Garden Color Schemes — Favorite Planting Color Combinations

by Steve & Cathy Lambert

Today we fill our nursery carts with color, guided by our Garden and Landscape Design Experts and Contributors Steve and Cathy Lambert. Steve and Cathy share great advice (and dazzling photographs) to help you plan your garden color scheme.

Last month we discussed garden color schemes – choosing harmonious or contrasting color combinations for your landscape. As promised, this follow-up article lists some of our favorite, eye-catching, plant pairings. (Click on the photos to see more detail.)

Rosa Honey Dijon with Cordyline and Digitalis Pink Apricot

Many of these combinations include plants with colorful foliage to provide long lasting interest in your garden. The bright or dark foliage of these plants will present a great backdrop for other layers of colorful blooms adding depth and drama to your yard year-round.

Combinations using Red:

Rosa Red Knock Out and Euphorbia Fens Ruby

Cordyline Pink Sensation with Diascia Strawberry Sunday

    More Plant Combinations with Red

  • Abutalion ‘Little Imp’ growing with ‘Sea Jade’ Phormium
  • Flanders Poppies with English Lavender ‘Dutch’
  • Red Hybrid Lupine ‘Morello Cherry’ planted with Chartreuse Euphorbia Myrsintes


Combinations using Orange:

Brandi Rose with Summer Wine Ninebark

Kniphofia Linearifolia with Purple Leaf Maple

    More Plant Combinations with Orange:

  • Hemerocalis ‘Ming Porcilean’ (Peach/Orange Daylily) in front of Loropetalum ‘Sizzling Pink’
  • Physocarpus ‘Coppertina’(Copper-Foliaged Ninebark) planted in a copper colored pot and combined with Dahlia ‘Mystic Desire’ and Kolwitzia ‘Dream Catcher’
  • Variation of photo above: “Brandi” Hybrid Tea Rose in front of Physocarpus ‘Diablo’


Combinations using Blue:

Clematis H.F. Young with Strawberry Deciduos Rhododendron

Iris Caesars Brother with California Poppy

Fl Carpet Rose Coral Lavender  Blue Cushion

    More Plant Combinations with Blue:

  • Agapanthus ‘Strom Cloud’ (Dark Blue Lily of the Valley) with Green Loropetalum and Yellow Wave Phomiums (Variegated New Zealand Flax)
  • Veronica ‘Waterperry Blue’ (Blue Veronica) cascading over rock walls with Molinia Caerulea ‘Variegata’ (Variegated Moor Grass)


Combinations using Yellow:

Daylily Sherwood Gladiator with Weigilia Rubidor

Brass Band Floribunda Rose with Perennial Safflower

Yellow Everblooming Iris with Tree Aloe

    More Plant Combinations with Yellow:

  • Hemerocalis ‘Morning Light’ (Pale Yellow Daylily) with Thunbergia ‘Battiscombei’ (Blue Susan Vine)
  • Cornus spathei (Shrubby Variety Red Twig Dogwood) with Rosa ‘Brass Band’


Combinations using Purple:

Ecomis Sparkiling Beauty with Orange Crush Rose

Alstromeria with Verbena Little One and Scabiosa Butterfly Blue

    More Plant Combinations with Purple:

  • Calibrachoa ‘Callie Purple’ (Purple Mission Bells) under Phormium ‘Yellow Wave’ (Variety of New Zealand Flax)
  • Penstemon ‘Sour Grapes’ (Purple Beard Tongue) with Rosa ‘Just Joey’ (Peach/Apricot Hybrid Tea Rose) and Sisyrinchium ‘Aunt Mae’ (Variety Yellow-Eyed Grass)
  • Acer ‘Bloodgood’ (Bloodgood Japanese Maple) with Abies koreana (Korean Blue Fir) and Philadelphus ‘Aureus’ (Golden Mock Orange)


When choosing plants to paint your garden, well-designed color groupings are essential but in order to create a truly satisfying and cohesive space, you must also consider: Season and length of bloom, repetition, variety, balance, and scale. We will delve deeper into these design elements in future articles.


Cathy and Steve LambertSteve and Cathy Lambert have created distinctively dramatic, custom gardens since 1989, through their award-winning Garden Lights Landscape & Pool Development in Orinda, CA. They share with us their advice and expertise on all areas of garden and landscape.

Landscape Designer/Contractor and Master Gardener Steve envisions and creates romantic, welcoming and functional outdoor living spaces. His writer-wife Cathy wordsmiths Steve’s technical advice into something easy to understand and fun to read for the everyday DIY gardener. Together they also write the “Way to Grow” column for The Orinda News.


What are your favorite plant combinations from above, or from your own garden?

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One Comment for “Garden Color Schemes — Favorite Planting Color Combinations”

I’ve enjoyed your posts so far, thank you! I especially love how you speak of planning a garden’s colors in layers. I’m a budding gardener and have, unfortunately, stopped at the starting line. I had someone recommend to get the soil professionally tested. Is that truly important or should I just purchase potting soil?

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