Orange is a color that’s not always easy to love — especially in a flower garden. It has a big personality and doesn’t seem motivated to blend in. This makes orange challenging to use well, but very exciting when you get it right.
Orange is a color that’s fun and playful, happy and outgoing. Words such as warm, vibrant, lively and energetic are used to describe the color orange. By association, orange also conveys both energy (think basketballs, tigers and monarch butterflies) and caution (traffic cones, life vests and hunting jackets). And, like the fruit, the color orange also brings to mind freshness, vitality and good health.
On the color wheel, orange is a secondary color, which means it is made by combining two primary colors – red and yellow. True orange contains no blue, so there’s nothing to calm it down. It is undiluted energy and enthusiasm.
Using Orange in a Flower Garden
Because of its energy and brightness, too much orange can be overwhelming. But used well, it brings all its best qualities to a garden, elevating it in every way.
There’s nothing calming about orange. It grabs your eyes and holds your attention. In the landscape, orange flowers seem to come forward and appear closer than they actually are.
On a bright, sunny day, most flower colors look a little washed out. But orange flowers seem to absorb the sun’s energy and glow even more brightly. This is especially noticeable in the fall, when the sun is low in the sky and the light is golden. This is when orange flowers (and foliage) really come into their own.
Getting Started With Orange Flowers
The color wheel can help you learn to love the color orange. Start with tints and shades. Tints are lighter than full strength orange, and include colors such as creamsicle, peach and cantaloupe. Flowers in these colors include the zinnias ‘Salmon Rose’ and diascia ‘Darla Deep Salmon.’ Try a melon-colored dahlia such as ‘HS Date‘ or the coral-colored calla lily ‘Natural Bouquet.’
Shades of orange are darker, and include colors such as butterscotch and terra cotta. The foliage of the canna ‘Tropicanna‘ is a lovely combination of bronze and burnt orange. Echinacea are also available in several shades of dusky orange. Another way to mute the intensity of orange is to pair it with cream-colored flowers or bronzy foliage.
Putting Orange to Work in Your Garden
If you’re ready to turn up the intensity, look to complementary colors. These are opposites on the color wheel, and when positioned side by side, they intensify each other.
Blue is orange’s complementary color, but in the garden that can be a bit of a challenge. There just aren’t many flowers that are true-blue in color. Options include gentians, cornflowers, scilla, meconopsis poppies, forget-me-nots, delphiniums and hydrangeas.
Colors that are adjacent to blue on the color wheel provide almost the same contrast. Orange looks fantastic with blue-green foliage and blue-violet flowers.
Yellow is another good companion for orange. It’s like adding a squirt of lemon to your flowerbed and will make your orange flowers look even fresher and more zingy.
Both orange and hot pink are edgy colors and using them together will give you a look that’s modern and unexpected.
Suggestions for What to Plant in an Orange Flower Garden
Here are some annuals, perennials and bulbs that have orange flowers:
Calendulas, calibrachoa, celosia, cosmos, diascia, gaillardia, gerbera, lantana, marigolds, nasturtiums, osteospermum, poppies, thunbergia, tithonia, zinnias