9 Ornamental Trees and Shrubs With Purple Leaves

Add Unique Colors to Your Landscape

illustration of shrubs with purple leaves

 The Spruce

Shrubs and trees used in landscapes are predominantly different shades of green, so a good way to add zip and zest is to use plants with leaves of different colors. Purple-leaved trees and shrubs are one option. Over the years, many cultivars of trees and shrubs have been developed to fill this need.

Warning

Barberries are invasive plants, and they feature sharp thorns.

  • 01 of 09

    Barberries (Berberis thunbergii)

    Barberry (Berberis thunbergii)

    Vicki Gardner/Getty Images

    Barberries are shrubs that can range from compact, 3-feet tall plants to 8 feet or more; whichever variety you choose, they add a pop to your garden. Pair them with lime-green plants for an especially eye-catching display. These shrubs do have thorns, so be careful when planting in a yard where children will play. Barberry varieties with purple leaves include 'Bagatelle,' 'Concorde,' 'Helmond Pillar,' 'Royal Burgundy,' and 'Royal Cloak.'

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Red, gold, green, and purple foliage
    • Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun
    • Soil Needs: Any well-drained soil
  • 02 of 09

    Copper Beech (Fagus sylvatica)

    Copper Beech

     AndyRoland / Getty Images

    Copper beech trees feature purple leaves and produce beechnuts, which are edible for wildlife and humans. As the experts at the Kew Garden note, the young leaves of copper beech are also edible. Copper beeches may grow very large—up to 100 feet, depending on the variety. Recommended varieties include 'Purpurea,' 'Atropurpurea,' and 'Atropunicea;' weeping copper beech varieties with purple foliage include 'Purpurea Pendula' and 'Purple Fountain.'

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 7
    • Color Varieties: Green, purple, yellow or variegated leaves
    • Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun
    • Soil Needs: Any well-drained soil
  • 03 of 09

    Crabapples (Malus sp.)

    Crabapple tree

    Lisa Kling/Getty Images

    Crabapple trees will add color to the garden in all seasons with their flowers, fruits, and leaves. Some have fruit that is edible for humans as well as wildlife. Crabapples are a diverse group with sizes ranging from 11 to 25 feet. Most types grow best in full sun, although there are some suitable for partial shade.  For crabapples with purple leaves, some choices are 'Profusion,' 'Purple Prince,' 'Radiance,' 'Red Barron,' 'Royalty,' and 'Thunderchild.'

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9
    • Color Varieties: White, pale pink, or red flowers; green, reddish, and purple foliage
    • Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun
    • Soil Needs: Any well-drained soil
  • 04 of 09

    Elderberries

    Black lace

     

    Marina Denisenko / Getty Images

    The fruits of elderberry shrubs (Sambucus nigra) can be used in recipes for jams, jellies, syrups, pies, wine, and brandy. The fruits must be fully ripe before ingestion, as they are poisonous before that point. Cordials and syrups are made from elderberry flowers.

    Most varieties are appropriate for zones 3 to 8. This shrub/tree grows between 6 and 12 feet, depending on the variety. 

    Elderberries with purple leaves include:

    • Black Beauty
    • Black Lace
    • Purpurea
    • Thundercloud
    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Red, gold, green, and purple.
    • Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun
    • Soil Needs: Any well-drained soil
    Continue to 5 of 9 below.
  • 05 of 09

    Japanese Maples

    Fresh Japanese maple leaves

    Biscut/Getty Images

    The Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) is a shrub or small tree that features distinctive leaves in shape and color.

    Japanese maples can be dependably grown in zones 5 to 9, although some gardeners now report success into zone 4. The tree typically grows 15 to 25 feet tall, although some varieties are more dwarf. 

    Some Japanese maple varieties that sport purple leaves include:

    • Atropurpureum
    • Burgundy Lace
    • Ever Red
    • Garnet
    • Sherwood Flame
    • Tanukeyama
    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Red, gold, green, and purple
    • Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun
    • Soil Needs: Any well-drained soil
  • 06 of 09

    Purple Leaf Plum (Prunus cerasifera)

    Pissardi plum

     apugach / Getty Images

    For a tree that features purple leaves and small edible fruits, plant the purple leaf plum. These trees stay small, so they can fit nicely in most yards. The plant lives around 20 years usually, so it is considered a short-lived landscape specimen. Purple leaf plum reaches heights of 15 to 25 feet with a rounded shape. Recommended varieties include 'Hollywood,' 'Mt. St. Helens.' 'Newport,' 'Pissardii,' 'Pendula,' 'Thundercloud,' and 'Vesuvius.'

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Red, gold, green, and purple.
    • Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun
    • Soil Needs: Any well-drained soil
  • 07 of 09

    Purple Leaf Sand Cherry (Prunus X cisterna)

    Purple Leaf Sand Cherry

     

    Cynthia Shirk / Getty Images

    The purple leaf sand cherry is a shrub or short tree that also features small purple fruits suitable for wildlife. Sand cherries are hardy in quite cold climates, suitable as far north as zone 2. It is a roundish specimen that grows 7 to 10 feet wide and tall and requires a lot of sunlight. 

    • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Reddish purple foliage; pink or white flowers
    • Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun
    • Soil Needs: Any well-drained soil
  • 08 of 09

    Purple Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius)

    Purple Ninebark

    Neil Holmes/Getty Images

    Purple ninebark is a shrub that features white or pink flowers. It can live in climates as cold as zone 2, so it is a great choice for a landscape accent in cold regions. Ninebarks will tolerate partial shade, even preferring it in hotter climates as far south as zone 7. It grows 8 to 10 feet tall and wide. Some purple ninebark cultivars include 'Center Glow,' 'Coppertina ("Mindia"),' 'Diablo' or 'Diabolo' ('Monlo'), and 'Summer Wine' ('Seward').

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 7
    • Color Varieties: Purple foliage; white flowers
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Moist, acidic soil
    Continue to 9 of 9 below.
  • 09 of 09

    Purple Smoke Bush (Cotinus coggygria)

    Purple Smoke Bush

    © Patrick Johns/Corbis/VCG / Getty Images 

    Smoke bush shrubs get their name from the fuzzy balls of unfertilized flowers. While there are green varieties available, many people choose the purple-leaf varieties for use as a specimen in the yard. The purple smoke bush can grow to be a rather large and sprawling shrub, 12 to 15 feet wide and tall. Smoke bush varieties with purple leaves include 'Grace,' 'Nordine Red,' 'Notcutt's Variety,' 'Redsmoke,' 'Royal Purple,' and 'Velvet Cloak.'

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Yellow flowers; green or purple leaves
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Any well-drained soil