#50 Grey-leaved Plants: Selection and Placement in the Garden
We’ve been talking about sustainable landscapes and water-wise irrigation of late. An important part of conserving water is in the selection of plants. Of course native to your specific ecosystem is the best choice, as no supplemental irrigation will be necessary once plants are established (it usually takes about a year of adaptation). However, many of us like to bring non-native but well adapted plants into our gardens to extend the variety in both bush or plant form, foliage, and flower.
Grey-leaved plants are water savers. By nature they are an adaptation to heat and drought. They often have smaller leaves, the leaves are covered by either a dense coat of waxy substance, or dense covering of small white hairs, which insulate the plant and give them the grey or silver coloring. When placed in a border with other primarily green leaved plants, they lighten and brighten an area. Use them to highlight darker areas (although most are sun-lovers so be sure it’s not full shade), and in places like the foreground, edges, and nears patios and foundations.
Some of the best grey-leaved plants for our area are the following:
Achillea millefolium Common Yarrow (18” tall and wide) There are a variety of hybrids in white and many other colors, grown easily from seed
Agave species Large succulent plants in a variety of sizes and leaf form, but most have serious thorns so proper placement in the landscape is important. Some are native to Texas.
Artemesia cultivars ‘Powis Castle’ (2’ tall and 3-4’ wide), ‘David’s Choice’ (2’ and as wide), or ‘Silver Mound’ (10-12” tall and 18” wide) They have silvery, lacy foliage and small yellow flowers
Dichondra argentea or Silver Ponyfoot is a 2-4” spreading groundcover that requires good drainage and little if any supplemental water here
Eleagnus augustifolia is a large, evergreen shrub for a hedge or back of the border. It has small insignificant white fragrant flowers in winter.
Festuca ovina glauca is a low growing silvery grass that attains about 12” in height x the same width
Helichrysum petiolare, or Licorice Plant. This grows large to 4’ x 4’ and requires hard pruning in late winter to keep it from getting rangy. I’ve seen hedges of this in coastal California where it is not cut
back by frost.
Try one or more of these drought-tolerant plants, and light up your garden with an infusion of silvery leaves and easy care flowers.
Lavendar cultivars The Spanish Lavender L.stoechas, the French Lavender L. dentata, and the Hedge Lavender L.x intermedia are more tolerant of our hot, humid summers than the English Lavender L. augustifolia. All need excellent drainage, full sun, and good air circulation to thrive. Flowers are usually pale purple to deep purple, but there are newer pink and white flowered varieties.
Leucophyllum frutescens or Texas Ranger/Sage is one of our natives. If grown unpruned it can reach 6 or 7 feet and will get woody at the bottom. It takes hard pruning or selective pruning and blooms over a very long period, having pale purple blooms covering most of the bush. There are also more compact hybrids now available.
Salvia officinalis or culinary Sage grows to 2’ x 2’ and is great along the front of a border.
Stachys byzantina, or Lamb’s Ear is another favorite of mine. The furry leaves are carried in a basal rosette that spreads to cover about 12” x 2 or more feet. Purple flowers are borne over a long season on 18” spikes. Kids love it!