9 Ornamental Trees and Shrubs With Purple Leaves

illustration of shrubs with purple leaves

Illustration: © The Spruce, 2019

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.

  • 01 of 09


    Barberry (Berberis thunbergii)

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    Barberries (Berberis thunbergii) are shrubs that can add a pop to your garden. Pair it 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 can be grown in U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 4 to 8 ​and can range from compact, 3-feet tall plants to 8 feet or more. Due to the thorns, they are known to be resistant to damage from deer. 

    Barberry varieties with purple leaves include:

    • Bagatelle
    • Concorde
    • Helmond Pillar
    • Royal Burgundy
    • Royal Cloak
  • 02 of 09

    Copper Beech

    Copper Beech

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    Copper beech trees (Fagus sylvatica) 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. It grows in zones 4 to 7.

    Recommended varieties include: 

    • Purpurea
    • Atropurpurea
    • Atropunicea

    There is also a purple weeping beechFagus sylvatica "Purpurea Pendula."

  • 03 of 09


    Crabapple tree

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    Crabapple trees (Malus sp.) 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 varieties suitable for zones 3 to 9 and 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
    • Thunderchild
  • 04 of 09


    sambucus black lace

    MeganEHansen/Creative Commons

    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
    Continue to 5 of 9 below.
  • 05 of 09

    Japanese Maples

    Fresh Japanese maple leaves

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    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. It 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
  • 06 of 09

    Purple Leaf Plum

    Purple leaf plum

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    For a tree that features purple leaves and small edible fruits, plant the purple leaf plum (Prunus cerasifera). 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 grows best in zones 4 to 9 and reaches heights of 15 to 25 feet with a rounded shape. 

    Recommended varieties include:

    • Hollywood
    • Mt. St. Helens
    • Newport
    • Pissardii
    • Pendula
    • Thundercloud
    • Vesuvius
  • 07 of 09

    Purple Leaf Sand Cherry

    Purple Leaf Sand Cherry


    The purple leaf sand cherry (Prunus X cisterna) 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 seven to 10 feet wide and tall and requires a lot of sun. 

  • 08 of 09

    Purple Ninebark

    Purple Ninebark

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    Purple ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius) 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")
    • Summer Wine ("Seward")
    Continue to 9 of 9 below.
  • 09 of 09

    Purple Smoke Bush

    Purple Smoke Bush

    Thomas Tolkien/Creative Commons

    Smoke bush shrubs (Cotinus coggygria) get their name because of 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 grows best in full sun and can grow to be a rather large and sprawling shrub, 12 to 15 feet wide and tall. It is grown in zones 4 to 9. 

    Smoke bushes with purple leaves include:

    • Grace
    • Nordine Red
    • Notcutt's Variety
    • Redsmoke
    • Royal Purple
    • Velvet Cloak