–8

Recommendations for White Flowers and Foliage

Many of these plants shown here are beautiful plants to consider for your white garden if they are hardy in your USDA cold hardiness zone. This list, however, is not exhaustive, so if you don't find a combination you like here, research the dozens of white-flowering plants that are hardy in your gardening zone.

White Climbers

White Variegated Perennials

  • Bear's Britches 'Tasmanian Angel' (Acanthus mollis) USDA Zones 6–8
  • Cranesbill geranium 'Variegatum' (Geranium macrorrhizum) Zones 4–8
  • Hosta 'Patriot' USDA Zones 3–9
  • Iris pallida 'Variegata' USDA Zones 3–9
  • Jacob's ladder 'Brise d'Anjou' (Polemonium caeruleum) USDA Zones 4–8
  • Sedum 'Frosty Morn' (Sedum alboroseum), Zones 6–9
  • Siberian bugloss 'Jack Frost' (Brunnera macrophylla) USDA Zones 3–9
  • Solomon's seal ;Variegatum' (Polygonatum odoratum) USDA Zones 3–8
  • Spotted deadnettle (Lamium maculatum "Pink Chablis") USDA Zones 4–8
  • Variegated lilyturf (Liriope muscari 'Variegata') USDA 6–10

White Variegated Shrubs

  • Daphne 'Summer Ice' (Daphne × transatlantica "Summer Ice"): 3–6 feet x 3–6 feet; USDA Zones 6–9
  • Hydrangea macrophylla 'Variegata': 3–6 feet x 3–6 feet; USDA Zones 5–9
  • Variegated elderberry (Sambucus nigra 'Marginata': 15–30 feet x 15–30 feet; USDA Zones 5–8
  • Variegated red twig dogwood (Cornus alba 'Elegantissima'): 6–8 feet x 2–4 feet; USDA Zones 2–8
  • Variegated willow (Salix integra 'Hakuro-nishiki'), which is a cultivar of the flamingo willow: 3–6 feet x 3–6 feet; USDA Zones 5–7

More Plant Suggestions for an All-White Border