White flowers for your backyard – 11 elegant choices for borders and containers

From scented show stoppers to cut-flower favorites, these white flowers cannot fail to delight

White cosmos and wildflowers growing in a border
(Image credit: Future)

Choosing all white flowers for your garden might seem a little simplistic, but the results can be truly spectacular and even more dramatic than a scheme bursting with color. 

White is a soothing, tranquil shade, which will create a timeless feel. Whether you choose to plant your entire backyard or just one flower bed in this monochromatic scheme, the results will always feel relaxing, comforting and calming. 

One of the most well-known examples of a white garden is at the famous Sissinghurst Castle in England. Done well, they are a truly beautiful, elegant feast for the eyes – offering a cool and soothing subtlety, yet still with plenty of interest. 

Of course, you don't have to apply this look to the whole of your plot. White plants are a lovely pick for individual flowerbeds, borders or even container displays. 

When it comes to the plants themselves, you won't be stuck for choice – there are so many stunning varieties in all different shapes and sizes, and in some cases, scents.

Sissinghurst Castle, Kent, UK. Parterres in the White Garden in summer

The White Garden at Sissinghurst Castle in the UK

(Image credit: gardenpics / Alamy Stock Photo)

How do you plan an all-white border?

'Choosing a garden color scheme can make the plant-planning stage much easier as it narrows down your choices. You could pick hot hues, carnival brights, or soft pastels,' says says garden expert and Homes & Gardens contributor Holly Crossley

'But, for a stylish, monochromatic design, all-white is a reliable approach. White plants have an elegance that works in both a contemporary style setting and a more traditional cottage garden design. They also appear to glow in the low evening light, giving a garden a magical feeling,' she says.

'The most successful white gardens aren't purely white, however. They're actually a combination of green, gray and white, with sometimes the occasional hint of other colors such as pink or blue. The foliage is key to creating a successful white garden, as white blooms need a strong backdrop to allow them to stand out,' she says.

White-themed borders are often planted with a focus on them looking at their best in midsummer. But, in a small garden in particular, it's important for planting picks to offer something all year round. It's possible to extend the white theme throughout the seasons by planting snowdrops and other white-flowered spring bulbs alongside early-flowering shrubs. 

For fall, white-flowered nerines will gleam in the low light and late-flowering perennials such as asters and gaura will continue blooming until the first frost. And, if you have the space, the white bark of a silver birch will provide interest for your winter garden ideas, as will frosty-white hellebores.

Create a calming plant palette with these 11 white flowers

'Once you've got your white garden up and running, be sure to keep on top of deadheading. White flowers don't tend to die attractively, particularly if the weather has been wet, which can cause petals to turn brown and mushy,' says Holly.

'Deadheading is crucial to keep it looking its best. Plus, snipping away fading blooms will also encourage side shoots to form, producing more flowers,' she says.

1. Anemone x hybrida 'Honorine Jobert'

anemone hybrida 'honorine jobert' white flower

(Image credit: RM Floral / Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness zone: USDA 4 - 7
  • Height: 4ft
  • Spread: 24in

Japanese anemones are nothing short of elegant and are wonderful for providing height and late summer blooms. You could try the anemone hup. honorine jobert at Burpee.

This particular variety showcases tall, wiry stems holding pure white, cup-shaped flowers with bright yellow centers from summer through fall. It's an excellent herbaceous perennial for areas of dappled light, so try growing it as a shade plant.

Snowdrop Anemone | Was $59.99, now 39.59 at Nature Hills

Snowdrop Anemone | Was $59.99, now 39.59 at Nature Hills

A beautiful anemone variety with large snow-colored blooms. Ideal in part-shade.

2. Penstemon 'White Bedder'

penstemon white bedder

(Image credit: Simon Maycock / Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness zone: USDA 3-9
  • Height: 27in
  • Spread: 20in

'White bedder' is a great semi-evergreen perennial for extending an all-white theme into the fall months. It sends up masses of erect stems that have funnel-shaped, foxglove-like flowers from midsummer to the first frosts. 

It is borderline hardy, so give it a good mulching to protect the roots. 

3. Nicotiana sylvestris

Nicotiana sylvestris

(Image credit: Tom Meaker / Getty Images)
  • Hardiness zone: USDA 10-11
  • Height: 5ft
  • Spread: 1ft

Nicotiana is a well-loved choice for cottage garden plant schemes, offering sweetly-fragranced blooms on long stems.

This variety is perfect if you're looking to add height and drama to your scheme. A half-hardy annual, it forms a low-growing rosette of large leaves and has towering stems of drooping, white, trumpet-shaped blooms. 

4. Digitalis purpurea albiflora

Digitalis purpurea f albiflora

(Image credit: Martin Hughes-Jones / Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness zone: USDA 4-9
  • Height: 7ft
  • Spread: 20in

This white variety of foxglove will add plenty of vertical interest to your borders with its statuesque stems and tubular flowers. And it's a favorite of pollinators, so it's a fabulous choice if you're looking to fill your space with more flowers that attract bees.

This biennial will self-sow and is happy in part shade. Have a look for the white foxglove (digitalis purpurea 'alba') at Monticello shop.

5. Erigeron annuus

Daisy Fleabane(Erigeron annuus)

(Image credit: shene / Getty Images)
  • Hardiness zone: USDA 3-8
  • Height: 3.25in
  • Spread: 2ft

This perennial makes a haze of small, white, daisy-like flowers from June to November. It's perfect for creating a wilder, laid-back look.

It will gently self-sow about the border, but it's easily controlled. The tall stems benefit from being staked in mid-spring. 

6. Gaura lindheimeri 'The Bride'

Gaura lindheimeri 'The Bride'

(Image credit: John Richmond / Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness zone: USDA 6-9
  • Height: 5ft
  • Spread: 24in

The abundance of white flowers on this bushy perennial looks like a mass of dainty butterflies dancing in the breeze. And, the tinge of pink offers a pleasing visual effect. If you're creating a cottage garden border this is a good contender.

Gaura lindheimeri 'The Bride' blooms from summer through fall and is hardy in most gardens. 

7. White Dame's Rocket

Hesperis matronalis var. albiflora dames violet

(Image credit: thrillerfillerspiller / Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness zone: USDA 3-9
  • Height: 3ft
  • Spread: 16in

Otherwise known as sweet rocket (Hesperis matronalis var. albiflora), this short-lived perennial forms a clump of dark green leaves from which tall stems arise. In late spring and early summer, these are topped with clusters of fragrant white blooms. 

It's fantastic for pollinators and will readily self-seed if allowed. Plant in full sun or part shade. You could try these white dames rocket flower seeds at Amazon.

Make sure you check that it is not considered invasive in your area before you plant.

8. Cosmos bipinnatus 'Purity'

Cosmos bipinnatus 'Purity'

(Image credit: Anne Gilbert / Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness zone: USDA 2-11
  • Height: 4ft
  • Spread: 2ft

This floriferous, half-hardy annual creates a froth of feathery, green foliage and a succession of elegant white blooms between July and October. It's a magnet for pollinating insects and very easy to grow from seed. 

And, it makes one of the best cutting garden flowers for brightening up indoors. You can buy cosmos seeds - purity at Eden Brothers.

9. Rosa 'Madame Alfred Carrière'

Rosa 'Madame Alfred Carrière'

(Image credit: GKSFlorapics / Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness zone: USDA 5-9
  • Height: 13–26ft
  • Spread: 8ft

Strong-growing and almost thornless, if you're sticking to an all-white theme, this is one of the best climbing plants to brighten up a pergola or garden wall.

It's studded with blousy, creamy-white blooms that repeat flower throughout summer and into fall. Plus, you can expect an especially strong, fruity fragrance. 

10. Trachelospermum jasminoides

Trachelospermum jasminoides

(Image credit: STUDIO75 / Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness zone: USDA 8-10
  • Height: 13–26ft
  • Spread: 13–26ft

Trachelospermum jasminoides, otherwise known as the star jasmine, is another gorgeous climber. In particular a good climbing plant for shade.

It has twining stems covered in glossy, dark green leaves that take on red tints in winter. And, in midsummer, it's smothered in a profusion of fragrant, white flowers. Try training it up a trellis for a beautiful backdrop to your border or seating space.

Star Jasmine | Was $59.99, now $29.40 at Nature Hills

Star Jasmine | Was $59.99, now $29.40 at Nature Hills

There's a hefty saving of over half off this classic Star Jasmine plant.

11. Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle'

Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle'

(Image credit: John Caley / Getty Images)
  • Hardiness zone: USDA 3-8
  • Height: 8ft 2in
  • Spread: 8ft 2in

If you're looking for a shrub to bring into your white-themed border or garden, then this is a gorgeous (and currently, very popular) choice. You can find Annabelle hydrangea plants in 2 gallon pots at Walmart.

Deciduous yet fully hardy, it offers huge globes of flowerheads from July to September in a sparkling white, which gradually fade to green. It's an ideal hydrangea for a partly shaded spot, but will grow in full sun too. 

headshot of Holly Crossley
Holly Crossley

Holly is a former allotment keeper and professional gardener. She now spends her time tending to her backyard and writing about gardens and outdoor living for Homes & Gardens.


What foliage plants look good with white flowers?

Foliage plays a crucial role in a white garden or border, offering depth and form to the display.

'Dark green foliage provides a fabulous contrast to sparkling whites. But, it's a good idea to combine bottle greens such as yew, box, and osmanthus with gray-leaved plants such as Stachys byzantina and Lychnis coronaria 'Alba' to avoid the planting feeling gloomy,' says garden expert Holly Crossley.

'Artemisia 'Powis Castle' is another good choice for silvery foliage. A dwarf, evergreen shrub, it creates a loose mound of finely divided leaves that have a fabulous aroma and it thrives in full sun.'

'The easy-care shrub Sarcococca hookeriana 'Winter Gem' is worth considering, too. Its leaves aren't silver but instead are a gleaming green all year round. And, in late winter, tiny white flowers emerge which smell like lily-of-the-valley.'

And if you're looking for ground cover plants to go with your white flowers? Try pulmonaria 'Sissinghurst White', a herbaceous perennial that forms mounds of green leaves, each of which is covered in white spots. It has early white flowers that are great for pollinators, too.

What are the best white flowers for spring?

There are lots of beautiful white choices for spring blooms.

If you're planning on planting bulbs, narcissus 'Thalia' has to be one of the best – a pure-white, multi-headed daffodil that looks beautiful en masse. In terms of tulips, another spring bulb favorite, the lily-flowered 'White Triumphator' is effortlessly sophisticated. 

Alternatively, 'White Heart' offers plenty of romance with its peony-like double blooms. And, if you're looking for a beautiful crocus to pep up a lawn, try 'Jeanne d'Arc' which are large and ice-white with deep yellow anthers.

Meanwhile, Magnolia stellata is lovely for an early-flowering shrub, with its delicate, star-like flowers. 

If an all-white scheme is what you're after to create a calming backyard, knowing how to plant a flower bed is key to a successful scheme.

Louise Curley
Freelance Writer

Louise Curley is an allotment-grower and gardener, and when she's not flexing her green fingers, she's writing about plants. She has written for multiple publications, including national newspapers and magazines. She has also written two books, with the first, The Cut Flower Patch, being awarded The Garden Media Guild’s ‘Best Practical Gardening Book of 2014’.