17 Backyard Crops With a Silver Sheen

Silver plants stand out in the garden and become cooling neutrals with high contrast in color and texture. Gorgeous against blooms in shades of red, violet, blue, white, and gold, silver foliage complements bold and pastel shades alike. Plants with a silvery sheen are also striking against those with dark foliage in purple and green.

Not only are plants’ silvery qualities ornamental, but they also serve a plant purpose. Most of these sterling selections originate in sunny, dry climates. Silver leaves and stems reflect sunlight, protecting them from sunburn and scorch

The silvery sheen comes about through a waxy coating on the leaves or tiny hairs on tomentose leaves that offer a fuzzy layer of protection. The plant aims to protect leaves from long days of direct sun and prevent water loss. As a bonus, many of these silvery qualities mean that plants are rugged, adaptable, and seldom damaged by deer.

Here, we’ll explore shimmering beauties that make elegant landscape additions. Options abound for sun and shade to bring a little sparkle to the garden.

Russian Sage

Create a serene landscape with silvery foliage and airy blooms.

Russian sage’s silvery stems and leaves and sprays of purple-blue blooms bring icy appeal. A winner of the Perennial Plant Association’s Perennial Plant of the Year award, Russian sage blooms reliably from summer until frost. Whorling, tubular blooms line tall stems for an airy quality among the delicate foliage.

Perovskia prefers full sun and well-draining soils to prevent fungal root rot. Look for disease-resistant varieties like ‘Denim in Lace’ and ‘Crazy Blue’ in climates with high humidity and rainfall. Russian sage performs beautifully in high heat with conditions on the dry side.

The attractive plants resemble lavender and make an excellent cold-hardy alternative. While the foliage is aromatic, it’s more of a menthol and camphor fragrance than herbal lavender. Plant Russian sage as a specimen among ornamental grasses, flowering plants, or a mass for impactful visual appeal.

Japanese Painted Fern

Athyrium niponicum ‘Pictum’ displays intricately patterned fronds with silvery-gray highlights and burgundy veins.Illuminate shady corners with vibrant, low-maintenance ferns.

Japanese painted fern—an eclectic, colorful pick—brightens the shade garden with unique fronds in frosted white, purple, and silvery green. The plants have a low mounding habit and are well-suited to containers or grouped plantings.

Japanese painted ferns are striking as stand-alone specimens or provide a soft contrast to other shade plants. The frond color is best in light shade locations, starting mainly silvery in spring and turning more green as summer temperatures rise. Combine ferns with shade-loving ornamental grasses like sweet flag and Japanese forest grass and perennials like heuchera and hosta.

Japanese painted fern is an easy-to-grow perennial that thrives in organically rich, well-drained, consistently moist soils. It’s best if the soil remains moist without drying out between waterings. Deer seldom damage the feathery fronds.


Heuchera ‘Dolce Silver Gumdrop’ presents scalloped, silver-green leaves adorned with purple undersides, contrasting beautifully with its delicate sprays of small, bell-shaped flowers in shades of pink.Elevate your garden with vibrant, silver-leaved Heuchera varieties.

Heuchera, or coral bells, are North American native perennials prized for their form and color. Heuchera hybrids have green, purple, bronze, black, red, or orange foliage, often in mottled tones. Silver-leaved varieties add exciting visual interest and high contrast to container arrangements and shady garden borders.

Heuchera ‘DolceⓇ Silver Gumdrop’ features iridescent silver leaves with rose undertones that intensify over the growing season. Midsummer flowers are bright pink for a dynamic contrast. These compact, vigorous hybrids have good heat and humidity resistance. 

H. ‘Spearmint’ boasts silver leaves with dark green venation and long-lasting bicolor flowers in deep and light pink. ‘Smoke and Mirrors,’ ‘Stainless Steel,’ and ‘Northern Exposure’ are other stunning silvery varieties with contrasting tones and venation – the inspiration is endless!

Pair coral bells with other shade-loving plants like hellebore, hosta, ferns, and brunnera for a striking combination of multi-season foliage and flowers. Heuchera needs rich, organic, well-draining soils. Grow them in a dappled shade area of the garden or a spot with morning sun and afternoon shade. They’ll grow in full shade, though growth may be slower.

Dichondra ‘Silver Falls’

Dichondra argentea ‘Silver Falls’ features small, circular leaves covered in soft, silvery hairs.Craft cascading beauty with silvery dichondra in sun-drenched spaces.

Add dichondra to the annual arrangement for a draping waterfall of silver. Small, fan-shaped leaves line silvery stems that trail to form a dense, low-growing ground cover or cascading container feature. 

While dichondra only reaches about four inches high, fast-growing runners reach three to four feet long. If dichondra gets a little spindly or spreads outside its bounds, give plants a trim to sculpt them back into shape. The leafy runners root easily, so pull unwanted stems to keep them in check.

‘Silver Falls’ thrives in full sun and tolerates dappled shade. It handles heat, humidity, and medium to dry soils as long as they are well-draining.

Dusty Miller

Senecio cineraria presents velvety, silver-gray leaves with deeply lobed and finely serrated edges.Illuminate gardens with silvery foliage of frost-tolerant dusty miller.

Dusty miller showcases delicately divided, silvery-white, fuzzy leaves. The thick, feathery leaves give great textural interest to annual displays, with silver, frosted foliage as the absolute highlight. Dusty miller provides an excellent contrast to deeper foliage and colorful seasonal annuals.

Dusty miller is frost-tolerant and is often grown as an annual that flourishes in mild temperatures. Use dusty miller as a cool-season annual in warm climates with high humidity. In areas with mild summers, dusty miller grows from spring until regular heavy frosts. 

Native to the Mediterranean, dusty miller performs best in full sun but do just fine in shade. Plants tolerate heat and drought, and, like so many on our sterling plant list, it’s deer-resistant.


Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ showcases finely divided, silvery-gray foliage that forms a dense, mounding habit, covered with drops of water shimmering in the sun.Embrace elegance with silver-hued Artemisia varieties in sunny gardens.

Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ features silver, feathery foliage and a loosely mounding form. This hybrid perennial differs from its mugwort relatives because it doesn’t spread as aggressively. Its fine texture and gray leaves add variety to the planting arrangement. 

Artemisia schmidtiana ‘Silver Mound’ is another gorgeous silver option. Its delicate leaves form a soft, mounded pincushion. ‘Silver Mound’ grows eight to ten inches tall on tidy, compact plants.

Artemisia thrives in full sun and well-drained soil. It’s a rugged perennial and tolerates drought but withers in overly wet conditions. In high heat and humidity or periods of prolonged saturation, leaves may wilt and drop.

Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ spreads through rhizomes, creating tufted mounds of silvery gray foliage. When brushed, it has a camphor scent.


Santolina chamaecyparissus exhibits silvery, needle-like leaves arranged densely along woody stems, with small, button-like yellow flowers adding a burst of color and fragrance.Enhance your landscape with aromatic, silver-hued santolina shrubs.

Santolina, or lavender cotton, is an Old World herb grown for its attractive and aromatic silvery foliage, rugged adaptability, and qualities as a low-growing, mounding groundcover. These small, woody shrubs are ideal accents along bed edges, borders, and walkways.

In the summer, santolina bears masses of sunny yellow button blooms on stems rising above the foliage. This Mediterranean plant is evergreen and drought-tolerant when established. It’s well-suited to coastal exposure and arid conditions. The aromatic leaves and texture dissuade deer and rabbits from nibbling.

Santolina grows best in full sun, and in average, well-draining soils allowed to dry out between waterings. It adapts to a wide range of soil types, from sandy to clay to rocky. Plants tolerate shearing well and will produce more silvery gray leaves when trimmed. 


Lamium maculatum displays heart-shaped leaves with silver markings and produces clusters of tubular, hooded flowers in shades of pink.Illuminate shaded areas with spreading variegated foliage and colorful blooms.

Lamium,  or spotted deadnettle, lightens shady spots as a ground cover with bright little leaves in silver, variegated, green, and gold varieties. The low-growing plants spread through rooting stems to form a mat. Prolific pink, purple, or white flowers appear heavily in late spring through early summer, with sporadic blooming until frost. 

Lamium is an adaptable transition plant to shady borders and woodland edges where the sun meets shade conditions. Silver varieties, especially, do well with dappled sunlight to maintain their color. They pair beautifully with heuchera and ferns and as an underplanting for bulbs.

Lamium ‘Red Nancy’ (silver leaves tinged in red) and ‘Album’ (with silver-striped leaves) ranked highly in Chicago Botanical Garden field trials. ‘Beacon Silver’ is noteworthy for its nearly all-silver leaves and deep lavender blooms, ‘Cosmopolitan’ has miniature silver leaves in a compact form that won’t spread aggressively.

Ideal growing conditions for lamium are partial to full shade garden locations with organically rich, moist, well-drained soils. Plants tolerate dry shade but not overly wet conditions, which lead to crown and stem rot. Lamium spreads vigorously; easily pull sections to keep them in bounds.

Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’

Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ features large, heart-shaped leaves with striking silver markings and delicate veins, forming a lush ground cover.Embrace multiseason beauty with silvery foliage and delicate blue blooms.

A hardy Siberian native, brunnera grows beautifully as a shady groundcover with heart-shaped leaves and blue flowers in spring. ‘Jack Frost’ sparkles with multiseason interest, where silvery foliage carries high contrast with green venation and edges. 

‘Jack Frost’ is the Perennial Plant Association’s Perennial of the Year winner. This award is given to top-performing perennials based on their adaptability to a wide range of climates, low maintenance requirements, pest and disease resistance, and multiseason appeal, among other criteria.

Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ grows best in moist, well-draining soils. Morning sun and afternoon shade or dappled light is ideal. Plant ‘Jack Frost’ with hosta and ferns in woodland gardens for interest in texture and color.

Sea Holly

 Blue Sea Holly showcases spiny, silvery-blue leaves arranged in rosettes and produces cone-shaped clusters of metallic blue or steel-gray flowers surrounded by spiky bracts.Elevate your garden with spiky, silvery-blue blooms all summer.

Sea holly is one of those striking plants with almost unreal flowers. Silvery blue blooms are rigid and spiky and bring a profusion of color and texture to the garden throughout the summer. Florists and growers alike appreciate the artful blooms.

Eryngium is a tough plant, preferring full sun and sandy or loamy soils for best growth and flowering. The more sun, the better for sea holly. It also tolerates salty coastal conditions and is deer-resistant.

Look to ‘Blue Glitter’ for a hardy variety loaded with blue blooms on silver stems. Basal leaves are green, and multi-stems rise tall for bunches of flowers.


Cynara cardunculus presents large, deeply lobed, silvery-gray leaves with spiny margins, adding a bold and sculptural element to the landscape.Make a bold statement with dramatic, sculptural silver foliage.

Cardoon is a sculptural plant with dramatic silver foliage that makes a bold statement. Its leaves are large and frond-like, with spines and deep lobes. Plants produce showy violet flowers on artichoke fruits (though the cardoon stem is edible).

Native to the Mediterranean, cardoon has a long garden history. Historically, it was a regular part of the diet during the Middle Ages. Today, it’s grown for its edible value and architectural form. Cardoon received the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit for its vigor, performance, and pest and disease resistance.

In many areas, cardoons grow as ornamental annuals. In mild climates like California, cardoons are invasive, so be sure to check your area’s potential before planting. Cardoon tolerates a variety of soil conditions, from clay to sand, but it grows best in moist, fertile soil with good drainage.

Tree Germander

Teucrium fruticans exhibits small, gray-green leaves covered in fine hairs, forming a dense shrub adorned with clusters of lavender-blue flowers.Enhance landscapes with silver foliage and lavender-blue summer blooms.

Tree germander (bush germander or silver germander) has a twiggy, shrubby form with pretty silver leaves and lavender-blue flowers throughout summer. Its aromatic leaves are fuzzy, with gray-green tops and silvery undersides for a bright pop in the landscape.

Germander is another waterwise Mediterranean plant adaptable to a wide variety of soils and drought-tolerant once established. It tolerates wind, coastal spray, and pollution. Plants are deer-resistant. 

Use silver germander as an accent in garden beds, rock gardens, and along slopes. Germander takes trimming and shaping well.

Lamb’s Ear

Stachys byzantina displays velvety, silver-gray leaves and produces spikes of small, pink to purple flowers.Create a velvety ground cover with soft, lush foliage and delicate blooms.

Lamb’s ear is as soft as it sounds. Its thick, velvety leaves form a lush, clumping ground cover. Small pink and purple blooms emerge in the summer, though the foliage is the real draw.

Plants tolerate dry soils, periods of drought, and pollution. Lamb’s ear wither in overly wet conditions, including high humidity, and benefit from afternoon shade in hot summer climates. In warmer climates, opt for ‘Helen von Stein’ (also called ‘Big Ears’), for a more heat-tolerant variety with large leaves. 

The fuzzy texture and aromatic foliage of lamb’s ear add to their charm (and deer resistance). For best vigor, grow them in moist, well-drained soils.


Eucalyptus cinerea showcases lance-shaped, blue-green leaves with a powdery texture thriving in a sunny garden.Embrace refreshing fragrance and silver foliage in your garden oasis.

Eucalyptus is known for its refreshing menthol fragrance, silver foliage, and peeling bark. The silver dollar gum is one of over 700 species of Eucalyptus, all native to Australia, New Zealand, and surrounding islands. Silver dollar produces attractive upright stems with silvery, round leaves.

In its native habitat, the silver dollar tree reaches 25 to 60 feet tall, but it grows easily as a shrubby annual in the garden and in containers at more modest heights. It grows quickly in a single season and overwinters indoors as a houseplant.

Eucalyptus is excellent in fresh and dried floral arrangements. It grows best in full sun in soils with medium moisture and good drainage.


Agave features rosettes of succulent, spiky leaves in silver-bluish shades.Elevate your garden with stunning silver-hued agave specimens.

Agave is architectural in the garden, with broad, structural leaves in hues of silver, blue, and green. As the leaves unfurl, a pretty leaf imprint remains on the lower leaf surfaces. Leaf margins and tips hold sharp spines.

This stately specimen ranges in size depending on species and variety and has extensive ethnobotanical heritage. Agave americana has uses dated 8000 years ago when Aztecs used the plants for eating, tools, and more.

Numerous silver agave varieties are ready to shine in your garden. Look for ‘Silver Queen,’ ‘Silver Surfer,’ and ‘Silver Star’ for that unique sheen.

Agave thrives in full sun and fast-draining soils. After years of growth, it produces a single towering bloom stalk with clusters of flowers. These unique stems produce new “pups” as the mother plant fades.

Licorice Plant

Helichrysum petiolare presents trailing stems adorned with fuzzy, silver-gray leaves, providing a cascading, silvery accent in the garden.Add charm with silver licorice plants in garden beds or containers.

This fun little plant makes a sweet filler along the bed edge or in containers. Its silver-flocked leaves have a slight licorice scent, noticeable in the heat of summer. Plants spread and trail, providing low-growing interest in color, form, and texture.  

An annual for most of us, licorice plant is native to South Africa and a tender perennial in mild, arid climates. It is invasive in parts of coastal California. 

Another attractive silver Helichrysum to consider is H. italicum or curry plant. Plants have fine silver foliage with a curry scent. Golden bloom clusters appear in midsummer.

Soils with good drainage are essential for Helichrysum. They tolerate poor soils as long as they’re well-draining. Overly wet conditions cause fungal diseases like root rot.


Dianthus Mountain Frost Silver Strike exhibits narrow, silvery-green leaves and produces double flowers in shades of pink with a distinctive highlight center.Delight your garden with fragrant, colorful waves of dianthus.

Also known as “pinks,” dianthus delights the garden with striking foliage, bloom color, and scent –  a spicy clove – from spring through fall.  A fine-bladed groundcover, dianthus forms a carpet of silvery-blue foliage with stems of fringy blooms in white, red, pink, and bicolor. In full bloom, the flowers cover the foliage in a wave of color. 

Use dianthus as a path or border planting and in rock and cottage gardens along edges. Hybrid varieties with especially silver leaves include D. ‘Silver Star’ (with white flowers) and D. ‘Mountain Frost Silver Strike’ (with deep pink blooms). D. gratianopolitanus ‘Firewitch’ is an award-winner for performance and has magenta blooms.

Pinks need well-drained soil to thrive. Once established, they tolerate dry periods and prefer to dry out between waterings. They struggle with excessive moisture and experience crown rot or fungal diseases. Otherwise, dianthus is a low-maintenance perennial with plenty to offer hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees in the way of pollen and nectar. 

Final Thoughts

Plants with a silvery sheen make gorgeous and adaptable garden additions. They complement white-themed and pastel gardens as well as bold flowers and dark foliage. They’ll cool down a summer’s evening, shine in a moon garden, and add icy beauty to a colorful seasonal display

With so many silver plant selections available, the inspiration is unlimited, from garden beds to container arrangements. Many of these unique plants are aromatic, heat and drought-tolerant, and deer-resistant. Whether you have sun or shade, plants with a silver overlay make ready accents in the garden.

Leave a comment