I Love Purple (Plants)


In real life, not so much. But in the garden? Purple has my heart.

I’ve been trying to analyze why this is the case. Why, given myriad options, do I choose purple-flowering plants again and again?

I think it began because I’ve never been drawn to hot, bright colors. So many summer-flowering plants are red and orange, and while I’m learning to appreciate those colors (for instance, tithonia or Mexican sunflower is a new favorite of mine), purple blends easily with the paler pinks and apricots I have always enjoyed.

But no matter the reason, my garden color profile–at least in summer–is largely a purple one.

Here are some of my favorite purple bloomers:

  • Phlox paniculata ‘Jeana’: First things first: Not every purple plant is purple-with-a-capital-P. Some are more lavender, some more mauve. This wonderful phlox is a pinkish purple, but I love it more for its performance than its hue. Tall phlox is a romantic, cottage-garden staple, but it often suffers from terrible powdery mildew in my garden. This particular phlox won the trials for mildew resistance at a research garden near my home, Delaware’s Mt. Cuba Center.
  • Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’: My love for this plant is well discussed in this garden library. I love how it smothers weeds, how it spreads itself around, how it blooms for most of the summer, and how it seems to unite all the disparate plants in my garden. There are many other nepetas or catmints to choose from. All are easy to divide in spring in order to increase their numbers in your garden.
  • Anise Hyssop (agastache): A perennial herb in the mint family, this one is easy to start from seed, makes great tea, and attracts so many pollinators to my garden.
  • Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia): Like a lavender cloud in my late-summer and fall garden. This one shines when the rest of my garden has grown tired. Especially great for dry landscapes.
  • ‘Boogie Nites’ dahlia: One of my favorite dahlias, this purple flower blooms and blooms and looks simply stunning in the garden.
  • Johnny Jump Up (viola tricolor): A favorite heirloom flower for spring. Seeds itself around and returns year after year.
  • Crocus tommasinianus: Affectionately called “tommies,” I plant them by the hundreds in fall. My goal is to see a purple carpet across the lawn in spring. A real classic.
  • Tulipa ‘Rem’s Favourite’: This color-streaked tulip does well for me in pots. I plant the bulbs in containers in the fall, keep them sheltered in my potting shed, then move their blooms around in the spring wherever I want a bit of color.
  • Gomphrena (globe amaranth): I love this annual. It can be found in shades from white to pink to purple and really fills out empty spaces in the garden in late summer. It thrives in heat and humidity and looks beautiful when cut and allowed to dry.

Posted on

April 15, 2020

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