Q. What are some plants with dark-colored leaves I can use in my garden design?
Dark-colored leaves can add interesting contrast to your garden.
- Smokebush (Cotinus coggygria) is a large shrub or small tree that has dark-colored leaves. A number of varieties have been developed that have striking dark red-purple leaves (e.g. ‘Notcutt’s variety’ or ‘Royal purple’). To obtain the best dark color and to control the size of the shrub, cut it down to 1-2 feet in late winter or early spring.
- Heuchera is a shade-loving perennial. Numerous cultivars are available that have very dark leaves (e.g. ‘Black Beauty’, ‘Licorice’, ‘Plum Pudding’ and ‘Velvet Night’).
- x Heucherella is a hybrid between Heuchera and Tiarella. Several dark varieties are available (e.g. 'Burnished Bronze’).
- Mondo grass (Ophiopogon sp.) is not a true grass but a member of the lily-of-the-valley family. O. planiscapus “Nigrescens’ has a striking black-red color.
- Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius) is a native American shrub. It is characterized by white flowers in spring and purple-black leaves. It responds well to severe pruning.
- Ligularia is a perennial that prefers moist conditions. Several dark-leaved varieties are available. ‘Dark Beauty’, L. dentata ‘Britt-Marie Crawford’, ‘Desdemona’ and ‘Othello’.
- Japanese blood grass (Imperata cylindrica) is a clump-forming ornamental grass. ‘Rubra’ has red leaves in summer which turn burgundy colored later in the year.
- Plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides) is a vigorous ground cover that has bronze-red leaves in the autumn.
- Most canna lilies (Canna sp.) have dark-colored leaves, e.g. ‘Australia’. Cannas are not hardy in the New York City area, and so the rhizomes need to be dug up in the fall and stored in a cool dry location over the winter and spring.
- Many dahlias have dark-colored leaves and flowers; ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ has dark red flowers as well as leaves. ‘Bednall Beauty’ is a newer introduction with similar characteristics. "David Howard' has dark coppery leaves and a bright orange flower. Dahlias can overwinter in Zone 7 with heavy mulching. In the New York City area it is safer to lift the tubers in the fall and store them in a cool location until late spring.
For tips on a variety of gardening topics, see our Plant Information Guides.
- Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information Service
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