"Oh, what pretty foliage you have" isn't a compliment you hear all that often. Yet, without foliage, your sprawling gardens wouldn't be so sprawling after all. Foliage is the underdog of the gardening world, filling out every weird gap you have between those flowers and trees you carefully chose. As you plan your new garden spread, experiment with an assortment of new foliage plants, like these stunning beauties.
To start off, rex begonias are one of the most common foliage plants people select. With deep purple leaves that have a cabbage-like texture, rex begonias are perfect if you're looking to add visual depth to your garden beds. They're perennial by nature, only grow to about a foot tall, and need partial shade.
Most often, people pot rex begonias, which can add a dynamic look to your outdoor beds. Yet, you can plant them in the ground, though they'll behave much more like annuals than perennials. As a semi-tropical plant, you'll want to make sure to keep them in well-draining soil but not let them dry out too much.
Black Pearl Coral Bell
These plants show off a rich black-purple foliage and grow to a modest 10" tall and 20" wide. They can handle most of the US's growing zones and can tolerate both sunshine and shade. Other than being in well-draining soil, these perennials don't require too much upkeep. And you can either pot them or plant them, depending on your landscaping needs.
Purple Waffle Plant
If you love purple foliage, you'll love the purple waffle plant. These low-maintenance plants grow wrinkled, shiny dark green leaves with deep purple undersides. Don't plant your purple waffles in direct sunlight and keep them in moist soil. If you see it wilting, it's time to spritz it with a little water. You can pot them or use them as groundcover.
Amaranthus tricolor is a plant that looks like it moonlights as a Vegas showgirl. Bursting out of the plant's middle is a cascade of vibrant red and yellow leaves. Unlike some picky plants, amaranthus tricolor can handle most growing zones. They're a relatively petite, low-maintenance plant that tolerates drought like a champ.
To encourage bright plumage, plant your amaranthus tricolors in full sunlight. But, if you have to plant them in the shade, make sure that you've got them in well-draining soil to avoid rot.
Silver Mound Artemisia
Silver mound artemisia is just one of the subspecies of artemisia plants that captivates gardeners. It's perennial and grows in a rounded mound shape, hence the name. Like many foliage plants, they're rather on the small side at about 10" tall. Their spiky silver-dusted foliage resembles coral on a reef. When planting silver mound artemisia, make sure they're in very well-draining soil and get full sunlight. And if you're in an area prone to drought, these spiky plants are great options for you because they're incredibly drought resistant.
In contrast to the drought-resistant silver mound artemisia, cordgrass only thrives in wet areas. A wetland plant by design, this ornamental grass can handle the most water-logged areas. So, if you have a creek nearby or live on the beach, they're a great option for you.
Native to the United States, this grass should be planted in the late spring to the early fall, preferably in the coastal areas of the southeast. Naturally, the most important thing to keep in mind when planting cordgrass varieties is to keep them watered (but in well-draining soil). And, to maintain them throughout the year, take some pruning shears to the tallest leaves if they start getting out of hand.
If you want big and bold foliage, look no further than pampas grass. A plant that should've been named pompous because of its attention-grabbing fluffy off-white plumes, pampas grass is an ornamental grass that has been known to take over a yard. Invasive in some areas, it's important to be intentional when planting it and take care to control its spread. These towering plants need full sun and well-drained soil. Beyond that, they only need moderate upkeep.
Pampas grass is highly flammable. Don't plant it in areas that are prone to catching on fire.
Foxtail ferns are pretty atypical from the standard fern assemblage, with puffy tentacle-like leaves. They're an evergreen perennial you can rely on for beautiful coverage year-round. However, they can't be in climates that drop much below freezing or else they'll get damaged.
Besides that, foxtail ferns can handle shade, partial sun, and full sun. And they don't require heavy watering but like a slightly more acidic soil. Because they can grow up to 3' tall, they're a perfect mid-size option.
One of the most striking foliage options is the prayer plant. Known for its broad leaves that feature bright red-pink striations, prayer plants are native to South America and are named after the way their leaves curl up at night. Because of their origins, they thrive in humid climates, but don't love a ton of direct sunlight. Prayer plants are mostly potted, so keep that in mind when arranging your outdoor landscape.
False shamrock is a purple foliage plant whose leaves come together to look like a kaleidoscope of butterflies. They're notoriously easy to care for and require standard water and soil conditions. Yet, they won't thrive in dark, shaded areas. Instead, they need a fair amount of indirect sunlight. As a perennial, you'll want to look over them throughout the year for spider mites, as they can succumb to them.
Creeping Jenny is a favorite among gardeners who love cascading plants. This plant boasts a coin-shaped yellow-green foliage that falls down in delicate vines. It's most used for groundcover or to add texture to interesting pots and planters. It's a low-maintenance plant that needs full sun and a lot of water. Keep its leaves trimmed before they reach the ground because they might try to double-root there.
Coming all the way from Russia is the Siberian cypress, which is best known for its groundcover properties. Although it doesn't get very tall, it can spread up to 12' wide. With downy, feathery foliage, it's a lovely, delicate way to cover a lot of ground. Despite liking full sun to partial shade, it can handle cold climates quite well (it is named Siberian after all). Make sure you plant your Siberian cypress in well-drained soil but keep it moist. As an evergreen, you'll get a flavor of Siberian cypress all year round.
Another plant that can handle a cold climate is carex. A grass-like plant, it isn't a perennial like so many on this list. Yet, when they grow, they grow. With thin, hair-like leaves, carex plants can work great to border your beds. Plant them in moist soil and partial shade, and you should be able to enjoy them for months at a time. Despite growing like a grass, you can plant them in pots, too.
When you think of foliage, edible plants might not come to mind. However, many edible greens have luscious foliage that serve a dual aesthetic and nutritional purpose. Kale is one of these plants. When planting kale, wait about three weeks after your last frost to put them in the ground, and pick a spot that'll get full sunlight. Enrich your kale plants by fertilizing them. Keep them well-watered, and they should start producing a bountiful harvest of beautiful foliage.
Herbs are another type of edible foliage you can plant in your garden. Pine-scented rosemary is a great option because it gives off a lovely piney scent and grows as a bush, as opposed to your much smaller standard rosemary plants. These plants with their pale blue-green leaves will grow year-round and especially thrive in full sun. As a plant that doesn't guzzle water, make sure it's in well-drained, loamy soil. And, like most rosemary bushes, their leaves are totally edible.
Fill Your Garden With More Than Just Flowers
Flowering plants are stunning, and they're most people's top picks when they're planning their new garden arrangements. But you don't only need flowers to fill up a garden. Foliage is a vital part of creating a visual landscape, and there are so many varieties to choose from.