A GROWING CONCERN: Leaf color not just for autumn trees

WHO KNEW HOW many people would express joy at not having to kill their dandelions and to do so for altruistic reasons. Since this plant is actually named for it’s leaves, lets use lions tooth as an example of how cool foliage can be.

Here is a list of plants whose leaves alone give great color to any yard, pot or bouquet.


This is a fierce annual whose leaves burn with intense red, yellow and orange hues.

Being somewhat tall, it is a great plant for the center of a pot or background to a flower bed. As a bonus, they develop late season blooms which make for ideal cut flowers and dried flowers.


These very hardy perennials act as a super highlighter in a garden because of their intense white, silver and blue gray tones. The leaves can be extremely fine and resemble little puff balls or tall, slender streaks of white. A good choice is the silver brocade — a low growing, white-oak leaf variety.


These plants are true kings of leaf color, and come in every imaginable combination of hues.

From pastels to brilliant reds, oranges, solid colors or the entire color spectrum on a single leaf, coleus are unique in the color-leaf plant world.

Always pinch off their flower buds before they develop or open, to ensure a colorful, vibrant plant.

Wait until June to plant them outdoors as they need warmer soils to grow correctly.

Coral bells (heuchera)

Plum pudding, amber waves, marmalade. These are not your grandmother’s coral bells.

Heuchera, once coveted for its outstanding cut flowers, are being bred and developed for its wide array of interesting leaf colors.

Lime, magenta, coral, peach and amber leaves are just a few of the new perennial coral bells whose constant leaf color in the garden form in March through December and can give any yard a new dazzle.


Here is an old plant that is picking up new attention. Sweet potato vine is a perfect foliage plant for baskets, pots, containers or any place with a vertical edge.

Their fist-sized heart-shaped leaves come in black, lime, magenta and even in a wonderful tricolor — white pink and green.

They grow lush and long but like coleus, they need warmer soil, so baby them until June, then plant.

Dusty miller

Here is the annual version of the perennial artemisia. Dusty millers have a fabulous white pubescence on their leaves (hairs) that give them a soft, fluffy look and, being pure white, they add great contrast to any spot.

Pinch out the tip of the plant when inserting into the ground in order to quadruple their size.


Enough can not be said about this large family (over 2,000 varieties) of extremely drought-resistant plants.

Sedums are perennial, hardy and effortless to grow and come in so many colored leaf shapes — plated, balled, needled, spiky, flat, cupped or rounded. They can be short, pendulous, creeping and if that isn’t enough, they have fall foliage color as well as seasonal flowers.

Elephant ears

Exotic, tropical, foreign — alien is also a good adjective to use for this other-worldly plant.

Sporting two-foot-tall leaves in the shape of elephant ears, they are superb foliage for eye appeal. They love shade or partial shade and can get up to 5- or 6-feet tall.

Try black magic for a striking appearance.


These are elephant ears’ baby brothers.

With leaves a quarter the size, they make up for their stature with intense leaf patterns.

Their heart-shaped leaves are perfect for arrangements with incredible lasting power in the vase — up to 3 weeks — and a wide range of color combinations.

Caladiums like filtered light and do very well under trees.


Let’s stay with shade-tolerant foliage plants whose leaves are wonderful in arrangements. Buy hostas.

Hostas are perennials and come in all sizes from extremely short (4 to 6 inches) to very tall (3 to 4 feet).

Their leaves are variegated, solid, striped, edged or curled and can be bright yellow. baby blue, green and white or even pink.

As long as the slugs don’t get them when they first sprout, hostas are simple to grow.

Rex begonias

These begonias are highly prized for their deeply patterned and textured leaves that display interesting colors and designs.

Their leaves are 6, 8 or 10 inches in size and can be wrinkled, curved or serrated.

They also like shady conditions and when used with coleus, caladiums and elephant ears, they create the most colorful and interesting flower bed you have — with out a single bloom.

Next week it is a new month so out will come your late spring to-do list.

Happy Memorial Day.


Andrew May is an ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email news@peninsuladailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

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