7 Fabulous Foliage Plants for Your Garden

Step aside flowers. Often the most interesting gardens don’t rely on beautiful blossoms to grab our interests. Instead, it is the plant leaves that win the applause. Here are seven plants with fabulous foliage, which make gorgeous garden focal points and delight the senses with their unusual colors, forms and textures. These leaves are so attractive you won’t even miss the flowers.

Japanese Forest Grasses are plants with fabulous foliage.

Japanese Forest Grass ‘Aureola’ via Megan Hansen on Flickr/Creative Commons

1. Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’)

This ornamental grass really shines in shady spots. The soft, cascading leaves add an inspired touch when grown among other grasses, hostas, mosses and boulders. Save a spot near the front of the garden border for this stunning plant. Zones 4 to 9.

Black mondo grass with white rocksBlack mondo grasses with white rocks via Teresa O’Connor

2. Black Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’)

This ornamental grass adds drama to the garden, especially when grown near lime-green leaves or white stones for contrast. To create your own dramatic garden scene, grow black mondo grass in containers, as accent plants or for deer-resistant groundcovers. This flexible evergreen grass grows in full sun or part shade. Little lilac flowers come in summer, but it’s the black leaves that steal the spotlight. Zones 6 to 10.

Coral bells are plants with different leaf colors and sizes.Coral bells via Teresa O’Connor

3. Coral Bells (Heuchera)

Coral bells are certainly noteworthy plants with fabulous foliage. They come in so many different colors and foliage shapes these days, you’ll find cultivars that are delightful for your garden. Most coral bells prefer full to partial shade. But some of the newer varieties stand up to full sun, as long as the soil doesn’t dry out. The tiny flowers are almost an afterthought to coral bells’ jewel-colored leaves. Zones 4 to 9.

Coral bells and sedum have fabulous foliageSedum and coral bells via Teresa O’Connor

4. Succulents

This yellow Sedum repestri ‘Angelina’ really stands out nicely against the burgundy leaves of a coral bell and the pale green of the neighboring upright sedum. Experiment with other succulents such as Aeonium, Echeveria and Sempervivum (known as hens and chicks). These geometric shaped plants are drought-tolerant and dramatic when grown together or apart.

Hosta and spring bulbs show off foliageHosta and spring bulbs via Teresa O’Connor

5. Hostas

It’s hard to beat hostas with their lovely leaves in colors from lime green and gold to blue-green and gray. The shade perennials bring light to the darker parts of your garden, and mix well with a variety of plants, including spring bulbs such as grape hyacinths. Flowers are held high over the plants in summer, but the leaves look terrific all by themselves. Zones 4 to 8.

Under the Sea Red Coral coleus with bright pink petuniaPetunias and coleus via Teresa O’Connor

6. Coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides)

Coleus belongs on any list of plants with fabulous foliage. The plants feature leaves in a wide variety of colors and shapes, including this unusual ‘Under the Sea’ Red Coral coleus by Hort Couture. The odd coleus looks like it should be growing in the ocean, rather than next to a pretty petunia plant.

Coleus with fabulous foliageColeus plants via Teresa O’Connor

Coleuses are tender tropical plants, which are grown as annuals, because they are only hardy to Zone 11. Plant your coleus in full sun to partial shade. For winter, take cuttings to root in good potting soil for indoor plants.

'La Crema' variegated sage with attractive foliagehttps://shop.mybluprint.com/blog/wp-admin/post.php?post=109580&action=editVariegated sage via Teresa O’Connor

7. Herbs

Variegated herbs including Salvia officinalis ‘La Crema’ (shown above) also add beauty to the edible garden. Later in spring, blue flowers will sometimes bloom on this perennial, as it did on my sage plant grown in Zone 6. The drought-tolerant culinary herb will grow in average to rocky soil. Save a place for this rugged beauty in your flower and herb beds. Zones 6 to 11.

These seven plants with fabulous foliage are just some of the amazing ones to consider for your garden. Once you start appreciating the shapes, textures and colors of leaves, you’ll never look at your plants the same way again.

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What are your favorite foliage plants in the garden?

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