How To Make a Luminous White Garden

Ilona Erwin

Catching Moonlight

I think of a white garden as primarily one that is grown in a part shade nook of a garden, but so many beautiful white flowers are full sun lovers. While very lovely during the day, such a garden would really some into its own after dark, catching moonlight. White blooms become luminous on a summer evening.

To make a garden with a monochromatic white theme, there are three parts to this post:

  1. Short, general points to making a garden
  2. Plant suggestions for a shady aspect
  3. Plants for a sunny spot.

With those three, making a white themed garden should step from a dream state to a real place in your landscape.


Hidcote Manor Garden (NT)Picture, with the help of photos or simply day dreaming, what you would like the garden to look like and yourself within it.

Rules Of Design Apply

  • Step plant heights and plant in drifts
  • Be aware of bloom time to create pairings for maximum effect
  • Vining, climbing, and weaving plants increase sense of depth
  • Don’t dot plants: 3 to 5 plants of one kind and repetition throughout the flower bed.

Draw your plan out on paper, find and list appropriate plants you would like.
I would focus this garden to be at its height of bloom in the summer. Making spring secondary, and keeping autumn interest in the form of foliage. That may not suit you at all, but I would most enjoy the flowers during warm nights when the day ends slowly.

Prepare the Garden Plot

Improve the soil, and place the planting areas and the hardscaping.

How-to Pages

White Tulips in spring

Ethereal white tulips

Think next of the color and feeling for the plan. Color, you say? I thought we have decided: white! Besides the different types of white, foliage colors may be wanted for contrast and interest.

Many of the desirable silver or bronze/purple foliages plants also have flowers, but not always in the chosen color. a strident chartreuse or hot pink may be introduced. Will you cut off such flowers, incorporate their color, or forego the foliage?

Use variegated plants for texture.

In designing a monochromatic scheme, especially an all white one, texture becomes a more important consideration. Vary the leaf size and the type of foliage- velvety silver with shiny deep green, small or variegated leaves or large ones.

Feeling can be informal or formal, expansive or intimate. 

Grow A Sunny Border

Surrounding a patio or firepit area? Full sun is loved by annuals and there are many white choices. Often they do well in part sun, too. Zinnias, white Cosmos, Snapdragons, petunias, bacopas, geraniums.

Remember that shrubs may also sport cream or snowy hued flowers. Hydrangea, Clethra, Butterfly bush, and variegated Weigela are all candidates for a mixed garden planting. Rose of Sharon ‘Diana’ would shine in late summer.

For a sunny space silver leaves bring a cooling feel to their favored situation. I would work in Artemisias and Lambs ears (despite its pink flower, but Stachys lanata does have a form without flowers, I understand).

Low garden lights, chairs, and cool drinks would make this a favorite spot for relaxing.

Some Pearly Perennial Choices

Medium – Tall

  • Echinacea ‘White Swan’
  • Shasta Daisies
  • Hemerocallis (Daylily) ‘Heidi Eidelweiss’ (Millikan)
  • Phlox paniculata ‘David’
  • Phlox carolina ‘Miss Lingard’
  • Achillea ‘White Pearl’
  • Monarda didyma ‘Snow White’
  • Gypsophilia
  • Zinnia ‘White Wedding’

Grow A Moonlit Shaded Retreat

It shouldn’t be too shady, if flowers are to be an important component. But part shade from nearby ornamental trees or afternoon shadows would be ideal for a peaceful destination encircled with pale blooms that catch the last rays of the sun and the light of a full moon.

Centered around a firepit, or a bench within an enclosed area, white flowers and lush foliage would be a pretty plan for a conversation spot.

White Perennial Choices

Medium – Tall

  • Actaea racemosa ‘Hillside Black Beauty’
  • Hemerocallis ‘Ladyâ„¢ Elizabeth’
  • Anemone ‘Wild Swan’, ‘Honorine Jobert
  • Aruncus aethusifolius
  • Geranium sanguinium ‘alba’
  • Hosta ‘Royal Standard’
  • Aster divaricatus
  • Nicotiana alata

A front edging of Iberis sempervirens , Campanula ‘White Clips’ or Arenaria montana could be pretty/ There are also many low growing annuals .Lobularia maritima is one of the best known.

For a full season of bloom mix together annuals, biennials, and perennials. Use shrubs and ornamental trees, as well as any silver foliaged plants to provide more light and contrast.

Variegated leaves and those which are glossy will provide additional textures. Remember that when reducing the color, the amplification of other values such as texture and contrasts between light and dark become more important.


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Ilona Erwin, author

Meet the Author

Ilona Erwin

I started working on this website beginning in 1998, when it was part of Ilona's Reflecting Pool. Since then I've branched out into a number of online endeavors and work at writing lots of content for my sites. "Ilona's Garden" remains my primary site and is dedicated to home gardener's success.