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A Gallery of Silver

Lees in Afrikaans

Silver- or grey-leaved garden plants are mainly planted because of their functionality – they are mostly heat and drought tolerant due to hairy or waxy leaf surfaces and their ability to reflect sunlight and prevent water loss. But there is another reason to fill your garden with a lot of silver-foliaged plants and to combine them with light yellow, cream and white flowers – fashion!

Extend the time you spend in your garden by planting a ‘moonlight’ look with plants that don’t disappear in the dark, but rather come to the forefront. We picked out some stalwart silver-foliaged plants to create that magical, mystical atmosphere by the light of the full moon.

Dichondra ‘Silver falls’

Dichondra ‘Silver falls’ has thin stems that are sparsely clothed in round silvery-white leaves which are about 1cm in diameter. It is dramatic ground cover that has a cascading habit so it will hang down like drapes or curtains from pots and hanging baskets, looking almost like strings of silver beads.

It can also be grown as a contrasting, carpet-like ground cover in full sun. This plant is cold resistant, but has also proved successful in the sub-tropics.

Einadia Hastata (Salt Bush)

These beautiful silver-foliaged plants are widely used as an evergreen filler plant or for hedging. The leaves can sometimes turn a rusty shade of red but the white stems always attract the eye, especially if a little rain has fallen and new growth is produced.

This is a fast grower and a hardy coastal plant that can be pruned into virtually any formal shape. The mature size is about 1.5m x 2m.

Stachys Byzantina (Lamb’s Ears)

Lamb’s Ears is a mat-forming groundcover with soft and woolly oblong silver leaves. It has beautiful purple flowers that appear in summer. Removing the flowers will keep the foliage lush. This plant is extremely hardy and is perfect on the foreground of borders.

Dusty miller

Senecio cineraria ‘Silver Dust’ is a perennial shrub that is mostly used as an annual in summer gardens. This lowgrowing little shrub has exquisite silverygrey to almost white leaves with a felty texture. The lace-like leaves, which reach up to 15cm in length, are deeply divided and covered with very fine hairs that give them a fuzzy appearance. It likes full sun and will reach a size of 25 x 25cm.

Loose flowerheads with insignificant yellow flowers will appear in summer, but should be snipped off to keep the compact plant’s neat shape.

Cushion bush

Calocephalus brownii, which hails from Australia, is a fantastic accent plant due to its eye-catching silver-to-white foliage. The plant naturally grows into a rounded shape like a tumble weed or a silvery ball, with small soft leaves close to the many wiry stems. It responds well to light pruning into an even more formal circular shape. Small button-like yellow flowers appear in summer, but it is once again recommended that they be removed to direct the plant’s energy into producing more stems and foliage. It is evergreen, sun-loving, hardy and very tolerant of drought and coastal conditions.

This is a short-lived perennial that should be replaced with fresh plants every 3 – 4 years. Mature size is 1 x 1m.

Silver spurflower

Plectranthus argentatus is another native from Australia, and is a shimmering, evergreen perennial with slightly fleshy, dark grey leaves covered in soft silvery hairs. It has a spreading growth habit with a mature size of 1.2 x 1m. It likes full shade and part shade, although it will tolerate sun too as long as it’s not in a baking-hot position.

This plant produces dainty sprays of pale blue to white flowers in summer that are quite pretty, but they should be pinched off if it is being primarily grown for the stunning foliage.