Purple and Yellow: A Perfect Pairing

– Posted in: Miscellaneous


Text and photos c. 2009 Yellow Springs Farm LLC

April showers bring May flowers; how comforting and reassuring this is! Despite climate change, suburban sprawl, and economic recession, the flowers are as bright and beautiful as ever. Native flowers are ready for showtime in May, just in time to provide plenty of pollen and nectar to the insects, butterflies, and honeybees.

For aesthetic pleasure, from the human viewpoint, May flowers are especially pleasing in purple and yellow combinations. Of all the complementary color pairs, such as red and green, or orange and blue, the purple and yellow flowers are my favorites. These colors are often associated with royalty and passion, but for me they provide a sense of joyful energy and the spirit of frolic in the garden. I start this color pattern in April with daffodils and blue hyacinths. From there, I reach out to continue this “chroma-pleasure” with native perennials in May, and throughout the summer.


In sunny spots with moist soils, try to plant Iris versicolor (Blue Flag Iris), shown above, with Caltha palustris (Marsh Marigold.) Some years the Marsh Marigolds will finish blooming just as the Iris get started, but with a little luck, the two blooms will overlap in early May. The Marsh Marigold provides a bonus second bloom period in early Fall, too, in many pond gardens.

Zizia aurea (Golden Alexander) and Senecio aureus (Golden Ragwort) are both yellow bloomers in May. The Golden Ragwort fools many by setting buds that seem purple at first, but then open up to show dozens of small ,golden yellow, daisy-like flowers. Amsonia hubrechtii (Bluestar) is a nice mate for these yellow flowers. The Bluestar will be a May favorite, but then offer you warm harvest color in fall foliage. If I have not yet convinced you to try this grouping, you might note that in our Pennsylvania gardens, deer reliably walk right past these species on their way to munching Hostas and other tasty tendrils.

Looking ahead through summer, Liatris spicata (Gayfeather) will pair well with Coreopis tripteris (Tall coreopsis). Lobelia siphilitica (Blue Lobelia) is ready to shine just as the Rudbeckias are also flowering. These are just a few of the combinations possible. Which purple and yellow pairings do you prefer?

Catherine Renzi

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Gail May 11, 2009, 8:00 am

Catherine, Good morning! I totally love this color combination and you’ll see it spring, summer and autumn in my middle south garden…Golden Ragwort is gone by May, but it looks stellar with a few older iris that came with the garden. This summer, you’ll see The Susans (rudbeckias) frolicking with the purple coneflowers and liatris. gail

Glad to share the fun with fellow fans of purple and yellow! Catherine

Nancy Bond May 11, 2009, 10:38 am

It is a beautiful combination…and most spring-like!

It seems we wait forever each year before Spring arrives at last—purples and yellows help make it worthwhile! Catherine

Debra Lee Baldwin May 11, 2009, 4:11 pm

When friends accompany me through the garden in spring, I introduce them my favorite flower—that blue iris. Each bloom lasts only a day, and the whole show, only a week. But the flowers! They look like watercolor paintings with the lines inked in. So lovely.

Blue Iris (Iris versicolor) is easy to grow. It gives back much more than it demands in the garden. Catherine

Pam Kersting May 11, 2009, 7:17 pm

I couldn’t agree with you more! * SIGH *

It’s nice to know I have so much good company with my favorite color palette. Catherine

Kathy May 11, 2009, 10:54 pm

Golden Black eyed susans (after all, I originate from Maryland) and anything purplish bluish. YEAH!!! Working on getting over to see the farm!!

We welcome you to visit us! The Preakness was a great show for Maryland’s Black-eyed Susans this year. Catherine

lostlandscape(James) May 11, 2009, 11:59 pm

Yellow and purple are the colors of what must be 75% of our spring flowers. It wouldn’t be the season without that combination!

I am already dreaming of new purple and yellow combos to try for next year. Catherine

Mr. McGregor's Daughter May 12, 2009, 7:59 am

I am a huge fan of purple & yellow, so much so, that I have lots of purple flowered, yellow foliaged Columbines scattered throughout the garden. For foliage fun, I like purple-leaved Heucheras with Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola.’ I also really like the classic combo of purple Asters and Goldenrod.

Mr. McGregor’s Daughter-
The Fall Asters and Goldenrods are underused, but something I look forward to. They are also essential for our Honeybees. Catherine

Town Mouse May 12, 2009, 11:25 am

Lovely, lovely! I’m just enchanted by the different shades of blue and purple I get to enjoy in the spring. And in a pinch, they go pretty well with the orange California poppies as well.

Town Mouse-
Orange really lights up the show—that’s a fun-loving mix. Catherine

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