White tulips and daffodils and white arbour in a cottage garden setting - Life with Holly

The Best Plants for a White Garden Border

Looking for the best plants to create a white garden border? Me too! I’ve long been inspired by the beautiful gardens curated by Vita Sackville-West at Sissinghurst Castle Gardens in Kent. It’s on my “to visit” list, but with me being up in Yorkshire it’s a bit of a trek! The White Garden at Sissinghurst is world famous for using only flowers in shades of white with grey, green and silver foliage. So, what plants work well in a white border?


I’ve made a couple of miniature white herbaceous borders on our top lawn. If you remember I posted about how I removed the turf and created two large flower beds. The aim was to get rid of the mossy lawn that baked in the summer and got no sun in the winter and replace it with something much nicer to look at. As an added bonus I’ve been able to add in a load more pollinator friendly plants and it provides cover for our birds and frogs. Looks like everyone is a winner!


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We have a beech hedge as a backdrop to one side and the other side is open to the path (and our horrible neighbours). I’ve planted a beech hedge on this side but it’s still very small, so the vibernum is doing a lot of the screening at the moment. Luckily they’re lower than us so don’t see that much (apart from when they sit staring back up at the house – why?!). The beech hedge provides a lovely blank canvas (when it’s green). We have box balls and cones adding all year round structure as well.



Top 5 plants for white spring flowers


White tulips and daffodils and white arbour in a cottage garden setting - Life with Holly
Tulips and Daffodil Thalia providing white flowers in Spring. Check out our new arbour as well!



My favourite white flowers for Spring include:


Tulips – try Elegance, White Dream and Snow Crystal. I have all of these and they’re beautiful.


White tulips and daffodils and white arbour in a cottage garden setting - Life with Holly

Daffodils – my favourite variety is Narcissus Thalia as it’s a beautiful white colour. Nothing as gaudy as a yellow daffodil in my garden!


Anemone – try The Bride

for a small, front of border white flower.


Hellebore – try Helleborous Niger (similar to rel=”nofollow” these)


Snowdrop – buy these in the green if you can so you can see where you’ve planted them! If they’re happy where you’ve planted them they’ll spread around and in a few years you’ll have a lovely carpet of white every Spring. Here’s a mixed bundle of snowdrops which is great value.


Clematis Montana – I don’t have a Montana but am always so envious of those who do! Every Spring there’s a lovely display from a house up the road and I always think I should get one, but I have nowhere to grow one. This beautiful Miss Christine

would be a great addition to a white garden.


Lily of the Valley – Once it’s established, Lily of the Valley can be hard to get rid of! It’s a beautiful flower though.

Lily of the Valley - Image from a How to make a White Garden Post by Life with Holly
Photo by Аська Добрая from Pexels


Apple and Cherry Blossom – We have two apple trees (Red Devil and Discovery) and a weeping cherry blossom tree (I think it’s Snow Fountain). All of these have white blossoms and are great for pollinators.


Top 10 plants for white summer flowers

North East Facing Garden Tiered Different Levels Cottage Garden Style by Life with Holly
Our garden last August


For summer colour (or not, as we’re only looking at white flowers!), why not try:

Rose – my all time favourite is Claire Austin. I have a few of these dotted around the garden, growing up an archway and some obelisks in the new flower beds. Lots of fluffy flowers and a beautiful myrrh scent. I also like Iceberg, although we bought this as a climber and it hasn’t climbed! It’s also available as a bush rose so this is obviously what we bought haha!


Claire Austin Rose by Life with Holly My Garden in August
Claire Austin Rose


Hollyhock – great for height and structure. Try Alcea Rosea Chaters Double. 


Foxglove – Once you have foxgloves in your garden you’ll likely have them forever. The bees will definitely thank you though! One tip is to pinch or trim the main stem when it grows and you’ll get a lot more side shoots. Try Digitalis Alba.


Antirrhinum – More commonly known as Snapdragons, these short lived perennials are usually grown as annuals but I’ve had some for a couple of years. This year is the best they’ve ever looked and I’ll add a picture when they’ve started to bloom. These are a cottage garden favourite and are loved by pollinators. Here’s are some white Antirrhinum you can buy from Sarah Raven. I’ll take some photos when mine are in full flower.


Cosmos – These annuals are easy to grow from seed and make a great cut flower. The more flowers you cut, the more you get! Grow them in a sunny spot. I like Cosmos Purity.


White Cosmos - Life with Holly Blog Cutting Patch - Cosmos - North Facing Cottage Garden - My Garden in June - Life with Holly (11)

Hydrangea Annabelle – A beautiful plant which has masses of creamy white flowerheads in summer which look like huge snowballs. Younger plants may need staking as the flowers are so huge and are too heavy for the stems.

Hydrangea Annabelle from a blog post about how to make a white garden by Life with Holly
Photo by Julia Filirovska from Pexels (because I haven’t got any decent ones yet!)


Hydrangea Runaway Bride – a classic hydrangea with beautiful white flowers. I have these either side of the bench in the front garden and one in a pot in the back yard as they’re so lovely.


White Hydrangea by Life with Holly My Garden in August

White Nigella – This cottage garden favourite is a great one to let self seed around. Pinch out the tips for bushier plants with more flowers. When the flowers have finished they form beautiful seed pods, which you can collect and spread around the garden.


Bleeding Heart Alba – These graceful plants are a great addition to a shady spot and are easy to propagate by division.

Bleeding Heart Alba from a blog post about how to make a white garden by Life with Holly
Bleeding Heart Alba

White Honesty – Another cottage garden favourite which is great for pollinators. It also has beautiful seedheads which you can dry and use in crafts.


Astrantia – This is one of my favourite plants and one which is easy to look after. Once it’s established it’s easy to propagate through division. Try this white astrantia

from Crocus.


Orlaya Grandiflora – Similar to cow parsley, this umbellifer is beautiful dotted through the border and is great for pollinators. It also makes a great cut flower and is easy to grow from seed.


Astilbe is also a beautiful addition to a cottage garden and has spires of fluffy white flowers.


Peony – is your garden complete without a peony? Try Shirley Temple

for a beautiful white peony to add to your collection.


I know, there’s more than 10 there! It’s easier than you think to create a white garden with such a wide range of plants available. Essentially anything with the word “Alba” in the Latin name should be white!


Sunrise in the garden. You can see the Sweet Woodruff to the left of the picture. That all came from one 9cm pot!

The Best Plants for White Flowers in Winter


Winter is a bit of a bleak time in the garden. Our hedges are brown and there’s not a lot going on! I tend to rely mainly on the evergreen structural plants of the box cones and balls to give interest. There are however winter flowering clematis you can buy which have white flowers, and Vibernum Opulus Roseum is also another beauty. If you have slightly acidic soil you can grow white heathers and Camelia.


White Plants for Ground Cover

For groundcover plants for a white garden, I use Sweet Woodruff. Now I know, it’s a bit of a thug and what was once a tiny sprig in a 9cm pot is now all over my garden, but it is great for ground cover and smothering out weeds as it spreads by forming a mat on the surface. To keep it in check I pull it up every so often and to plant in the middle of it I make a hole in the mat. It’s tough as anything and has done a brilliant job of keeping the weeds down between us and our lovely neighbours.


The Best Plants with White Flowers for Shady Spots


As I have a north-east facing garden it’s quite shady for half the year. We get the sun on the top lawn until about 2pm in the height of summer. Here are five plants with white flowers that have done well on the top lawn.



Hydrangea Annabelle

Bleeding Heart Alba


Lily of the Valley



This is the view when you’re sat on my doorstep. It’s a lovely place to sit! The astrantia is doing really well this year and is beautiful when it’s fully flowering.


I like to grow flowers to cut to enjoy in the house. This vase has some shop bought stocks and the rest is from the garden. Stocks are on my list to grow next year as they are beautiful and smell divine! They also come in white, so will be a perfect addition to the plants for a white garden I have planned!


Vase of flowers with white flowers including stocks, tulips and white bluebells.
All from the garden apart from the stocks!


I hope this list of plants for a white garden has been useful! Are you planning a white garden border? I’d love to see if you do! If you need any more inspiration why not check out my Pinterest board full of pins about white gardens.



Comments (2)

  • Katherine

    15 January 2022 at 8:36 pm

    Hi, i found your blog looking for inspiration for north-east facing gardens. Your garden is lovely and I have also gone for white so appreciate your good ideas, thank you!

    In the winter, Winter box – sarcococca confusia – is the most amazing ever green with white flowers which smells just fantastic right now. I highly recommend it. The plants grow quite slowly but they love shade and tolerate spots in my garden that get quite a lot of sun in high summer. but they also seed and you always have baby ones for swaps or to fill a spare hole. They won’t grow high enough to help with high hedging though 🙁

    good luck with your garden

    1. lifewithholly

      17 January 2022 at 3:06 pm

      Thank you so much for the tip off! Will check it out 🙂

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