We all love a splash of colour in the garden. While we tend to think of flowers as the main means of achieving this, they actually have some stiff competition in the colour stakes – foliage can be just as vibrant and visually striking in its own right.
What’s more, green isn’t the only colour in the palette. Don’t believe us? Check out some of these plants with coloured leaves ranging from red, orange and pink tones to dark purple and silver-blue.
Green foliage is wonderful, and comes in the full gamut of shades ranging from bright lime to very dark.
However, mixing it up with more unusual leaf colours is a great way to maintain visual interest throughout your garden across all seasons, with foliage often coming into its own when flowers have died off.
Some plants sport unusual leaf colouration only at certain times in their annual cycle – for example, before shedding their leaves in autumn (for deciduous plants) or when putting out new growth – and have green leaves the rest of the time. Others are never green, remaining other colours all year round.
Top plants for colourful foliage
These striking perennials ground in mounds of unusually coloured, scallop-edged foliage. They are evergreens, but in actuality the leaves are rarely green in colour, instead ranging from berry pink, purple and red to bright gold and lime.
Plant them in borders, tubs and mid-sized trees or shrubs.
Known for the unusually shaped, fleshy leaves, succulents often have interesting colouring as well. For example, the leaves of Senecio Blue Chalk Sticks are (as the name suggests) a chalky blue. Sedums come in a variety of colours, such as the bright gold of Gold Mound and the purple-grey of Purpureum.
This range of tuberous Begonias sports dark chocolate leaves highlighted with soft green veins.
These are contrasted against brilliantly coloured flowers, making for a fabulous splash of intrigue in pots or hanging baskets.
Shrubs with colourful foliage
Syzygium (Lilly Pilly) varieties
Syzygium or Lilly Pilly is a large native shrub with colourful foliage on its new growth. There are many excellent cultivars – for example, ‘Elite’ has new leaves in light bronze-orange maturing to a bright glossy green, while ‘Cascade’ is a weeping style with new growth coming in red and pink before maturing to dark green.
This attractive and adaptable shrub has slender, pointed leaves that take on a dark purple tint when grown in full sun, or lime green highlights when grown in the shade. Ideal for use as a small hedge or border, Strobilanthes also looks great as a potted specimen.
Trees with colourful foliage
For breathtaking leaf colour, you can’t go past a deciduous tree. With coloured foliage at its most dazzling just before it falls,they can really steal the show in autumn, while allowing much-needed light and sun into the garden over winter.
For most deciduous trees, best colour is often achieved in cooler climates, although some can be very hardy in hot, dry areas.
Acers, such as Trident Maple and Acer Atropurpureum, are excellent examples, showing rich red and orange hues in autumn. Chinese Cedar a spectacular sight in early spring, with the young foliage growing in a beautiful bright pink before turning green.
Evergreen trees maintain their leaves all year round, and tend not to show the extreme colouration of deciduous trees. However, many provide an interesting element of cooler colouring that looks beautiful in a landscape.
For example, Eucalyptus ‘Gunnii’ has stunning silvery-blue foliage along with an unusual rounded leaf shape.
Read more about evergreen trees and plants here.
Add more colour to your garden
Ready to experiment with coloured foliage in your garden? Garden Express stocks a huge range of plants, including many with unusual and striking foliage. Explore our online shop today for more ideas.