I have lived in various parts of the country during my lifetime and found each to have uniqueness in the garden not found elsewhere. Starting out in tropical regions of Florida, to northern Virginia, and eastern Tennessee, to the TX gulf coast to Austin, each area has provided opportunity to grow and experience different types and variety of plants that are adaptive to those specific areas. Ornamental gardening in Central Texas offers one standout opportunity to grow plants with coloration not found widely in other areas of the country – plants with silvery, grayish, bluish shades which make a nice contrast to the ordinary green that predominates most gardens.
Some of my favorite silver leafed plants include Bush Germander (Teicrium fruiticans), Silver TX Sage (Leucophyllum fruiticens), silver leafed palms, “Silver Peso” TX Mountain Laure (Saphora secundifolia “silver peso), Paleleaf Yucca (Yucca palida), Wheeler’s Sotol (Dasyliron wheeleri), Desert Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua), Silver Sanolina (Santolina chamaecyparissus), and Agave parryi var. truncate, to name a few. Many herbaceous perennials have beautiful silvery foliage also such as Russian Sage (Perovaskia atriciplifolia), Gopher Plant (Euphorbia rigida), Wooly Stemodia (Stemodia lanata), and Artemesia ‘Powis Castle’. Most of these plants grow natively or are adaptive to very hot, dry, and limestone soil regions, their foliar color being part of their adaptation to these conditions and survivability.
Paler color such as silver reflects light and keeps the plant cells cooler in hot conditions and reduces transpiration. Pubescent silvery foliage also blocks excessive light, and helps reduce transpiration or water loss through the leaves. Foliage on most silver foliage plants is small to also reduce transpiration. The leaf cuticle may be waxy for water retention over long periods of time (example graptopetalum or ghost plant). Therefore these plants should be planted where drainage is excellent and among other plants with similar cultural conditions. Several silver leafed plants come also in solid green forms (example Santolina) so planting like plants with different coloration adds to the artistry of your garden design. Plants with large leaves, e.g. silver leafed palms, generally are not pubescent and but mainly reflective. Must silver leafed yuccas have very narrow foliage which reduces surface area to reduce transpiration as well. But the fascination to me has always been how plants adapt to survive in desert conditions, silver coloration being one primary means.
In regard to the ornamental garden and use of silver plants in landscape designing, the trick is to be able to use these plants effectively to coordinate textures, size, and growth habit and create a stylized and cohesive look overall. Some of the plants mentioned come in dwarf or compact forms, which add to the versatility. Examples are Durango/Silverado TX Mountain Sage, and Bush or Creeping forms of silver Germander.
There is always the right plant for the right location and often, this will be a silver colored plant to add a unique color addition to your garden, so don’t overlook some of these gems! The choices are tremendous. I am totally fascinated by them