9 Ornamental Trees and Shrubs With Purple Leaves

Add Unique Colors to Your Landscape

Crabapple tree with bright pink blooms in front of wooded area

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Shrubs and trees used in landscapes are predominantly different shades of green, so a good way to add zip and zest to your garden 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)

    Barberries tree branch with small purple leaves and tiny pink buds

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Barberries are shrubs that can range from compact, 3-feet tall plants to 6 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 are dense shrubs with 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 beach tree with deep purple leaves hanging on weeping branches

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Copper beech trees feature purple leaves and produce beechnuts, which are edible for wildlife and humans. The young leaves of copper beech are also edible. Copper beeches may grow very large—over 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 branch with small pink blossoms and copper leaves closeup

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    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 26 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: 4 to 8
    • 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

    Elderberry tree branch with tiny white flowers clustered on branch with purple leaves

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    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 and prepared properly before ingestion, as they can be toxic before that point. Cordials and syrups are made from the fragrant flowers.

    Most varieties are appropriate for zones 5 to 7. This shrub/tree grows about 8 feet tall, depending on the variety. 

    Elderberries with purple leaves include 'Black Beauty,' 'Black Lace,' 'Purpurea,' and 'Thundercloud.'

    • 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
    Continue to 5 of 9 below.
  • 05 of 09

    Japanese Maples

    Japanese maple tree branch with copper-purple leaves covered in dew

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    The Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) is a shrub or small tree that features distinctive leaves in shape and color making it a popular specimen tree for landscapes and gardens.

    Japanese maples can be dependably grown in zones 5 to 8. 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,' and 'Tamukeyama.'

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 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)

    Purple leaf plum tree branches with tiny white blossoms and copper-colored leaves

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    For a tree that features purple leaves and small edible fruits, plant the purple leaf plum. Fragrant pale pink flowers open in early spring followed by fleshy purple fruits. These trees stay small, so they fit nicely in most yards. The plant lives around 15 to 20 years, 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 'Krauter's Vesuvius.'

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 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 cistena)

    Purple leaf sand cherry tree branches with small pink-white blossoms and copper leaves

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    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 shrub branches with purple-green leaves under white flower clusters

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    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 5 to 8 feet tall and 6 to 10 feet wide. Some purple ninebark cultivars include 'Center Glow,' 'Coppertina ("Mindia"),' 'Diablo' or 'Diabolo' ('Monlo'), and 'Summer Wine' ('Seward').

    • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 8
    • 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 Smokebush (Cotinus coggygria)

    Purple smoke bush with purple leaves and yellow fuzzy flowers

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Smokebush 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 smokebush can grow to be a rather large and sprawling shrub, 10 to 15 feet wide and tall. Smokebush varieties with purple leaves include 'Grace,' 'Nordine Red,' 'Notcutt's Variety,' 'Royal Purple,' and 'Velvet Cloak.' The purple leaf varieties produce better color in full sun.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Yellow flowers; green or purple leaves
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Any well-drained soil
Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Abbey, Tim. The Invasive Japanese Barberry. PennState Extension, 2017. 

  2. Fagus Sylvatica. Plants of the World Online. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

  3. Edible Plants: Crabapple. Brandeis University.

  4. Common Elderberry. Missouri Department of Conservation.

  5. Prunus cerasifera Atropurpurea. NC State Extension

  6. Prunus x cistena. NC State Extension