Big, bright blooms usually get all the attention in our gardens. We don’t want to take the attention away from the colorful flowers we all adore, but we also want to highlight the often overlooked yet equally as important foliage plants. They provide a backdrop for bright blooms, provide color all season long, and can be showstoppers themselves! Here are some of our favorite foliage plants for keeping your garden beautiful and bright, even after your flowering plants have faded.
How to Incorporate Foliage Plants into Your Landscape
Whether you’re planting strictly a foliage garden or incorporating these lush beauties in with your flowers, foliage plants add interesting colors, textures, and shapes to your yard.
To keep your landscape looking dynamic, use plants with different traits while still going for a harmonious look. This means you may not want to place bold, giant leaves right next to a delicate grass—rather, blend in some medium-textured plants as well so the look isn’t so drastic. Including this mix of plants keeps the eye moving throughout your garden. Keep in mind some basic landscape design guidelines, like how you can cover the stems of tall plants by growing low-growing plants in front of them. (Becky and I call these “shoes and socks” plants in our catalogue.)
Foliage Plants That Offer Continuous Color
As your spring and summer blooms fade, we can turn to foliage plants to keep our yards inviting and exciting!
- Alocasia, sometimes called Elephant Ear, makes a bold tropical look as a focal point in your garden. The giant leaves can range from green to dark purple, depending on the variety.
- Athyrium, also known as Lady Fern or Japanese Painted Fern, acts as a foundation for the rest of your garden, especially when planted en masse. A strong performer up until the first frost, ferns add a lacy texture that pulls together the rest of your landscape.
- Arum Italicum goes against the grain in terms of what we expect of our plants, offering foliage throughout winter that goes dormant in summer. Flowers appear in the spring and give way to showy spikes of berries. This plant is hardy to zone 5, so it can grown as an annual in areas with very cold, harsh winters.
- Caladiums give beautiful, bright color all summer long in containers or in the ground, either by themselves or in combination with other plants. Many pollinators are attracted to this beauty, and we think you will be too! You’ll love the variety in colors—some have pink, white, or green leaves, some have speckles, and some have stripes.
- Cannas have large banana-like leaves that continue to add color to your garden even after their flowers bloom in mid-to-late summer. Depending on the cultivar, Cannas can grow between 2 and 10 feet tall.
- Colocasia is closely related to Alocasia. One difference is Colocasia leaves tend to droop down more than Alocasia. It also gives that tropical flair to your garden with its big velvety or glossy leaves.
Heucheras, also known as Coral Bells, are low-maintenance foliage plants that also bloom tiny flowers that hummingbirds and butterflies love. Besides adding continuous color to your yard, they also make excellent additions in flower arrangements.
- Musa, also known as Bananas, make the perfect backdrop for smaller tropical plants. Grow them in large containers or in your garden! Though they’re known to love the heat, some varieties, like the Musa Basjoo (Japanese Banana) are hardy to zone 4.
- Ophiopogon has long and narrow arching leaves in green or deep purple to black. Small flowers appear in mid-to-late summer, followed by berries in the fall. Also called Mondo Grass or Lily Turf, these plants look especially great when planted in groups as ground cover or as edging plants.
Foliage plants are often seen as the backstage crew that help our garden superstars shine. However, as you can see, some of them have some star power of their own, keeping our gardens colorful and lush all season long.
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