Photo by Melody

The Color Yellow in Gardening and Folklore

By Kelli Kallenborn (KelliJuly 3, 2012

In color therapy, yellow is a happy color. It is reported to relieve depression, improve memory, and stimulate the appetite. Color researchers believe that yellow increases self-esteem and strengthens overall health and well-being. The color is said to be mentally stimulating and to encourage communication. From cream to lemon to golden, from chartreuse to saffron, yellow is a common color, so it should come as no surprise that it is full of symbolism.

Gardening picture

Yellow is an important color in Chinese culture.  The five elements, the seasons, and the directions all are represented by colors.  Yellow represents the earth and the center (direction).  It is also the color of the Ming dynasty and Qing dynasty and thus is symbolic of royalty.  Huangdi, the Yellow Emperor, traditionally is considered the founder of Chinese culture.  During his reign, only royalty could wear the color yellow.

Though yellow is a happy color, it should not be overused.  Too much yellow can be disturbing, and it is reported that babies cry more often in yellow rooms. 

In the western world, to be 'yellow' is to be a coward.  This may go back to the medieval belief that the body fluids influenced one's physical and mental state.  To have an excess of yellow bile was said to make a person disagreeable and sickly. 

During the 1357 War of Dynasty, Japanese warriors wore yellow chrysanthemums as a pledge of courage.  Yellow is still symbolic of courage in Japan. 

In Egypt, yellow is a mourning color,  It is symbolic of sadness in Greece and jealousy in France.  In the Middle Ages, actors wore yellow to signify a dead person. 

Yellow is a fairly common color in flags.  In most countries, yellow is symbolic of generosity, though it sometimes also refers to gold or mineral wealth.  In Africa, yellow is often seen in national flags.  It is one of the colors of Pan-Africanism

If a person drives a bright yellow vehicle, supposedly that person has a sunny disposition, is joyful, and is young at heart.  If a person drives a gold car, supposedly that person is intelligent, warm, and loves comfort. 

In the Victorian language of flowers, yellow roses were symbolic of jealousy and infidelity.  Modern retailers give yellow roses more positive meanings like friendship, joy, and get well. 

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 Daylily "Centerpiece"


 Iris "Shaft of Gold"


Yellow is easy to incorporate into the garden.  It is easy to find and easy to pair with other colors.  Yellow flowers give the illusion of coming forward and can make a large space feel more cozy.  They glow in the sun and brighten up the shade.  This list is an A-to-Z sampling of just some of the flowers that come in yellow. 

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 Tiger jaws (Faucaria tigrina)



 Tulip "Golden Angel"

ImageYellow in the garden is not limited to flowers.  Many vegetable and fruit crops are yellow including varieties of tomato, pepper, squash, cucumber, bean, apple, and cherry.  If you live in a warm climate you may be able to grow tropicals or subtropicals like lemons, grapefruit, bananas, or guavas. 

Yellow can also be found in foliage.  It is a popular fall foliage color.  A few of the trees that turn yellow include ginkgo, cottonwood, aspen, and ash.  Some plants, both outdoor and houseplants, have leaves with yellow variegation.

Yellow in the garden does not have to limited to plants. Yellow birds including goldfinches, yellow warblers, and evening grosbeaks are favorite backyard visitors.

Yellow in the garden does not even have to be limited to living things. Though not as popular as some colors like terra cotta or green, yellow flower pots can be found. A yellow fence or a yellow brick or yellow painted house or shed might provide a backdrop to your garden.

If your garden needs some brightening up or cheering up, consider adding some yellow. Yellow flowers are easy to incorporate. Yellow vegetables and fruits are tasty and healthful. Yellow fall color can be striking on a sunny day. There are many reasons and ways to use yellow in the garden.

  About Kelli Kallenborn  
Kelli KallenbornKelli has lived in California for 25 years and really enjoys the climate and all of the varied natural ecosystems. You can also follow Kelli on Google.

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