Top 10 Favorite Orange Plants

It’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 – orange!  Last year I wrote about my favorite black plants, so it’s only fitting that this year’s post is all about orange.

In all the years I’ve been designing gardens, it goes without saying that orange is, hands-down, the color that gets picked on the most.  Time and time again new clients request that I not use the color orange in their garden. I know where this prejudice is coming from.  It’s from driving by that home with all the marigolds lined up along the front pathway, with at least two-feet of space between them, like tidy little soldiers.  Am I right?   Once I acknowledge this (and promise not to do this in their own garden) they breathe a sigh of relief.  And when I show them how many beautiful shades of orange there are and how to use them in their gardens, more often than not they join me on the orange bandwagon.

Except for one client.  She flatly refused any  hint of orange in her garden.  Over the years 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.

1.  Sneezeweed (Helenium ‘Mardi Gras’)

Otherwise known as Sneezeweed, which is such an unfortunate nickname.  Contrary to popular belief, they don’t cause people to sneeze at all.  I’ve read that eons ago their leaves were used as some sort of snuff – hence their unfortunate nickname.

2.  Kangaroo Paws (Anigozanthos ‘Tequila Sunrise’)

When massed the together, the light and airy kangaroo paw-like blooms tower up to four feet in the garden, adding a colorful cloud of orange that lasts for months and months at a time.

Drought tolerant and deer-resistant these are some of my go-to plants for any sunny spot.

3.  Angel Trumpet (Brugmansia sanguinea)

This is a hardier version of the other brugs 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.  But I don’t care.  I much prefer their hot orangey-red color over the other pastel versions any day.

5.  Orange Siberian Globeflower (Trollius ircuticus)

Oh how I wish this was more drought tolerant!  Unfortunately it isn’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)

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.  Mirror Plant (Coprosma ‘Pink Splendor’)

The always-shiny variegated foliage of this 3-foot evergreen shrub never fails to wow visitors to my garden.  And depending on the temperatures outside, it ranges from soft to vibrant hues of pink, green and orange.  I often use this as one of the ‘bones’ of a garden bed, providing year-round interest.

It looks great when used in flower arrangements, too.

8.  Red Hot Pokers (Kniphofia uvarias)

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

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.  Truly a fantastic and reliable staple for any garden.

9.  Bulbine frutescens ‘Hallmark’

Okay, ready for my Bulbine pitch?

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.

I love Bulbines so much it gets two photos for this post!

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.  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.

What are some of your favorite orange plants?

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  • Let’s not forget the Aussies; my favorites include Lecospermum”Tango”, L. Cordifolium Orange”, “Flame Spike” and then there are the spectacular Banksias. B. spinulosa ” Scnhapper Point” and B. “Victoriae” !

    • I’d never forget the Aussies (in fact, at least a third of my garden consists of Australian natives)! One of my favorites right now is Leucadendron ‘Jester’, which tends to fare quite well in our climate. As well as my umpteen grevilleas (truly, some of my favorites EVER). Banksias, however, always get zapped by our frosty winter mornings. 🙁

  • I love orange flowers-that and red are my favourite flower colors. Currently have Canna “Wyoming” and orange Cordia. My very fave is flamboyant or delonix.

    • Hi Nicole – I had to look up the ‘Wyoming’ canna and I’m so glad I did! It’s stunning!

  • I LOVE orange flowers too and would add globe mallow and ‘Patrick’s’ abutilon to your list. Oh, and ‘Tangerine Beauty’ crossvine. And Mexican flame vine! So many great orange flowers to choose from.

    • Great additions, Pam. We featured Mexican Flame vine in our book – how could I have forgotten that one?! You’re right – so many to choose from!

  • I realized I never commented to this post. I adore orange in the garden, it welcomes me and cheers me up unlike any other color. I have an orange Abutilon, Orange cosmos, milkweed, Calendulas, Gaillardia, Agastache, Mimulus (sticky monkey flower), Geum, Isoplexis, Aquilegia formosa, and I love them all.

    Nice photos, and nice inspiration.

    • Oooo – that isoplexis is a new one to me (are you thinking of the one that Annie’s Annuals sells? – I love it!) And yes, how could I forget geums, too! Thanks for commenting, Laura!

      • Rebecca, I bought an Isoplexis at Annie’s, I forgot the species name, it has bloomed from May until now, what an amazing looking plant, it looks amazing against a bunch of Aloe maculata plants. I first saw one at the Richmond Wave garden and was hooked! It is in part shade in my high in clay garden and looks really healthy, I highly recommend it.

        • Good to know, Laura! Next time I’m there I’ll definitely pick a couple of these up to try.

  • I love Orange and all colors. I dig Orange and Royal blue together….It is my Only Boy’s favorite color(he has 3 sisters). He was thrilled when the house accidently got painted orange! (friends say call it Ricoco…) anyway I try to plant fav colors by the kids windows. He has Roger’s Red Grapevine that is lovely. I think I planted an orange mimulus both of those from local closed Napolito Nursery…Native plant specialist. I love Nasturims and California Poppies many varieties…
    Thank you for beautiful examples and a lovely post for an under used and underloved color in the garden!

    • Hi Stacy – I couldn’t agree more with your love of orange in the garden. And what a fun mom you are, planting your kids favorite colors outside of their bedroom windows! My Roger’s Red is brilliant red right now, how ’bout yours?

  • I was a closet orange-in-the-garden lover when pastels were popular, so I can’t tell you how tickled I am that more and more designers are using and loving this once maligned color. Hey, our gardens are NOT our houses. I wouldn’t want to live with searing orange throw pillows (well, not for long, anyway), but in my garden, gimme color, the brighter the better. A garden designer friend cheerfully calls it “vulgar color.” The only thing is, brights tend to make nearby pastels look as faded as old underwear, so: pick one. I have pale salmon bearded irises that come up every year next to school-bus-yellow bearded irises (keep meaning to move the bulbs) and let’s just say it ain’t pretty.

    • ohmygosh, Debra, your comment is SO funny. And so descriptive. One of the many reasons why I adore you!

  • The biggest issue I faced in learning to love orange was the evil 70’s version that I grew up with. I resisted for so long until I realized that “my” orange didn’t have to be my mothers orange. Now, well, I can’t get enough!

    • Ha! ‘My mother’s orange’ is the perfect description of why so many people wince when I mention orange!

    • Thanks, Susan!I can definitely see the Globe flower planted around ‘Peace Lady’….


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