Harmony in the Garden Blog

Top 15 Favorite Orange Plants

Top 15 Favorite Orange PlantsIt’s that time of year again when our homes and gardens are decked out in orange and black, and mine is no exception.

And what better occasion than Halloween to talk about one of my favorite colors in the garden and share with you my top 15 favorite orange plants!

Awhile ago, I wrote about my favorite black plants, so it’s only fitting that this time I talk about orange.

In all the years I’ve been designing gardens, it goes without saying that orange is, hands-down, the color that gets the most hate.

Time and time again, new clients request that I not use the color orange in their garden.

I understand.  I really do!  I know exactly where this prejudice is coming from.  

It’s from driving by that one home in the neighborhood with all the marigolds lined up in a stick-straight row, bordering both sides of the front pathway, with at least two feet of space between each plant.   Am I right?

Once I promise not to do this in their garden, my clients breathe a sigh of relief.  And then, when I show them how many beautiful shades of orange there are and how to use these colors in their gardens, more often than not, they join me on the orange bandwagon.

Except for one client.

Top 15 Favorite Orange PlantsShe flatly refused any  hint of orange in her garden.

Over the years of working in her garden, I’d bring my latest offering, hoping to see a glimmer in her eye, but nope – nothing.

Until about a year ago when I ran into her downtown.

Sheepishly, she told me that she broke down and bought her first orange flower and loved it.  And then – drumroll please – she asked for more help picking out other shades of orange for her garden.

Oh yeah, she drank the orange Kool-aid.

So here we go – my favorite Top 15 orange beauties to add to your garden!

1.  Helenium 'Mardi Gras'

Top 15 Favorite Orange Plants

Also known as sneezeweed, which is such an unfortunate and unfair nickname.

Contrary to popular belief, they don’t cause people to sneeze at all. 

Where’d this name come from?  I’ve read that eons ago their leaves were used as a type of snuff – hence their unfortunate nickname.

2.  Abutilon 'Tiger Eyes'

Top 15 Favorite Orange Plants

Top 15 Favorite Orange Plants

Towering to 8-feet, the two-tone orange flowers of this abutilon resemble floating paper lanterns, bobbing throughout the garden bed.

When I recently moved out of my garden (above) it took me a year to find this variety, but thanks to a vendor at the Northwest Flower & Garden Festival I was able to purchase not one but three to add to my new garden!  I can’t wait for them to hurry up and GROW!!

3.  Papaver orientale 'Allegro' (Oriental Poppy)

Top 15 Favorite Orange Plants

Placed in a full-sun garden bed, the bright orange, tissue-paper petals of these Oriental poppies will glow like none other.

Blooming in early summer, the 24″ stems add a lovely mid-border burst of color, and might even reappear again in the fall (if you’re lucky!)

4.  Angel Trumpet (brugmansia sanguinea)

Top 15 Favorite Orange Plants

This variety is a much hardier version of the other brugmansias out there, tolerating colder winters and requiring a little less water than their thirstier cousins.

As a trade-off for their hardiness, though, these spectacular blooms have no scent.  Zip.

But I don’t care as I much prefer their hot orangey-red color over the other pastel versions any day. And if a big wind storm knocks the blossoms to the ground, they make a pretty bouquet!

5.  Orange Siberian Globeflower (trollius ircuticus)

Top 15 Favorite Orange Plants
Oh, how I wish these were more drought-tolerant!

Unfortunately, they aren’t, preferring consistently moist soil.  I’ve had good luck planting this in containers (where it’s much easier to control the moisture level) and along a creek-bed that runs through a client’s property.

It has a reputation for re-seeding a little too prolifically, but with our lack of summer rainfall, I’ve never seen a single seedling.

6.  Lion's Tail (leonotis leonurus)

Top 15 Favorite Orange Plants
For those of you who garden in hot and thirsty, deer-prone areas, this one’s for you.

Blooming for months at a time and requiring nothing more than a hard pruning once a year, the towering 3-foot spires of blooms will brighten any garden.

The spent flowers are pretty cool, too, and look beautiful gathered in a vase.

7.  Gopher Spurge (euphorbia griffithii 'Fireglow' )

euphorbia griffithii 'Fireglow'
euphorbia griffithii 'Fireglow'

As some of you may know by know, euphorbias are one of the stalwarts of my gardens (read more here).  This variety, however, of my favorite euphorbias of all, although it can sometimes be a little tricky to find at the nursery.  But when I’ve been lucky enough to find it, it rewards me with years of reliable beauty.

Some of the other varieties, on the other hand, can sometimes be short-lived, but not this one.  I’ve had one thrive in my client’s garden for over eight years now (and counting)! 

As the common name implies, the roots of the plant repel gophers (hooray!) but the trade-off is that the white sap that flows in the roots and stems can cause blisters on some people, so be warned!  Personally, I’ve never had an issue with it, but I’ve heard others haven’t been so lucky.

8.  Red Hot Pokers (kniphofia uvarias)

Top 15 Favorite Orange Plants

Of course, I can’t forget to include one of my favorite plants – the Red Hot Poker (which isn’t always red).

I’ve written more about them here, but suffice it to say that their torch-like blooms come in a whole range of colors (and sizes) besides red or orange.

These unusual groups of ‘exclamation marks’ will certainly add some excitement to your sunny garden bed.

9.  Bulbine frutescens 'Hallmark'

Okay, ready for my bulbine pitch?  Here goes:  it’s evergreen, has beautiful lush green leaves, blooms off and on throughout the entire year, can grow in the full blazing sun or partial shade, and is deer-proof.  Oh, and if it outgrows its space in a few years, you can easily snap a clump off to transplant to another part of your garden.

This variety has soft shades of orange, similar to a Creamsicle (remember those?) but there’s also a lovely yellow version, as well.

And even though it’s a succulent, it’s right at home in a more traditional English-style garden bed.  See how happy it is planted at the front of this border?  It’s a natural companion to roses (that’s a ‘Golden Celebration’ behind it).

10.  Geum 'Totally Tangerine'

If you’re looking for a softer shade of orange, I highly recommend geum ‘Totally Tangerine’.  I adore the way the lush clump of green foliage provides a sturdy base for the profuse wands of soft orange flowers.  Lasting for several weeks, the flowers dance above their neighbors, lighting up the flower bed.  The foliage is tidy throughout the year, only needing a little clean-up at the end of winter.

11. Berberis 'Orange Rocket' & 'Golden Ruby' (Barberry)

Two different barberries with similar colors but very different growth habits.  Both produce very little (if any) seeds, so they’re not invasive in our area, and both have unbelievable shades of rusty to bright orange (depending on the temps outside).

Berberis ‘Orange Rocket’ grows more upright, to about 4′, with the occasional sprawling stems (the photo on the left), while ‘Golden Ruby’ is a tidy little round mound, maxing out around 2’x2′.   I love them both equally and use them whenever I want to keep deer out (they hate the barberry’s thorns) while providing gorgeous shades of orange.

12. Helianthemum ‘Henfield Brilliant’ (Sun Roses)

Helianthemum ‘Henfield Brilliant’

The soft gray-green foliage of this Sun Rose is the perfect background for the delicate and cheery orange flowers that cover this plant.

Growing in full sun, with very little water, this plant will slowly sprawl to 3′ or so, while remaining under 1′ high.  It’s the perfect addition to the front of the border in a sunny rock garden.

13.  California poppies (Eschscholzia californica)

Eschscholzia californicaOf course, I have to include my native state’s flower, the California poppy!

While they can sometimes be a little tricky to get started in the garden, once they take hold – look out!  You’ll be rewarded with scads of these harbingers of spring year after year.

I’ve found the best way to grow them is to start from seed, as their roots resent being disturbed.   Every time I’ve tried to plant a 6-pack, the little plants died.

Full sun, somewhat decent soil (although I often see them in very gravelly, rocky soil) and a little water, and that’s all they need!

14. Western Columbine (aquilegia formosa)

aquilegia formosaEver since I can remember, this has been one of my very favorite flowers of all.  (I write about what the columbine flowers meant to me as a young child here).

And while columbines come in just about every color under the sun, it’s the little orange and yellow fairy-flowers of the Western (or Alpine) columbine that steals my heart.

A single plant will eventually produce little seedlings that you can easily transplant throughout your garden, creating a woodland-like feel.

14.  Alpine lily (lilium parvum) and the next best thing for hot & dry climates

Tiger Lily

While hiking in the Sierras hunting for wildflowers, I never tire of coming upon a stand of Alpine lilies (photo on the left).

Even though they’re easy enough to start from seed (assuming you have plenty of water nearby), they always seem somewhat exotic to me.  I guess it’s because I’ve never been able to grow them where I live as it’s waaaay too hot and dry.

But I DO grow these dark orange Asiatic lilies (on the right). I don’t know the variety, as they originally came from my aunt, who didn’t like the color.  She then passed them along to my mother, who also hated them (in particular planted next to her peonies).

Personally, I happen to love this combo.  Yes, I know that if I were to put on an outfit of dark pink and deep orange, I’d probably get some mighty strange looks.  But in my eyes, this planting combination looks fantastic.  But I still couldn’t convince my mother.  So, I posted this photo on Facebook a while back, curious if people agreed with my mom about the awful color-combo, or if they agreed with me.  I’d say it was about 50:50.

Anyway, I ended up getting the lilies, and I love them!

15.  Succulents!

And finally, I couldn’t forget the zillions of succulents that have fantastic blooms in all shades of orange.

Lots of people plant them in their gardens for their fantastic texture or structure, but don’t forget – they bloom, too!

These are just a few of my favorites.

orange-flowered succulents

aloe striata

orange-flowered succulents

What are your thoughts on the color orange in your garden?  Love it or hate it?

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  • I used to truly hate orange. My aunt ruined it for me when she painted her entire upright piano a screaming shade, every single thing orange except the keys. At the time I couldn’t appreciate how bold that was, haha.

    It only took about 40 years, and I don’t know exactly when it happened– but now I love orange! I will not be painting my piano though.

    • Oh my gosh – her entire piano? She sounds like she was/is a woman with very strong and distinctive tastes, not afraid to go against the grain. I’m so glad you’re an orange-lover now and I bet she’d be proud of you! 😉

  • Hi Rebecca… Speaking of orange, we are picking persimmons right now so if you will be in our area in the next few weeks and would like to have some please let me know. As always, we have plenty (and more!) to share. Hope we will see you!

    • How nice to hear from you, Suzanne! I’ll actually be down for a quick visit the late afternoon of the 4th, or early on the 5th. Any chance I could stop by on the 4th to get a few? I’d love to see you!

      • Yes, come by on the afternoon of the 4th. Park in our driveway and come through the gate there. We will look forward to seeing you. We have another abundant crop this year so plan to take more than a few. Take care for now…

  • Rebecca, I so enjoyed this post on orange-colored flowers. I thought I was never a fan but I did add to my garden Florida Tropical canna for the leaves. Unfortunately, the iguanas seem to like it too. A friend suggested I purchase an orange Crossandra but never got to love it. I do like my firecracker plant for both the blossoms and foliage. Your choices are so intriguing, however, I am zone 10 so limited.

    • Hello Joyce, and thanks for your other suggestions. Iguanas? Yes, we’re definitely in different zones – ha! Here,I have the deer, rabbits, gophers, and turkeys to contend with, but no iguanas. The ‘Tropicana’ canna you picked is one of my favorites, great choice!

  • I really appreciate learning about so many wonderful plants, and can’t wait to research which thrive in my sandy loam soil. Your comments reinforced that I’ve planted pink/ white colors for the public, and yellow/ orange/ whites for personal pleasure behind fences?

  • Most of the oranges for zone 5 seem to be daylilies, butterfly weed, oriental poppies. I love oranges, reds, golds (with deep blues, purples and whites for contrast). What else should I try?

    • Hi Ann – If you like the trollius flower that I featured, that would also grow in your climate (it likes moisture, as well), as would the columbine (they freely grow at Lake Tahoe where they’re regularly covered with 8′ of winter snow) and the helenium varieties. Other thoughts are: I absolutely love the gold colors of Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers’, as well as rudbeckia triloba. If you don’t have the room for a tall ‘Henry Eiler’s, there’s also a smaller one out there called ‘Little Henry’. Have you tried the peachy-orange tones of various heucheras (like the ‘Peach Flambe’) or heuchera ‘Forever Red’, or another favorite of mine, the peony ‘Felix Supreme’? I also love the lemony-yellow flowers of the solidago ‘Little Lemon’ which also happily grows at Lake Tahoe, reliably returning year after year. I hope I’ve given you a few ideas!!!

  • This is a great plant list and I can see that next year I need to do some orange plant hunting. I’ve had it in past gardens and it really brings things to life and lowers the sweetness factor of other plantings.

    • Thanks, Barbara. I love your phrase ‘lowers the sweetness factor’. 😉

  • Love the article and plant list! Personally I haven’t run into so many clients who hate orange, but I believe it. I also really like to use Libertia peregrinans for orange in the garden (when I can find it).

    • Hi Nicole – I can almost guarantee that when I ask what colors people don’t want in their garden it’ll either be ‘I like them all’, ‘no orange of any kind’, or ‘no red’. I’ve seen stands of libertia that look so pretty, but in my area I’ve only seen it kinda ratty looking. I wonder if it’s happiest in your cooler, coastal climate?

  • It would be helpful if you were to mention the best time to plant some of these.

    • Hi Pat. Without knowing the specifics of your climate, my general advice is planting in the fall is #1, followed by spring #2. However, seeing as it was in the 90’s just a week or so ago here I’m holding off for another week until I do a lot of my fall planting. Fall is great because the roots of a new plant have a lot of time to get established and grow through the winter (assuming you don’t live in a killer-cold area with tons of snow) and by the time spring rolls around they’ll put on a bigger show than if they’re planted in the spring. Again, in my area spring is short as the 100+ temps roll around much too fast, and that’s really tough on new plants. Hope that helps a bit!


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