Garden & Landscape Tips

Spanish Bluebells
Spanish Bluebells are a perennial bulb that bloom in the spring.
Andrew Linscott / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Every year, the nation’s premier color trend-setter – the New Jersey-based Pantone Color Institute – selects a “color of the year” that it believes to be in demand and in tune with the times. For 2020, that color is classic blue.

Pantone says blue is a calming color that “brings a sense of peace and tranquility to the human spirit, offering refuge.”

In the garden, blue is also a revered choice, though it isn’t available in a lot of popular species, despite much breeding effort. For example, there are no true-blue roses, daylilies, coneflowers, dogwoods, or mums. Some plant-sellers have resorted to dying white orchids and white tulips blue and even spray-dying white poinsettias blue for Christmas to satisfy the color’s popularity.

mist shrub, left, hydrangeas, middle, and iris, right
Blue mist shrub, left, hydrangeas, middle, and iris, right, are some of the best blue flowers for the landscape.
George Weigel

Blue in the landscape

As for plants that really do bloom blue, they’re fairly easy to use in the landscape because blue pairs so well with so many colors.

  • Blue flowers look especially nice with pink and/or white flowers, and they don’t clash with any pastel shade.
  • Blue flowers are striking when paired with plants that have gray, silvery, or black foliage, such as blue hydrangeas with silver-variegated brunnera along a shady house foundation or blue salvia next to gray-leafed dusty miller in an annual-flower bed.
  • Patriotic gardeners like pairing blue with reds and whites.
  • Venturesome gardeners like the look of blue as the color-wheel opposite of yellow (with softer blues) or gold (great with classic or dark blue).

Oddly, one color that blue sometimes doesn’t pair well with is itself. That’s because so-called blue flowers often aren’t true or classic blue but “blue wannabes” that are really more purple or lavender or some kind of blue-green or blue-purple mashup.

Some of the best blues

If you’re feeling blue in the garden this summer, here are some blue bloomers worth a try:

Delphiniums
Delphiniums bloom in four colors: pink, white, purple, and blue.
Schnuddel / E+ / Getty Images Plus
  • Perennial flowers: Brunnera (false forget-me-nots), bearded iris, crested iris, catmint, anise hyssop ‘Blue Fortune,’ leadwort, bluestar (Amsonia), aster, stokesia, bellflowers, Virginia bluebells, lungwort, salvia ‘Blue Hill’ or Sensation® ‘Deep Blue,’ veronica, Delphiniums.

Browallia
The vibrant blue of the Browallia flower has garnered this annual nicknames including amethyst flower and sapphire flower.
Liane M / iStock / Getty Images Plus
  • Annual flowers: Ageratum, angelonia, blue salvia, salvia ‘Black and Blue’ or ‘Black and Bloom,’ browallia, petunia, fanflower (Scaevola), evolvulus, blue lobelia (where summers are cool).
Siberian squill
Siberian squill is a short and cold-hardy spring-flowering bulb that blooms in classic blue
George Weigel
  • Bulbs: Siberian squill, Dutch hyacinths, grape hyacinths, Spanish bluebells, Allium caeruleum, glory-of-the-snow, rock garden iris (Iris reticulata).

Blue clematis
A Blue Clematis Flower, notorious for its stunning color and exquisite climbing ability.
Amy Wilkins / iStock / Getty Images Plus
  • Shrubs: Hydrangeas (in acidic soil), blue mist shrub (Caryopteris), butterfly bush, clematis ‘Blue Angel’ or Chevalier™ (vine).

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