Gardening: Purple is perfect for the landscape

Nancy Szerlag
Special to The Detroit News

Pantone has announced its color of the year for 2018: Ultra Violet, a nod to creativity, originality, ingenuity and the person most associated with that hue, Prince.

Bright purple may be a bit of challenge for interior decorators to incorporate into their designs, but for gardeners, using it in the landscape is a snap.

Growing edgy veggies are all the rage, so if you want to be a trendsetter you might want to try your hand at growing purple cauliflower or green beans with purple skins. Be aware, however, purple beans turn green when cooked. Purple carrots and eggplants are other options. Blueberries might be more to your liking, and the new dwarf shrubs developed to grow in containers are the perfect choice for city dwellers.

My color block of purple plantings at the Rochester OPC display garden is a big visitor favorite. Along with deep purple petunias, tall ageratum, browallia, salvias and verbena bonariensis, I use a few white flowers for sparkle.

This year I’m adding Proven Winners’ new introduction, “Rockin Deep Purple” Salvia, which has the same growth habit as Salvia “Black and Blue” and rises to 10-12 inches in height.

Purple gladiolas are a fun surprise in summer. I stick half a dozen bulbs among the other plants. Spacing out the plantings 10 days apart extends the bloom time.

Angelonia, also called summer snapdragon, is a fabulous nonstop bloomer that adds brilliant color throughout the growing season in my purple patch. This spring I’m using Proven Winners’ Angelonia “Super Blue,” which is actually purple, and climbs to 30-40 inches in height.

When you’re tooling through the garden center with your plant cart in search of purple flowers, don’t forget to visit the shrub section. On my wish list is a dwarf purple leaf smoke bush.

While a purple chair in the living room might look a bit like a throne, a classic mid-century metal lawn chair sprayed ultra purple would make a perfect accessory in the garden that imparts a bit of whimsy that lasts for years. Should you tire of the color, it only takes a can or two of spray paint to make a change.

While Krylon dark purple in spray paint cans may not be available at big boxes, I found Krylon (5-Ball) Interior — Exterior Paint in a dark purple online at, (888) 978-7759. The Krylon Exterior Paint Purple — K01913A07 — is available in packages of six cans for under $30. It’s suitable for use indoors and outdoors.

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her a question go to and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at detroitnewscom/homestyle.