The garden awakens with a burst of color provided by spring bulbs and wildflowers, but they are a one act play. Soon their performance is over and they head backstage. Spring-blooming perennials are the second act, just as beautiful as the first but, like spring bulbs, their flowers are fleeting. In summer, perennials take turns providing garden color. Late summer and fall-blooming perennials are waiting in the wings for their chance to take the lead role.
With all these perennials, why is it we sometimes look out on the garden and wonder where the color went? How does your garden look now? Does it need a punch of pizzazz?
Plant chartreuse – that color between green and yellow on the color wheel. The older I get, the more I love chartreuse foliage. It keeps my gardens in full color throughout the seasons. In some instances, it performs a supporting role harmonizing with blue and purple flowers, or it holds its own, co-starring with intense colors like red and orange. Lime green also negotiates tensions between purple and orange or red and yellow.
Fortunately there are many plants that offer chartreuse foliage or lime green flowers. Some are annuals; some are perennials. Some yearn for sun; others prefer shade.
Annuals for Sun
‘Marguerite’ sweet potato vine is a garden classic with chartreuse foliage. It has large, heart-shaped leaves perfect for trailing down the edges of large containers or utilizing as a ground cover. Give this fervent grower a lot of room – you will be amazed at how much ground this plant covers by the end of the season. Dig up the tubers before frost, overwinter them inside, and start them again in the spring.
Coleus is a large family of plants that offers many varieties with lime green foliage. The dark purple stems of ‘Flame Thrower Spiced Curry’ present a spicy combo of chartreuse and burgundy leaves. ‘French Quarter’ shows off leaves with bright pink flames in their centers surrounded by dark mahogany and edged in lime green. The margins of ‘Solar Eclipse’ glimmer with chartreuse. These are all sun-tolerant varieties that are ready to brighten borders or sizzle in containers.
Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’ is one of my favorites. Its variegated chartreuse and sage green foliage is beautiful in the garden or containers from spring to fall. Leaves blush when temperatures cool. I have always grown it as an annual, but some say it is hardy to Zone 5b. I am going to plant some in my rock garden where the soil is very well-drained and the warmth of the rocks will create a cozy microclimate. I will be thrilled if it makes it through the winter.
‘Limelight’ licorice plant (Helichrysum) has iridescent, chartreuse, felt-like foliage that trails to 4 feet – perfect for a container or ground cover in a hot spot in your garden. Mix it with hot pink petunias and a dark-leaved coleus for a colorful consortium.
‘Jade Princess’ is an ornamental millet with intense lime green strappy leaves. It grows 24 to 30 inches tall and sports large 8- to 10-inch fuzzy brown flower spikes in summer. If you need something a little taller, check out ‘Jester’. It features chartreuse foliage lightly overlaid with burgundy. As it matures, the leaves turn to almost entirely burgundy if planted in full sun. It grows 42 inches tall with 8- to 12-inch showy burgundy flower spikes.
The fruits of ornamental peppers often begin chartreuse before morphing through a rainbow of colors. The one-inch peppers of ‘Explosive Embers’ begin lime green and then turn purple to orange to bright red. Plants grow about a foot tall and wide.
Annuals for Shade
Although coleus has been hybridized to enjoy the summer sunshine, there are still many varieties happier in the shade. ‘Wizard Jade’ has large, heart-shaped leaves with green margins and ivory centers creating the overall effect of lime green.
If you are searching for a larger coleus try ‘Kong Lime Sprite’. It brightens shady gardens with its lime green leaves with burgundy centers. It grows up to 20 inches tall and slightly wider. Before frost, bring this coleus inside to continue growing as a houseplant or take cuttings to grow indoors in winter.
Ferns have always played an important role in containers. ‘Rita’s Gold’ fern, a variety of Boston fern, has upright, arching, lance-shaped lime green fronds that not only offer the same great textural element but also the refreshing color of chartreuse.
There is nothing sinful about Buddleia ‘Evil Ways’. This butterfly bush displays large panicles of deep purple flowers all summer long over bright lime green leaves. Butterflies love this beauty!
Putting a new twist on the perennial bachelor’s button (Centaurea), ‘Gold Bullion’ has vivid blue flowers that sit atop striking lime green, fuzzy foliage in May and June. It grows up to 2 feet tall and wide.
The variegated creamy white and bright green leaves of Sedum ‘Lime Twister’ create an appearance of chartreuse. It is a shorty – only 6 inches tall and a foot wide – and its clusters of pink flowers bloom from late August through September.
Gold leaf tansy (Tanacetum vulgare ‘Isla Gold’) has finely-cut, fragrant, brilliantly-colored foliage. Its button-like yellow flowers bloom in July. It is less aggressive than its parent but still needs some room in the garden.
Aralia ‘Sun King’, one of my top ten favorite perennials, boasts large compound leaves (made up of leaflets) up to three feet long. Large spikes of white flowers begin blooming in late summer. Birds snack on the reddish-purple berries that follow spent flowers in fall. The foliage emerges bright gold in spring and retains its color if given a few hours of direct sunshine; in shade it turns chartreuse.
The family of coral bells gives us several varieties of chartreuse cuties. Heuchera ‘Lime Rickey’ has frosty, ruffled lime green foliage on cute little mounds 8 inches tall and 18 inches wide. White flower spikes in May are an added bonus. Heuchera ‘Lime Marmalade’ is similar in habit but a bit larger – 10 inches tall and 2 feet wide.
The grass-like foliage of ‘Sweet Kate’ spiderwort (Tradescantia) is golden when planted in the sun, but in the shade its chartreuse leaves dazzle. Bluish-purple flowers embellish the plant in summer.
Try ‘Anne Greenaway’ spotted deadnettle (Lamium). Its foliage is an attractive blend of chartreuse, dark green, pale green and silver. It stays short but sprawls to 2’ wide.
Golden creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’) brightens a shady spot where its diminutive round leaves will fade from golden yellow to chartreuse.
Sedum ‘Angelina’ carpets the border with chartreuse needle-like foliage. Well-drained soil and a spot drenched in sunshine are a must.
All three are equally effective when used to spill over the edges of containers or hanging baskets. As the first frost approaches, remove them from their containers and plant them in your garden. Every gardener appreciates a multi-purpose plant!
Most hostas with golden foliage will be a lovely shade of golden yellow if planted in some direct morning sun, but site them in a shadier spot and you will be rewarded with chartreuse foliage.
‘Sum and Substance’ is a monster of a hosta growing up to 3’ tall and 6’ wide. Its leaves are huge. ‘Fragrant Bouquet’ has creamy-margined chartreuse leaves and fragrant white flowers. ‘Lemon Lime’ is a small, but mighty hosta that makes an outstanding ground cover.
There are so many varieties of hostas with chartreuse foliage – completely lime green or chartreuse in combination with other shades of cream, green or blue – there is sure to be one perfect for your landscape.
Lime green blossoms are as appealing as chartreuse foliage but not as easy to find. The lime-green flower heads of lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis) rest gently upon the rounded, scalloped leaves that hold raindrops like sparkling diamonds.
The family of hellebores gives us some of the earliest blooms of the season. The nodding flowers of Lenten roses (Helleborus orientalis) may bloom in lime green shades. Blooming later than their cousins, the flowers of stinking hellebores (Helleborus foetidus) are more reliably chartreuse.
‘Lemon Lime’ tobacco plant (Nicotiana) has star-like, iridescent light lime green blooms that glow at dusk. Partner with purples, pinks, and blues for an alluring alliance.
A list of chartreuse flowers is not complete without mentioning the blooms of Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’. It flaunts lime green 6 to 12-inch flower heads appearing in mid-summer that hold their color well into fall when the blooms change to rich deep pink. Allow enough space for this hydrangea – it easily reaches 8 feet tall and wide, sometimes even taller.
Add delightful color to your garden this summer with plants sporting chartreuse flowers or foliage. In your landscape’s final act each day, chartreuse plants glow as the sun sets and the curtain falls on another perfect day in the summer garden. Garden with me!