White flowers: 12 elegant choices for beautiful borders and pots
These are our favorite white flowers, from scented show-stoppers to spring bulbs
Choosing all white flowers for your garden might seem a little too simple. But the results can be truly spectacular and in fact, even more dramatic than a scheme that's bursting with color.
One of the most well-known examples of a white garden is at the famous Sissinghurst Castle in England. Gardening expert Monty Don also has one of his own, complete with a shed at one end and a red brick path. Done well, they are a beautiful thing – offering a cool and soothing subtlety yet still with plenty of interest.
Of course, you don't have to apply this look to the whole of your plot. White plants are a lovely pick for just one border or flowerbed idea, or even a container display to brighten a patio. And when it comes to the plants themselves, you won't be stuck for choice – there are so many gorgeous varieties in all different shapes and sizes and in some cases, scents.
Brighten your garden with these 12 white flowers
To help you get started creating your own pared-back planting scheme, we've brought together some of our very favorite white plants, plus plenty of expert advice.
1. Anemone x hybrida 'Honorine Jobert'
Japanese anemones are nothing short of elegant and are wonderful for providing late summer blooms.
This particular variety showcases tall, wiry stems holding pure white, cup-shaped flowers with bright yellow centers from August to October. It's an excellent herbaceous perennial for areas of dappled light, so try adding it to your shade garden ideas.
Height: 5ft (1.5m). Spread: 27in (70cm).
2. Penstemon 'White Bedder'
'White bedder' is a great semi-evergreen perennial for extending an all-white theme into the autumn months. It sends up masses of erect stems that have funnel-shaped, foxglove-like flowers from midsummer to the first frosts.
It is borderline hardy, so give it a good mulching to protect the roots.
Height: 27in (70cm). Spread: 20in (50cm).
3. Nicotiana sylvestris
Nicotiana is a well-loved choice for cottage garden ideas, offering sweetly-fragranced blooms on long stems.
This variety is perfect if you're looking to add height and drama to your scheme. A half-hardy annual, it forms a low-growing rosette of large leaves and has towering stems of drooping, white, trumpet-shaped blooms.
Height: 5ft (1.5m). Spread: (20in) 50cm.
4. Digitalis purpurea albiflora
This white variety of foxglove will add plenty of vertical interest to your borders with its statuesque stems and tubular flowers. And, it's a favorite of pollinators, so is a fabulous choice if you're looking to fill your space with more bee-friendly plants.
This biennial will self-sow and is happy in part shade.
Height: 7ft (2m). Spread: 20in (50cm).
5. Erigeron annuus
This perennial makes a haze of small, white, daisy-like flowers from June to November. It's perfect for creating a wilder, laid-back look.
It will gently self-sow about the border, but it's easily controlled. The tall stems benefit from being staked in mid-spring.
Height: 3ft 3in (1m). Spread: 24in (60cm).
6. Gaura lindheimeri 'The Bride'
The abundance of white flowers on this bushy perennial looks like a mass of dainty butterflies dancing in the breeze. And, the tinge of pink offers a pleasing visual effect. If you're looking for cottage garden plants, this is a good contender.
It blooms from July to November and is hardy in most gardens.
Height: 5ft (1.5m). Spread: 24in (60cm).
7. Hesperis matronalis var. albiflora
Otherwise known as sweet rocket, this short-lived perennial forms a clump of dark green leaves from which tall stems arise. In late spring and early summer, these are topped with clusters of fragrant white blooms.
It's fantastic for pollinators and will readily self-seed if allowed. Plant in full sun or part shade.
Height: 36in (90cm). Spread: 16in (45cm).
8. Cosmos bipinnatus 'Purity'
This floriferous, half-hardy annual creates a froth of feathery, green foliage and a succession of elegant white blooms between July and October. It's a magnet for pollinating insects and very easy to grow from seed. And, it makes one of the best cutting garden flowers for brightening up indoors.
Height: 4ft (1.2m). Spread: 24in (60cm).
9. Rosa 'Madame Alfred Carrière'
Strong-growing and almost thornless, if you're sticking to an all-white theme, this is one of the best climbing plants to brighten up a pergola or garden wall.
It's studded with blousy, creamy-white blooms that repeat flower throughout summer and into fall. Plus, you can expect an especially strong, fruity fragrance.
Height: 13–26ft (4–8m). Spread: 8ft (2.5m).
10. Trachelospermum jasminoides
Trachelospermum jasminoides, otherwise known as the star jasmine, is another gorgeous climber.
It has twining stems covered in glossy, dark green leaves that take on red tints in winter. And, in midsummer, it's smothered in a profusion of fragrant, white flowers. Try training it up a trellis for a beautiful backdrop to your border or seating space.
Height and spread: 13–26ft (4–8m).
11. Ammi majus
Ammi majus looks similar to the cow parsley you see lining summertime hedgerows in the English countryside. A hardy annual, it is wonderful for filling gaps in your garden with its clouds of frothy blooms from June to September.
Its height will add architectural structure to your borders. It's a good idea to provide stakes for support as it grows.
Height: 4ft 11in (1.5m). Spread: 1ft 8in (0.5m).
12. Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle'
If you're looking for a shrub to bring into your white-themed border or garden, then this is a gorgeous (and currently, very popular) choice.
Deciduous yet fully hardy, it offers huge globes of flowerheads from July to September in a sparkling white, which gradually fade to green. It's ideal for a partly shaded spot, but will grow in full sun too. Our guide on how to grow hydrangeas has lots of useful tips if you want one for your own.
Height and spread: 8ft 2in (2.5m).
How do you plan a white border?
Choosing a garden color scheme can make the plant-planning stage much easier as it narrows down your choices. You could pick hot hues, carnival brights, or soft pastels. But, for a stylish, monochromatic design, all-white is a reliable approach. White plants have an elegance that works in both a contemporary style setting and a more traditional cottage garden design. They also appear to glow in the low evening light, giving a garden a magical feeling.
The most successful white gardens aren't purely white, however. They're actually a combination of green, gray and white, with sometimes the occasional hint of other colors such as pink or blue. The foliage is key to creating a successful white garden, as white blooms need a strong backdrop to allow them to stand out (more on that below).
White-themed borders are often planted with a focus on them looking at their best in midsummer. But, in a small garden in particular, it's important for planting picks to offer something all year round. It's possible to extend the white theme throughout the seasons by planting snowdrops and other white-flowered spring bulbs alongside early-flowering shrubs. For autumn, white-flowered nerines will gleam in the low light and late-flowering perennials such as asters and gaura will continue blooming until the first frost. And, if you have the space, the white bark of a silver birch will provide interest for your winter garden ideas, as will frosty-white hellebores.
And, once you've got your white garden up and running, be sure to keep on top of deadheading. White flowers don't tend to die attractively, particularly if the weather has been wet, which can cause petals to turn brown and mushy. So, deadheading is crucial to keep it looking its best. Plus, snipping away fading blooms will also encourage side shoots to form, producing more flowers. Our buying guide to the best secateurs is a good place to look if you need a new tool for the job.
What foliage plants look good with white flowers?
Foliage plays a crucial role in a white garden or border, offering depth and form to the display.
Dark green foliage provides a fabulous contrast to sparkling whites. But, it's a good idea to combine bottle greens such as yew, box, and osmanthus with gray-leaved plants such as Stachys byzantina and Lychnis coronaria 'Alba' to avoid the planting feeling gloomy.
Artemisia 'Powis Castle' is another good choice for silvery foliage. A dwarf, evergreen shrub, it creates a loose mound of finely divided leaves that have a fabulous aroma and it thrives in full sun.
The easy-care shrub Sarcococca hookeriana 'Winter Gem' is worth considering, too. Its leaves aren't silver but instead are a gleaming green all year round. And, in late winter, tiny white flowers emerge which smell like lily-of-the-valley.
And if you're looking for ground cover plants to go with your white flowers? Try pulmonaria 'Sissinghurst White', a herbaceous perennial that forms mounds of green leaves, each of which is covered in white spots. It has early white flowers that are great for pollinators, too.
What are the best white flowers for spring?
There are lots of beautiful white choices for spring blooms.
If you're planning on planting bulbs, narcissus 'Thalia' has to be one of the best – a pure-white, multi-headed daffodil that looks beautiful en masse. In terms of types of tulips, another spring bulb favorite, the lily-flowered 'White Triumphator' is effortlessly sophisticated. Alternatively, 'White Heart' offers plenty of romance with its peony-like double blooms. And, if you're looking for a beautiful crocus to pep up a lawn, try 'Jeanne d'Arc' which are large and ice-white with deep yellow anthers.
Meanwhile, Magnolia stellata is lovely for an early-flowering shrub, with its delicate, star-like flowers.
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