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South Central Gardening: Bold Foliage Plants

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Add season-long color to Oklahoma and Texas gardens with bold foliage plants.

Purple foliage next to yellow foliage

By Susan Albert

Most gardeners in the South Central region love their flowers. But to add spectacular color when flowers aren’t in bloom, there’s no better way than with plants whose notoriety is in their foliage, not their florescence.

Here are some favorites by foliage color.

Red-orange top of shrub

Purple, burgundy:

  • Japanese barberry shrub (Berberis thunbergii ‘Rose Glow’) has purple-red leaves, ‘Crimson Pygmy’ has deep-crimson foliage (pictured with abelia, top), ‘Orange Rocket’ has coral-orange leaves in spring and ruby-red leaves in fall; ‘Golden Ruby’ has coral-orange leaves, ‘Admiration’ has reddish-orange foliage with gold margins.
Close-up of dark foliage with flowers
  • Japanese maple tree (Acer palmatum 'Akaji Nishiki') has red leaves, ‘Bloodgood’ sports reddish-purple leaves, 'Burgundy Flame' shows burgundy-red leaves, ‘Red Select’ sprouts purplish-red foliage. 8 to 20 feet tall, hardy to Zone 5, morning sun.
  • Nandina shrub ‘Firepower’ has deep-orange-red leaves in winter and lime-green leaves in summer. 1 to 2 feet tall, hardy to Zone 6, full to part sun.
  • Ninebark shrub (Physocarpus spp.) ‘Center Glow’ has rosy-red foliage with golden centers, ‘Diablo’ and ‘Summer Wine’ have purple leaves, ‘Ruby Spice’ sports burgundy-red foliage, ‘Coppertina’ sprouts coppery-orange foliage, ‘Little Devil’ has dwarf deep crimson foliage. 5 to 12 feet tall depending on cultivar, hardy to Zone 3, full to part sun.


Yellow shrub in pot

Yellow, gold:

  • Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense ‘Sunshine’) has bright-yellow evergreen foliage. 3 to 6 feet tall, hardy in Zones 6–10, prefers sun.
  • Japanese barberry shrub (Berberis thunbergii ‘Monlers’ Dwarf Golden Nugget) foliage has golden-orange cast. 12 inches tall, hardy in Zones 4–8, prefers sun.
  • Mellow Yellow Spirea shrub (Spiraea spp. ‘Ogon’) has yellow-green leaves. 4 feet tall, hardy to Zone 4, prefers full sun.


Caladium in green pot
  • Abelia  (Abelia x grandiflora ‘Kaleidoscope’, pictured with barberry, top) is grown for its yellow-gold variegation that is tinged with pink during summer. To 3 feet tall, hardy to Zone 6, prefers full sun.
  • Caladium is a summer must-have for instant color in white, pink, red, green, and chartreuse. Heart- or lance-shape leaves prefer filtered sun or shade.


Multi-colored foliage in pot
  • Canna lily varieties sport large, tropical leaves in variegations of pink, orange, green, burgundy, and almost black. Tall and dwarf varieties. Hardy to Zone 6 if mulched well, full sun.
  • Coleus is an ideal plant for summer-long color. Its many variations, plus shade and sun tolerance, make it even more valuable in the garden or in containers. Pinch tips to promote bushiness. Hardy to Zone 10.


Gold dust plant
  • Coralbells (Heuchera) foliage colors include red, orange, purple, and silver, as well as green. Grown as ground cover. 6 to 18 inches, hardy to Zone 4, prefers light shade.
  • Gold-dust plant (Aucuba japonica ‘Variegata’) grown for its gold-speckled foliage. 6 to 10 feet, hardy to Zone 6, prefers shade.


Pink, white, green plant
  • Hostas are grown for color variations, including green, chartreuse, cream, blue, white, and yellow. The eye-catching combinations light up a shady garden. 8 inches to 3 feet, hardy to Zone 3.
  • Tricolor ginger (Stromanthe sanguine ‘Triostar’) offers striking variegated white and green foliage with pink undersides. Up to 5 feet, hardy to Zone 10, prefers full to part shade.
  • Variegated Tapioca (Manihot esculenta ‘Variegata’) bears large, palmate leaves of yellow, white, and green. 3 to 6 feet, hardy to Zone 9, prefers sun to part sun.

Many more trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals are prized for their foliage. Check with your Lowe’s garden center for more.

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