What Are Bicolor Plants: Tips On Using Flower Color Combinations

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By Mary H. Dyer, Master Naturalist and Master Gardener

When it comes to color in the garden, the overriding principle is to choose colors that you enjoy. Your color palette may be a conglomeration of exciting, bright colors or a mix of subtle colors that provide an atmosphere of peace and relaxation. However, if you’re overwhelmed by the abundance of flower color combinations, narrowing the field to two colors may simplify the process. Read on to learn about two-color gardens and bicolor garden schemes.

Two-Color Gardens

Take a good look at a color wheel, and then plan (and plant) accordingly. There are many ways to use the color wheel for creating two color gardens. For example:

  • Analogous colors – This bicolor scheme involves harmonious colors that are side by side on the color wheel. Two color gardens based on analogous colors may feature shades of red and orange, orange and yellow, blue and violet or violet and red.
  • Complementary colors – For contrast that really pops, select colors directly across from one another on the color wheel, such as blue and orange, yellow and violet, or green and red.
  • Neutral colors – Take advantage of neutral colors when selecting flower color combinations, as neutral colors can be used with any other color (or colors) without changing the overall effect of that color. In gardening, neutrals can be white, gray, silver, black brown or green.

Using Bicolors in the Garden

So what are bicolor plants? According to the Royal Horticultural Society, some bicolor flowers occur as a result of a mutation that occurs during the initial development of a flower. This random event may or may not occur in subsequent seasons. Most bicolor plants, however, are carefully and selectively bred for their bicolor features.

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Bicolor plants are fascinating and add real interest to the garden. However, it can be tricky to garden with bicolor plants.

One solution is to plant a bicolor variety with a contrasting, solid color that serves as a backdrop. For example, locate a plant like Dianthus ‘Nova,’ a bicolor with blooms of dark and light pink, alongside colorful foliage, such as ornamental sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas).

You can also plant a solid color flower of one of the two colors represented in the adjacent bicolor plant. For example, plant big, red or white petunias alongside Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips, a striking bicolor plant of red and white.

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