Using the color wheel in your garden

Tue. Feb. 7, 2017

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Using the color wheel in your garden

Having a mishmash of every color can give many folks a visual migraine!  For example, putting all these colors in the same space:

There’s too much going on here!  Your eye can’t decide where to land and the beauty of each flower is lost.  Try using a color wheel when planning your garden.  They make pocket color wheels you can take with you!

Primary colors:  red, blue, yellow – these colors cannot be made from mixing any other color

Secondary colors:  orange, green, purple

Tertiary colors: blue/green, orange/yellow

Opposite colors on the color wheel are called complementary colors – they, literally, complement each other.


You can create a monochromatic scheme by choosing one color in different shades. Texture is key to these designs.  The fine, airy leaves of the coreopsis and the solid leaves and flower petals of the torenia.  For example:

Monochromatic with red!

There are warm colors – reds, yellows and oranges:

Note on the above photo, I mixed a perennial with annual peppers.  You can mix in flowering kale, herbs or other vegetables for a creative look to your perennial bed.

Cool colors include blues, violets and white – also pink:

Cool color combo


For a soft look, analogous colors deliver.  They are colors that are right next to each other on the color wheel.  For example yellow, yellow/ orange and yellow/green.  Cornell University suggests you use the middle color as the predominant color and the shades on either side to a lesser extent.   Garden Design Exposed

analagous plants

The triad theme uses 3 colors that are opposite on the color wheel such as blue, red and yellow or green, orange and violet.

Triad color plants

Can you see how the very first photo, with a mix of all kinds of colors, really dilutes the beauty of the individual flowers?


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