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White flowers for your garden

Sharon Amos / 17 February 2015

Read our suggestions for beautiful white flowers and flowering shrubs, ideal for a white border or garden colour scheme.

Honesty alba
Honesty has beautiful delicate flowers and stunning seedheads

Flowering seasons will overlap, especially when the weather is variable. Research the plants you like to check that your garden can provide their growing requirements; for example, whether the plants need a sunny spot or shade, sandy or moist soil, and so on.

Once you start researching white flowers you quickly discover what a vast range of shades of white there are, from rich creamy tones to cool green tints to faint pink blush to simply dazzling pure white.

White flowers for your spring garden

White flowering shrubs

A wide range of white-flowered shrubs bloom in spring.

Evergreens include Pieris formosa, the lily of the valley bush, which is sweetly scented as its common name suggests.

Similarly fragrant is Daphne mezereum f. alba – a deciduous shrub that flowers before the leaves unfurl.

Common hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna, and Amelanchier lamarckii, also produce flowers before leaves, making it much easier to appreciate them in blossom.

White spring bulbs

Spring bulbs and deciduous shrubs are a winning combination because the bulbs grow and flower when the shrubs are bare, taking full advantage of the maximum amount of daylight.

Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis and other species) start flowering in winter and carry on into spring, when they’re joined by crocuses and the white form of the grape hyacinth, Muscari azureum album.

Find out how to grow snowdrops.

Tulips flower towards the end of spring, especially in more northerly regions of the country.

White crocuses

  • Crocus tommasinianus f. albus
  • C chrysanthus ‘Snow Bunting’
  • C. vernus subsp. Albiflorus

Taller bulbs include:

  • Narcissus ‘Actaea’ – ok, it’s got an orange centre, but the petals are white
  • Camassia leichtlinii ‘Alba Group’ – rather like a tall white bluebell

Varieties of white tulips for late spring:

  • White Triumphator
  • White Dream
  • Diana
  • Spring Green
  • White Parrot

White perennials and biennials

Finally, some white perennials and biennials: Helleborus niger, the Christmas rose; the white form of honesty (Lunaria annua var. albiflora) – which also has attractive white seedheads in autumn if they don’t get too spoiled by rain; and common cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris), which looks as good in gardens as it does in the hedgerows.

You can also get white forget-me-nots, though you may have to grow them yourself from seed if your local garden centre doesn’t stock them.

White flowers for your summer garden

Summer means lilies, whether hardy Lilium candidum and Lilium regale, with tall stems and trumpet-shaped flowers to tender agapanthus, best grown in pots.

Heavenly scented summer shrubs include various species of Philadelphus – often called mock orange blossom.

White annuals to grow from seed

Try these distant relatives to cow parsley: Ammi majus and Orlaya grandiflora. Plus white-flowered Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Purity’ with feathery leaves and flat open flowers.

White perennials

Also in bloom throughout summer will be white campanulas – look out for foxglove-like Campanula alliariifolia. Plus white peonies such as Paeonia lactiflora,

Achillea millefolium with flat clusters of tiny flowers, daisy-like Leucanthemum and Argyranthemum; and white foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea f. albiflora).

White roses

For white roses in flower all summer long (and often well into autumn) look for repeat-flowering varieties, such as climber ‘Madame Alfred Carrière’ with big loose flowers and ‘Moonlight’, a bush rose with clusters of small flowers.

White flowers for your autumn garden

Asters and dahlias come into their own in autumn, along with curious autumn crocuses or ‘naked ladies’, so-called because they flower before the leaves emerge – Colchicum autumnale f. album is a white form. Leucojum autumnale is a tall snowdrop-like plant. Viburnum tinus is an evergreen shrub with flat clusters of flowers that start to open in autumn.

White flowers for your winter garden

Even in winter there are still flowers to be found. At ground level snowdrops may start to bloom from Christmas onwards, depending on the weather. Galanthus nivalis is the common species and there are lots of varieties: ‘Flore Pleno’ has double flowers; ‘S Arnott’ is strongly scented.

Even smaller than snowdrops are hardy cyclamen with heart-shaped leaves; look out for Cyclamen coum subsp. album.

Find out how to grow cyclamen coum.

Some shrubs flower in winter too. Varieties of evergreen Elaeagnus have tiny flowers tucked away under the leaves and while they are hard to spot, their scent is unmistakeable. Winter-flowering ornamental cherries such as Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’ bloom on bare winter branches.


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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.