When thinking of plants for our gardens, we often think of flowers first. However, flowers are fleeting; they come and go, but foliage plants are hard at work bringing beauty to garden spaces and patio planters. Here are a just a few of the many plants to consider in which leaves take center stage.
Coral Bells, as they are commonly called, come in a variety of colors and leaf patterns. Purple, chartreuse, red, bronze, orange tones, and even black leaves are available to suit whatever color scheme you want for your landscape. They do well in partly shaded areas, but can also tolerate the sun. Low- growing at just one foot tall, they are useful as groundcovers, front of the border plants, and in containers. Additionally, they are evergreen and have flowers that are a natural draw for Hummingbirds.
This evergreen shrub with its distinctively large palmate leaves does well in a shade garden, providing contrast with similar fine-leaf plants. They can be used as a specimen plant in a smaller area surrounded by Ferns, Hostas, Hellebores, and Rhododendrons. The leaves also lend a tropical look to your garden. The Fatsia ‘Camouflage’ variety, with its light-yellow leaf variegation, gives a bright splash in the shade bed, while the silvery-leaf tone of the ‘Spider Webs’ is a great contrast against darker leaf plants. Other uses for the Fatsia would be as a privacy hedge if mass-planted, or if you just want to screen utilities or A/C units at a side yard with plants, this plant would be a good choice.
Create a tropical feel by adding Canna Lilies. The banana-like leaves of these perennials come in green, red, yellow, dark purple, black, and even with a striped pattern of these different colors. Their flowers come in stunning red, orange, and yellow. They love a sunny spot, needing at least six hours of direct sun, regular water, and very good drainage. They grow well in containers and even at the edges of ponds, as long as they are lifted in the fall to prevent root-rot in the winter. There are both tall and dwarf varieties so they can be positioned in the back of the border, for the tall varieties, and mid to front layer for the dwarf varieties. They can indeed create an impressive look for your garden.
4. Smoke Bush
For bigger foundation shrubs that provide good contrasting color, try Cotinus coggygria or Smoke Bush. Named for its plumes of smoke-like flowers, this deciduous shrub has wonderful foliage that creates a striking statement in your garden. Large round leaves of blue-green, dusky purple or chartreuse turn up the heat in autumn, changing to brilliant orange and red in the fall. They can grow into a small tree or large shrub, quickly filling up empty background spaces in your yard, while providing contrast for smaller front layer shrubs and perennials. They are disease resistant, easy-care and drought-tolerant, too.
5. Adam’s Needle
The Yucca filamentosa has a wonderful architectural quality that provides a unique focal point as well as year-round interest. These evergreen plants also have bright colors and variegation that catch your eye. Once mature, they send out tall spikes of white flowers atop long sword-shaped evergreen foliage. They are easy to grow and adaptable to different soil types as long as there is good drainage. They are quite drought-tolerant and deer-resistant as well, making them a great addition to a sunny border.
Nothing can quite compare to Hostas for beautiful foliage in a shady planting bed. They come in a whole range of colors, from bluish tones to chartreuse and yellows. Sizes can range from huge three feet wide clumps, to dwarf cultivars that grow only a foot wide and tall. There are also Hostas with variegated leaves of white and green, blue and white, or yellow and green. For added benefit, some varieties also have a lovely fragrance and there are also sun-tolerant varieties as well. With the endless cultivars available, you are sure to find the perfect ones to add to your garden, whether in the ground or in containers.
7. Acanthus mollis
Commonly known as Bear’s Breeches, these perennials are grown just as much for their large, lustrous, oak leaf-shaped foliage, as for their bold flower spikes. In Ancient Roman and Greek architecture, the Acanthus leaf motif appears extensively in the capitals of columns in the Corinthian and Composite style, and have been applied to architectural decorations. The plant itself has a few variations, with one called the Acanthus ‘Whitewater’, which has deeply cut white margins and splashings on the green leaves. It is an herbaceous perennial that grows in full sun to part shade.
With these beautiful foliage plant choices, your garden will be sure to wow year-round. We would love to help you choose the best foliage plants that suit your style and site conditions. Let us know how we can help.