Top 9 Plants for Dazzling Foliage

  • 01 of 10

    Keep Your Garden in Color with Fabulous Foliage Plants

    Best Foliage Plants
    Photo: © Marie Iannotti

    Plants grown predominantly for their unusual or colorful leaves, rather than their flowers, have exploded in recent years. There are new introductions of these so called "foliage plants" every season and growers keep trying to outdo themselves. Although all of these plants flower, their main attraction is their eye-catching leaves, which make it easy to keep any garden, sunny or shady, in full color all season, without having to worry about deadheading or season of bloom.

    These foliage...MORE plants shine on their own, but they work even better when used to complement your other plants and flowers, keeping your garden lush and vibrant with a welcome jolt of color and/or texture in the garden, from spring to frost. Take a look.

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  • 02 of 10


    Photo: Ayla87 / Stock.xchng

    There are about 300 species of Artemisia, including evergreens, shrubs, perennials and annuals. Although it is in the daisy family (Asteraceae), the flowers of Artemisia tend to be insignificant. Ah, but the leaves can be as airy and charming as you could wish. Some popular garden artemisia include: mugwort, southernwood, Sweet Annie, tarragon, and the wormwood, shown here.

    Most artemisia have silvery-gray foliage that beautifully offsets both pastel flowers and richer tones like deep mauve,...MORE purples, oranges, and blues. They pick up the slightest glint of sunlight in partial shade and light up surrounding plants. Artemisia plants are easy to grow and don't require much water or rich soils. If they get a bit untidy in summer, simple shear the old foliage and new silvery leaves will appear.

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  • 03 of 10


    Caladium Leaves
    Caladiums. Photo: © Marie Iannotti

    Caladiums, or Angle Wings, are truly a unique looking plant. They have large, arrowhead-shaped leaves that come in striking combinations of green, red, pink, and white. For awhile, Caladiums were relegated to the living room as fussy Victorian parlor plants. Caladiums are fantastic houseplants, but they are equally delightful outdoors.

    Caladiums prefer to grow in partial shade, where they are an unexpected and welcome burst of season long color. They are actually tropical plants and are only...MORE hardy to about USDA Zone 9. In cooler climates, you can grow them as annual plants, but that can become expensive. You can always bring them indoors for the winter, or dig the tubers, store them for the winter and replant in early spring.

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  • 04 of 10


    Canna 'Tropicanna Phasion Summer Delight'

    There's no missing the tropical flair of canna plants. They have huge banana-like leaves that can be green, red, striped, or something in between, and flowers in glowing shades of red, yellow, and orange. Canna flowers used to be less than spectacular; some even detracted from the look of the plant. But a lot of breeding work has resulted in some very attractive blooms. However even without the flashy blooms, these plants would be standouts and some gardeners even remove the flower stalks so...MORE that the plant can focus on growing leaves.

    Canna plants love water and heat. If you think keeping them watered might become tedious, consider planting them in containers and putting them in a water garden. Now you're talking tropical paradise.

    As with Caladiums, canna plants will either need to be grown as annuals or you can dig and store the tubers for winter and replant in the spring.


    Photo credit: Tropicanna Phasion Summer Delight via photopin (license)

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  • 05 of 10


    Coleus leaves don't need the addition of flowers. There are varieties in combinations of reds, pinks, yellows, oranges, and greens. No blues or purples - yet. Photo: © Marie Iannotti

    Shade coleus were a popular Victorian bedding plant, but it wasn't until they developed a sun loving coleus that they really captured the hearts of gardeners. Now you rarely see a garden without at least one coleus plant.

    Sun coleus come in a rainbow of colors - sometimes all on one plant. Bright cheerful plants with names like 'Big Enchilada', 'Brilliancy' and 'Copper Sun' hint at what to expect on the coleus aisle. Their flowers are insignificant and most gardeners...MORE pinch the flower stalks off, before they have a chance to bloom. Pinching makes the plants bushier and fuller, with more glorious colorful leaves to enjoy. It also gives you cuttings to root and make more plants.

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  • 06 of 10

    Heuchera (Coral Bells)

    Coral Bells
    Coral Bells (Heurchera) are now available with colorful leaves in shades of green, purple, and butterscotch. Photo: © Marie Iannotti

    The original Coral Bells were a charming plant with ruffled green leaves and airy pink bell shaped flowers that made them favorite plants of hummingbirds. But much the way plant breeders went wild developing new Hosta varieties, they have embraced Heucheras and figured out how to give them purple, bronze and patterned leaves.

    Most Heuchera do best in partial shade, but they will also grow well in sun if they have sufficient moisture. They form tidy clumps and are perfect for edging borders,...MORE planting under tall, gangly plants and are great for containers.

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  • 07 of 10


    Hosta Plants
    Hosta leaves have subtle differences. Photo: © Marie Iannotti

    If only deer and slugs didn't like Hosta plants, they would be perfect. Hostas come in shades of green, gold and blue as well as a variety of variegated leaves. They prefer partial shade, where the brighter whites and gold reflect the subtle light and enliven the plants around them.

    Although known as shade plants, there are several Hosta varieties that can be grown in full sun, expanding their value in the garden. But avoid giving the blue Hosta varieties too much sun exposure. Blue Hosta...MORE varieties have a waxy coating that gives them their coloring and makes them more susceptible to sun damage.. However it also makes them less palatable to slugs, which is all the more important in shade.

    There are only a handful of Hosta varieties, like Hosta plantaginea, that have really attractive flowers. Most of the time the flower stalks are cut off before bloom, allowing the plant to focus on growing their delightful leaves.

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  • 08 of 10

    Ornamental Grasses

    Growing Ornamental Grasses
    Photo: © Marie Iannotti

    Can you remember gardening before ornamental grasses were popular. Probably not. We call them ornamental grasses, but they are just tall versions of turf grass. However they are undeniably ornamental and they add movement and sound to your garden as well. There are dozens to choose from. Some shine with their flowers or inflorescence, others, such as blood grass, porcupine grass, and zebra grass, need only their leaf stalks to standout.

    You might think all grasses are the same, but you really...MORE need to consider height, growth habit, and even season, when choosing your ornamental grass. Some are cool season and others don't get started until summer heats up. Some form tidy clumps and others will run throughout your garden. Do some research or at least read the plant label carefully before planting one in your garden. They are very hard to dig out, once established.

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  • 09 of 10

    Persian Shield (Strobilanthes dyerianus)

    How to Grow Persian Shield
    Persian Shield has leaves that always look good. It's great in the garden or as a houseplant. Photo: © Marie Iannotti

    The leaves of Strobilanthes (pronounced (stroh-bih-LAN-theez), or Persian Shield, are almost iridescent. This is a sub-shrub that remains evergreen in hot climates. It is grown as an annual plant in cooler zones, or as a houseplant. If you keep yours as a houseplant in winter, you can easily take cuttings in spring, to plant out in the garden. It's a great money saver.

    In areas where Persian shield is hardy, it can get quite bushy. But even if you are only growing it for the summer, the...MORE plants will be large enough to create an impact. They can handle full sun, but the iridescence makes them almost glow in partial shade.

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  • 10 of 10

    Rex Begonia

    Rex Begonias
    Both the leaf shape and the markings spiral. Photo: kawatson / stock.xchng.

    As with so many fantastic foliage plants, Rex begonias are tropical plants. That doesn't stop us from growing them both as houseplants and in the garden. The foliage of Rex begonias can be swirled, spotted, or spiraled, thick, ruffled, or winged. They are such intriguing plants, many people collect them.

    Unfortunately Rex begonias can be a little fussy to care for, unless you live in the tropics. It's often easier to grow then in containers, rather than in the ground. You have more...MORE control over the soil and growing conditions with containers. But if you can make them happy, Rex begonias will be standouts in your garden or home.