10 Tips for Incorporating Red in the Garden

Bright blooms, burgundy foliage and vivid accessories enliven and enrich landscapes



Gardens at Night, original photo on Houzz

Reds of any shade have real presence in the landscape. Flowers, foliage and garden accents in bright red grab attention, while those in darker shades of wine and ruby can add a layer of depth. Whether you appreciate the drama of fiery flowers or are drawn to the subtler look of burgundy foliage, here are 10 ways to harness the power of this color to command attention and bring richness to the garden.

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1. Plant in swaths for the ultimate romantic look. Give floral borders the red carpet treatment with a single variety of red flower planted en masse. Red-flowering tulips and cyclamens are excellent early-spring choices, while geraniums (pictured), carpet roses and ‘Red Beauty’ dianthus form masses of red blooms in summer.

2. Warm up an entryway. Like the glow of a fire in the fireplace, red can be a warm, welcoming color. Use the hue to warm up modern or minimalist exteriors and make them feel more inviting. Splashes of red — a mailbox, barn lights and a pair of Adirondack chairs — on the front porch of this modern farmhouse-style condo in Austin, Texas, create a friendly entrance.


Mezger Homes, original photo on Houzz

3. Energize pastel borders. Many gardeners shy away from red in borders, leaning more toward soft pastel blues, lavenders, and pale yellows and creams. But a few well-placed accents in red can energize more subdued borders like no other color. For example, use two pairs of tree roses, also called rose standards, to delineate a garden room, or fill a container with bright red blooms for a focal point in a bed.


C.O.S Design, original photo on Houzz

4. Add drama to small spaces. Without being overwhelming, strong shades of red can add energy and drama to balcony

gardens, side yards or interior courtyards. For example, a patterned metal screen against a red backdrop in this courtyard in Melbourne, Australia, draws attention and becomes the focal point.

5. Make shady beds glow.Garden designers often use variegated foliage and pale blooms to brighten dark areas of the

A J Miller Landscape Architecture, original photo on Houzz

garden. Brilliant red can have a similar but more dramatic effect. In this partial-shade border in New York state, cup-shaped Oriental poppies (Papaver orientale) glow like embers among purple alliums and lush foliage.

6. Attract pollinators. Different bloom colors draw specific pollinators. For example, red, fuchsia and purple flowers are particularly attractive to hummingbirds, while butterflies key into bright colors like redorangeyellow and pink. Bees, however, prefer bright blues and violets. Make your garden a pollinator magnet with a colorful mix of nectar- and pollen-producing plants.

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7. Create an Asian-inspired pathway. The simple red boardwalk running through the lush backyard of a property on Bainbridge Island, Washington, stands out like a modern art piece. Although the design feels distinctly contemporary, using red in the landscape borrows from traditional Chinese and Japanese design philosophies.

8. Use dark foliage to add depth to planting beds. Break up swaths of green foliage by planting burgundy-leaved perennials and shrubs in borders. The dark foliage hues add richness and variety, making surrounding plants appear lighter through contrast. Velvety red coleus (pictured) is a good choice for a medium-size border plant; use smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria) for larger dark backdrops.


Bloom Landscape Design and Fine Gardening Service, original photo on Houzz

9. Turn a garden bench into a focal point. Placed at the back of a garden, a natural wood bench visually fades into the backdrop. A fresh coat of cherry-red paint has the opposite effect, grabbing a viewer’s attention and providing an invitation to take a seat.

10. Pair red accents with contemporary architecture. Use bright shades of red in unexpected places — such as window trim, garden art or a glazed container by the front door — for an edgy, modern feel. Outside this home in New Zealand, a bright red mailbox offers a playful jolt of color against a dark exterior.


Architecture Smith + Scully Ltd, original photo on Houzz

Mailboxes in Every Color


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