Is Yellow Just Too Common?

Why is it that Sissinghurst has a White Garden but not a Yellow Garden? Perhaps yellow is just a bit too insistently cheerful, like those morning people who sing and bustle about while you try to burrow into your newspaper.

Also, I read somewhere that yellow is the most common color for wildflowers, and its omnipresence may make it seem less desirable. Botanists even have an expression, DYC, or Damn Yellow Composites, for the myriad species of yellow daisy-like flowers of the Sunflower Family.

I do like yellow flowers and we have quite a few of them in our garden. However, I would never have an all-yellow garden. Yellow definitely needs companion colors to be at its best in the garden.

2014-04-06 13.18.28 yellow crocus
Clump of yellow crocus.

Anyhow, let’s consider the yellow flowers in our garden, starting with the Crocuses in early spring. They are particularly cheerful on a cold day in March.

White daffodils
Daffodils at the foot or our silver maple.

Yellow Narcissi are as common as dandelions, but no less loved because of it. I’m afraid I don’t remember the name of this variety.

Spicebush in bloom

The fuzzy, pale yellow flowers of Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) are a welcome if understated sight.


Forsythia, on the other hand, throws understatement to the winds.

Tulip 'West Point'

There are many, many yellow tulips – by my favorite is the lily-flowered tulip ‘West Point’.

4a Gorgeous Blue & Yellow
Cellandine poppy blooming with grape hyacinths.

Celandine Poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum) is a tough plant that self-sows aggressively. However, I can’t resist those poppy-like flowers in May.

6u Foxglove
Foxgloves on backyard path.

Yellow Foxgloves (Digitalis ambigua), are perennial rather than biennial. I actually prefer their pale yellow to the gaudier colors of the biennial D. purpurea.

Golden Alexander
Golden Alexander

We probably have better pictures of Golden Alexander (Zizia aurea). It’s a robust and adaptable plant with attractive umbels of tiny yellow flowers.

2014-08-02 12.08.40 yellow coneflower
Yellow coneflower with ‘Gateway’ joe pye weed in the background.

I really can’t say that I have a single favorite yellow flower. However, I think I can say that Yellow Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata) is one of the top three. I love the way the drooping golden petals (ray flowers) hold the light.

July 7m Yellow lilies

There really are too many varieties of yellow Daylily (Hemerocallis). I do like this one, though. I’ve forgotten the cultivar name, so I just call it Big Banana.

2014-07-04 16.21.28 asiatic lily
Asiatic lily

Yellow Asiatic Lilies are another matter – the world does not suffer from a surplus of these. This one came in a naturalizing mix, and I never knew its name.

Cup Plant, Silphium perfoliatum
Cup Plant. Hello up there!

Another of my yellow favorites: Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum). It’s tall. It’s yellow. Get used to it.

DSC_0996 Orienpet Lily

More lovely yellow Lilium. This is the Oriental-Trumpet hybrid ‘Conca D’Or’.

Oriental Lily ‘Gold Band’

And this is the Oriental Lily ‘Gold Band’.

8 Brown eyed Susans

Let me close with my favorite Rudbeckia, a star of late summer and autumn, Brown-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia triloba). The clouds of little golden daisies are enchanting.

DSC_0766 back garden zigzag goldenrod

DSC_0823 bluestem goldenrod shorts aster
Bluestem Goldenrod with Short’s Aster.

And finally, golden wands of Bluestem Goldenrod (Solidago caesia), definitely my favorite Goldenrod.

Would you plant a Yellow Garden? What are your favorite yellow flowers?

82 Comments on “Is Yellow Just Too Common?”

  1. This post is a nice reminder of how cheerful yellow flowers are generally. I love daffodils as they arrive just as everyone is sick of winter, and longing for spring. I also love all tulips, the lily flowered tulip ”West Point”‘ is wonderful.

  2. Lovely, indeed. But like you, I wouldn’t want an all yellow garden. I do have two climbing roses that flower with a beautiful, soft and warm yellow tinge as well as three small rosebushes with pale yellow flowers along with some Irises in bright yellow.

  3. I think that yellow is a colour we grow into. I remember an octogenarian telling me that it was her favourite colour because it was so cheerful. I hated yellow at the time. Then in 2012, I started to like it a little and by the end of the year I discovered that yellow was not only palatable, but that it was lifting my spirits. 2012 was the year when I reached the age of yellow. Since then I have planted a yellow border, which is offset by plenty of green.

  4. Like almost everyone I know I love yellow daffodils that from my childhood told me it was spring (now I know lots of other bulbs flower earlier). If I remember correctly Hidcote, another garden of rooms does have a yellow garden and a blue and maybe even a red.

  5. White and yellow together, with touches of blue, is the most breathtaking color scheme I’ve seen in a garden. It was at Bosvigo Gardens in Cornwall and the name of the garden is “the Vean.” About 10 or 12 years ago, the brown-eyed Susan appeared in my previous garden as a mystery plant, probably dropped by a bird. It quickly became a great favorite and I had it from then on until I moved my current shady neighborhood.

  6. I love yellow in a garden Jason, there was a time when yellow was seen as less desirable over here and I never really understood why. There are shades of yellow for every season and a huge range of flower shapes and forms. The yellow crocus in your first photo are absolutely gorgeous.

  7. Yellow is so welcome in spring, but I am not terribly keen on it by the time autumn comes round. I do love your Cup Flowers. I think my favourite yellow flower must be the crocus, although my indestructable yellow Achillea has grown on me the past couple of years too.

  8. I did not plan an all yellow garden, but when the evening primroses are in bloom, I come close. A friend once remarked that while chickadees were plentiful, they were never common. I feel the same way about yellow flowers 😉

  9. *Just another yellow bloomy thing*–that’s what I call the plethora of yellow bloomers common here in Texas, especially in the summers. While I love yellow flowers, I wouldn’t plant a yellow garden, or any other mono-chromatic scheme. I love the mix of colors that a perennial garden can show.

  10. I think of spring as the yellow season…resisted it for a long time, but who could fail to be cheered by the first daffodils (most of mine are white, but they come long after the little yellow Tête a Tête’s). I prefer a pale, creamy yellow, favorite being Phlomus russeliana. The late bloomer, Solidago ‘Fireworks’ is a harsher yellow but the form makes up for that. In the end, it seems like it’s a toss-up between yellow and pink for dominance (yellow is more strident, so it may only seem like there’s more of it). I held out as long as possible, but both have wormed their way into my garden.

  11. I would have said I’m not a huge fan of yellow but I do love daffodils (they say spring) and sunflowers (they say late summer). And rudbeckias and your yellow coneflower… I certainly wouldn’t plant a whole-yellow garden but a few patches here and there are ok 🙂

  12. No I wouldn’t plant a yellow garden but in fall the native yellows dominate mine. But a whole field of sunflowers makes my heart sing….I don’t know if I have a fav yellow flower…it may be dependent on the season…early spring, it is the daffodils….fall it is the sunflowers, native and annual!

  13. You do have quite a collection of yellow flowers! I love them, but I agree — they need balancing with other colors. I also agree with some of the commenters in that I would never want to have a single-color garden. I tend to coordinate colors from opposite sides of the color wheel, so the compliment each other. Yellows are great with purples.

  14. I confess to being one of those people who sings in the morning, and the rooms of my house are mostly painted in various shades of yellow. And, of course, my garden is full of yellow plants. I like the way yellow blends so differently with different companion colors — from the crisp look of yellows and whites to the hot colors of yellow with orange and red to the contrasts of yellows with blues or purples. In spring, there is nothing quite like the riot of color when yellows are accompanied by shades of pink.
    I first heard the term DYC when I was watching a television interview with Lady Bird Johnson filmed at the Johnson Wildflower Center. She referred to some flower as a DYC and then explained, “Damn yellow composites — you can’t tell them apart!”

  15. Screaming yellow in the spring, no time for restraint here, just cheerful joy at the return of the sun! Throw in some orange and red tulips with a few blue grape hyacinths and purple crocus. Creamy yellow in the summer with pale lavender to offset all that orange, pink, and red and cool things down a bit. Gold bands in the oriental lilies seem regal to me, blue and gold and in autumn the burnt yellows and golds to match the colors of the season. Like pink, it’s not a color I’d call my favorite but there sure seems to be a lot of it in my garden. Of course, I’m pretty common too.

  16. I rushed to your comment column to read the reaction of your readers. I was delighted to find a general thumbs up to yellow!
    I have a range of daffodils in my garden which give me a four month succession and they just brighten up my late Winter and Spring. Many modern varieties I grow have a range of colour variations but I still prefer the pure yellow ones.
    I admire the skill in producing single colour borders but they are not for me – although you might disagree when my giant yellow helianthus are in full flow!

  17. There is very little yellow in the perennial garden we inherited. The former owners must not have been too fond of it. But there are a few (very few) pops of yellow (a few day lilies, a tiny bit of coreopsis), which I think make the contrasting colors seem brighter.

  18. Yellow says sunshine, happiness and good cheer. So it is particular favourite of mine in the springtime, after a white and grey winter. Nothing delights me more at that season than seeing narcissus blooming everywhere, and the little trout lilies that grow wild in our woods. Come summer, my favourite yellow plant is one you also grow, Digitalis ambigua. I started it from seed years ago and it keeps spreading and giving me pleasure wherever it seeds itself. As for a single colour garden: no, neither a white nor a yellow nor any other single colour. In fact, has anyone commenting liked the idea?

  19. I don’t think it’s a question of yellow being too common but being too bright and stealing attention from other flowers. I like it best with blues and whites rather than pink as you often see in spring gardens. I only grow white daffs but all sorts of yellow daylilies, Erythroniums, lilies and Lysmachia. I also grow that pale foxglove you have. So lovely and looks good with anything. That yellow Tulip is a beauty and could tempt me to add more yellow to my garden.

  20. I can certainly relate to DYC. I have several of these in the garden whose actual names I have lost over the years. It is always fascinating the hear how plants do in other gardens. Here Celandine Poppy just survive. The yellow foxgloves is an other thing though. It does selfseed a lot.

  21. Hello Jason, we have several yellow flowers from the gaudy yellow of Forsythia, to the rich butter yellow of Graham Thomas and Teasing Georgia roses, to the lighter yellow of the Banksia Lutea Rose. Deep lilac-blue flowers (such as Allium Christophii, delphiniums and Clematis) bring out the yellow even more and make it really stand out.

  22. I think monochromatic gardens are boring, so no all-yellow (or all-white) garden for me.

    As for yellow flowers, some I love, others I loathe.

    You highlighted some of my favorites for sure — cheery spring daffodils, the wreath goldenrod (well, I like most of the goldenrods), the yellow coneflower that decorates so many roadsides and fields here in Tennessee. I’m adding Ratibida pinnata and Rudbeckia triloba (along with a couple of other Rudbeckias) to the garden this spring.

    How about some in the Coreopsis family – e.g., Coreopsis verticillata ‘Zagreb’? ( Definitely one of my favorite yellow flowers!

    I also love sunflowers – both the annual and perennial sorts.

    And the false sunflower (Helopsis helianthoides).

    And (although I have not had much luck growing it), green-and-gold (Chrysogonum virginianum).

    And Mahonia flowers.

    So yeah, I guess I’m a big fan of yellow flowers!

    (But not Forsythia! Ack, no. Too garish. Too overused. And apparently totally useless from a wildlife value standpoint.)

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