Light up your gardening spaces, indoors and out, with foliage plants known for their patterned, textured or boldly colored leaves, in addition to blooms. Flowers may come and go, but foliage will anchor your garden and provide visual interest throughout the seasons.
Foliage quite simply means leaves, which can vary in shape, size, texture and color and are often more attractive than a plant’s flowers. Leaves can be green, of course, but also silvery or gray, yellow, or even sometimes red or deep purple. Variegated leaves will have stripes of cream or yellow, and some plants have splotches of yellow, red, orange or green. You can employ colorful foliage in your garden spaces to solve problems and add beauty.
Outdoors, use foliage to light up dark areas and direct the eye. Masses of shrubs like bright yellow ligustrum in a landscape bed are an unexpected changeup from boxwoods; they play well with burgundy loropetalum, glossy-leaved distylium and evergreens like hollies.
In a shade garden, plant bold selections of perennials under mature trees and shrubs. Perennials like hosta, heuchera and Solomon’s Seal have incidental flowers, but are known for their leaves.
The seemingly endless varieties of hosta keep the foliage gardener busy. Select the variegated and lighter colored versions to bring light into a deep shade garden. Hosta with textured leaves have the added bonus of being unappealing to slugs.
New varieties of hellebores, the old-fashioned Lenten rose, have dramatically variegated leaves. Also in the shade garden, Japanese painted ferns show off blues, burgundies and deep greens on their feathery foliage.
Just like in the garden, container plantings can be all about foliage, too. Plant small hosta or shrubs like “Jazz Hands” loropetalum in containers and place on your patio table as a centerpiece. Foliage favorites cannas, coleus and caladiums shine in the heat of summer on patios and balconies. Learn more about container gardening.
Indoors, choose foliage plants to enhance your decor
Indoor vines and succulents top the list for decorative foliage in your home. Philodendron, pothos and English ivy are loved for their versatility and adaptability.
Philodendron is a classic houseplant noted for its ease of growth. Philodendron will purify the air in your home and is tolerant of neglect. Grow it in a sunny window, but it will tolerate shade, too. Pothos is grown upright on a totem and features heart-shaped leaves splashed with gold. In a warm and bright environment, the leaves get bigger, bolder, and more dramatic.
Succulents like echeveria are usually deep green or silvery blue, but a few can be found with a fresh green color. Easy-care succulents just need bright filtered light and adequate drainage. Water only when they dry out.
Try these Foliage plants in your indoor space:
- English Ivy: Versatile English ivy grows just about anywhere. Let it trail from a hanging basket in front of your favorite window up or climb a trellis in a container. There are many varieties to choose from, with different leaf sizes, shapes and colors.
- Hoya: Low-water hoya likes bright light and less water than most other houseplants. In the right conditions, hoya blooms with clusters of fragrant, star-shaped flowers.
- Monstera, or Split-Leaf Philodendron: These leaves can grow as big as two feet across. Train monstera on a trellis for a Bohemian chic look. It’s considered easy to grow and will tolerate low, medium, and bright light.
Tips for Houseplant Success: Plants with variegated foliage require more light than those with dark-colored foliage. Most houseplants need 8 to 16 hours of sunlight to thrive. The ideal temperature range for houseplants is 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.