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Planting a Rainbow Garden in Australia

Rainbow gardens are becoming a popular trend around the world and planting one is a great activity to undertake, especially if you have children.

While as avid gardeners we love to incorporate a range of colourful flowers into our regular gardens to brighten up the landscape and bring us joy, have you ever considered planting a rainbow garden?

Rainbow gardens are becoming a popular trend around the world and planting one is a great activity to undertake, especially if you have children.

What is a rainbow garden?

If you’ve ever been to Floriade in Canberra or have visited other spring flower gardens, the way these displays are designed is very similar to a rainbow garden.

Essentially, a rainbow garden follows the colours of the rainbow and this determines how the flowering annuals are planted.

It’s even better if you can create your rainbow garden in an arch to replicate the actual shape of the rainbow.

Follow the colours of the rainbow

Most rainbow gardens closely follow the actual colours of a rainbow in the same order. 

  • Red
  • Orange
  • Yellow
  • Green
  • Blue
  • Indigo
  • Violet

This is commonly known as ROYGBIV which is an acronym for all the colours in the rainbow in the order that they appear. 

rainbow | Plant care

Choose a suitable site for your rainbow garden

Now that you’ve decided that you want to grow a rainbow garden, it’s time to choose a suitable site. As you’ll be growing annuals, a sunny spot anywhere in your garden is ideal.

If you can create your garden in an arch, that would be perfect. However, you can also plant your garden in a round shape if you prefer or even as a square or long strip.

This will all depend on how much space you have available. It’s best to mark out the seven rings or rows for the seven different colours of the rainbow before you start planting. This will help to speed up the planting process.

If you can, enrich the soil with some compost or other organic matter so that your plants will all bloom successfully and at the same time.

Select colourful annuals in each colour of the rainbow

Once you have your space marked and mapped out correctly, it’s time to select the annuals that you’re going to plant. Here are some suggestions:

Red flowers

Red flowers to plant include petunias, verbena, dwarf zinnia, cosmos or low-growing geraniums.

red geraniums | Plant care

Orange flowers

Consider orange flowers like marigolds, pansies, nasturtiums, verbena, calendula, dwarf zinnia or cosmos.

Yellow flowers

Yellow flowers to plant include marigolds, pansies or primrose.

Green plants

As there are not many annuals that have green flowers, you can plant out this part of the rainbow with things like parsley, cat grass, basil or any green groundcover such as Dichondra repens.

Blue flowers

Blue flowers include pansies, lobelia, cornflowers, evolvulus, delphiniums or petunias

blue delphiniums | Plant care

Indigo flowers

Consider nigella, petunias or lobelia. Or, you could plant this area with black mondo grass for a stunning effect.

Violet flowers

Violet-coloured flowers to check out include verbena, statice or miniature agapanthus.

This should give you plenty of choices when you’re selecting the flowers that you’re going to plant. But, before you head off to your local nursery or garden centre, make sure that you know how many of each variety you’ll need.

This shouldn’t be all that difficult because annuals can be planted fairly close together, so you really just want to allow around 10 to 15 cm per plant.

You also want to make sure that you choose flowers that are of similar height to have the most stunning effect. I would suggest that you stick to the same variety for each colour section to create a uniform display. 

If you have a limited budget, you could even consider growing your chosen annuals from seeds as long as you start early enough so that everything germinates and flowers at the same time.

Grow a rainbow bulb garden instead

If you really love this style of garden, you can achieve the same effect with spring flowering bulbs. For this, you can choose bulbs such as daffodils, tulips, grape hyacinths or even irises.

Daffodils | Plant care

Here are some suggestions for different bulbs that are available in the colours of the rainbow:

  • Red – tulips, ranunculus
  • Orange – tulips, crocus, narcissus, ranunculus
  • Yellow – daffodils, crocus, tulips
  • Green – tulips
  • Blue – dutch iris, crocus
  • Indigo – dutch iris, crocus
  • Violet – dutch iris, crocus, grape hyacinths

One benefit of growing a rainbow garden using bulbs is that these can be left in the ground over winter and they’ll bloom again every spring.

The only thing you’ll have to do is feed them annually and lift and divide the bulbs every few years.

Why not plan a perennial rainbow garden?

If you don’t mind doing a little careful planning in the early stages, you might even like to create a rainbow garden using perennials. This saves the trouble of having to replant your annuals every year and is also the most affordable option.

But, the initial planning stage needs to be well-thought-out so that you plant and select varieties that are similar in height and will all bloom at the same time.

For this type of rainbow garden, you want to select perennials that are commonly grown in cottage gardens as these are likely to all bloom at the same time.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Red – geraniums, lupines and echinacea
  • Orange – echinacea
  • Yellow – coreopsis, black-eyed susan
  • Green – amaranth, Mediterranean spurge or mondo grass
  • Blue – salvia
  • Indigo – statice, lupins
  • Violet – salvia, lupines, phlox, false indigo, wood phlox, lavender

Plant a rainbow garden with daisies

With over 20,000 species worldwide, daisies come in all colours of the rainbow.

This would be my favourite choice of flowers to create a perennial rainbow garden because I could easily incorporate some of our native Australian daisies into the mix.

Brachyscome angustifolia | Plant care
Photo of author

Annette Hird

Annette Hird is a gardening expert with many years of experience in a range of gardening related positions. She has an Associate Diploma of Applied Science in Horticulture and has worked in a variety of production nurseries, primarily as a propagator. She has also been responsible for a large homestead garden that included lawn care, fruit trees, roses and many other ornamental plants. More recently, Annette has concentrated on improving the garden landscape of the homes that she has lived in and focused a lot of energy on growing edible plants as well. She now enjoys sharing her experience and knowledge with others by writing articles about all facets of gardening and growing plants.

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