Garden Blues

blue_irisTrue blue flowers are the rarest of blooms, but they can be found. While you’ll find many purple and violet flowers, it’s the true blues that remain elusive. Perhaps it is the true blue’s rarity that has led it to symbolize romanticism in literature through the ages. Georg Philipp Friedrich Freiherr von Hardenberg, under the pen name Novalis, was the first to use the blue flower in this context in his unfinished novel, Heinrich von Ofterdingen, in the late 18th century. C.S. Lewis mentioned the blue flower as a symbol of romanticism in his autobiographical work, Surprised By Joy, and contemporary artists have continued to point to the blue flower as a symbol of general romanticism. You’ll even find allusions to it in movies, stage plays and rap!

Surprisingly, blue is the most desirable color for wedding arrangements, not as the primary color, but as a complementary color. In addition to representing romanticism, blue represents royalty, and who doesn’t want to feel like royalty on their wedding day?

One explanation for the rarity of blue flowers is the fact that bees see only shades of red and yellow. Hummingbirds are attracted to the same hues, making pollination a problem for blue blooms. Fragrant blue flowers, fortunately, use their fragrance to attract pollinators.

Blue works nicely with pink, lavender, violet, fuchsia, etc. A garden highlighting true blue blooms is breathtaking and is guaranteed to turn heads. It’s difficult to find true blue flowers in “grab bags” of mail order seeds, bulbs or plants. Exceptions include wildflower seed mixtures, balls and carpets as well as delphinium mixtures.

Iris, delphinium and hydrangea are probably the most common blue flowers, and they span the season from spring to late summer/early fall. You’ll have no trouble finding any of these and many of the blue flowers listed below. If you’re a dreamer, and you believe that romanticism lives, it’s time to get digging and planting.

Blue iris

Iris is the best place to start in your quest for blue flowers, because of the heavy concentration of blue among iris varieties. Among the many bearded iris, you’ll find an array of shades and varieties, including rebloomers—those that rebloom in the fall. It wasn’t too many years ago that people spotting reblooming iris for the first time thought they were a freak of nature. Even today, many people “do a double-take” when they see iris blooming in the fall. Rhizomes multiply rapidly, so in a few seasons, you’ll have plenty to trade with family and friends or to move to other areas of the landscape. Fields of iris are always dramatic, but when dotted with blue, they are truly spectacular.

Bearded blue iris varieties include reblooming Gnu Blue, a tall, amoena (white standards with colored falls); Cloud Ballet, a German rebloomer, delicately ruffled sky blue fading to white in the center with yellow beards; and Clarence, another German rebloomer, multi-stemmed, medium blue with ruffled falls giving way to a white center, producing eight to ten flowers per stem.

Japanese blue iris varieties are mostly white with blue accents, among them, Kimono Silk, Rainbow Darter, Wave Action, Ink on Ice, Banjo Blues and Butterflies in Flight. There are two notable exceptions—Eco Easter and White Caps. Eco Easter is a dainty, evergreen groundcover, topped with medium blue flowers, purple speckles and yellow throats. White Caps is a striped periwinkle with crisp white styles in the center. Wispy Clouds sports a white background with light blue veins and pale blue between the veins, giving way to a pale yellow center—a subtle introduction of blue into the garden.

Siberian blue iris varieties include Dear Delight, a medium blue flower with white centers; Ego, a lightly ruffled sky blue flower; and Sky Mirror, with a white background etched with violet and blue veins and gently ruffled. Nothing But Blue Skies says it all—a predominately blue iris and similar to Orville Fay. For a reblooming Siberian, plant Soft Blue, a near-solid pale sky blue. Among the Siberian irises that incorporate blue, you’ll find a number of varieties where it appears alongside regal purples, bright pinks and white—eye candy in the garden. The most brilliant include Charming Billy, Contrast in Styles, Fresh Notes and Jukebox.

The most stunning Dutch iris is the rare Miss Saigon, a brilliant true blue, reminiscent of cloudless skies, with bright yellow falls. Delft Blue varieties come in a range of blues, from pale to deep blue as well as white with irregular blue patterns. To add some background blue, plant Blue Star, a matte deep blue.

Blue delphinium

Part of the buttercup family, delphiniums are one of the most regal summer flowers. They range from miniatures growing only a couple of feet all the way up to six feet tall. They’re available in lush varieties such as Pacific Giant hybrids, with thick, sturdy stalks and abundance of star-shaped blooms to wispier varieties with thin stalks and fewer blooms that dance in the wind. Guardian Blue has deep blue blooms with white centers. The deepest blue delphinium is Black Knight, an indigo blue. Medium blues include Janny, Blue Bird and Summer Cloud. Pale blue delphiniums include Summer Skies, the color of the blue peeking through a cloud-filled summer sky, Blue Jay and Blue Mirror, a wispy variety.

Other true blue flowers

Himalayan Blue Poppy – Poppy growers will want to track down the elusive Himalayan blue poppy. This is a crystal clear blue—a blue that is difficult to find in or out of nature. It’s as clear as the sea on a windless day, but without the green, as clear as the sky, but deeper and brighter. Meconopsis is one of the easiest Himalayan blue poppies to grow and can be grown from seeds. You can grow it as an annual or as a perennial if you don’t allow it to bloom the first season.

Blue Cornflowers – Also called Blue Bachelor Buttons, you can sow from seeds directly into the ground, and most gardeners treat them as an annual. The blue is almost as startlingly beautiful as the poppy.

Love-in-a-Mist – Another member of the buttercup family, this old-English annual bears the palest of blue flowers in the spring.

Forget-Me-Nots – How could we forget the bright, clear blue of the forget-me-not? The yellow centers provide a striking contrast to the blue petals.

Salvia – Blue salvias are one of the most popular salvias. These annuals are available in many shades of blue and add blue to the late summer garden.

Hydrangea – The common mophead and lacecap hydrangeas have the ability to bloom in blue when grown in acidic soil. In alkaline soil, they bloom in pink. The best way to ensure blue is to grow the hydrangeas in a pot. Transferring from a pot to the garden may result in a change of color, depending upon the pH of your soil. You can, however, adjust the pH of your garden soil, but this is a long-term endeavor, not a one-shot amendment.

While blue flowers are the rarest bloomers, one could easily write a book when including them all. Consider this a mere appetizer to whet your appetite and open your eyes to the wonders of true blue flowers.


MJ Plaster has been a professional writer for more than two decades, originally an instructional designer and trainer, more recently specializing in lifestyle topics. She also serves as managing editor of the Florida Turf Digest. A former master gardener, when she’s not writing, she’s practicing alchemy in her gardens or helping friends to design and plant their gardens.

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