Yellow Leaves Plants: Adding Plants With Golden Foliage To The Garden

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By Mary H. Dyer, Master Naturalist and Master Gardener

Plants that have yellow-gold leaves are like adding a splash of instant sunshine to a shady corner or a landscape with a lot of deep evergreen foliage. Yellow leaved plants provide real visual impact, but plan carefully, as too many yellow foliage plants in gardens can become overpowering or distracting. If you’re looking for plants with golden foliage, there is a huge selection from which to choose. Read on for a few suggestions to get you started.

Yellow Leaved Plants

The following plants provide yellow or gold foliage and used sparingly in the garden can add that extra “wow” factor:

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Shrubs

AucubaAucuba japonica ‘Mr. Goldstrike,’ suitable for growing in USDA plant hardiness zones 7 through 9, is a hardy shrub with green leaves generously speckled with gold flecks. Also consider Aucuba japonica ‘Subaru’ or ‘Lemon Flare.’

Ligustrum – Golden privet (Ligustrum x vicaryi) displays bright yellow leaves which grown in full sun, and yellowish-green leaves in shade. Also consider ‘Hillside,’ a shrub with distinctive, yellowish-green foliage. Both are suitable for growing on zones 5 through 8.

Groundcovers

Vinca – If you’re looking for plants with golden foliage, consider Vinca minor ‘Illumination,’ a hardy spreading, yellow leaved plant with contrasting dark green leaf margins. Also, check out Vinca minor ‘Aurovariegata,’ another type of yellow-variegated vinca.

St. John’s wortHypericum calycinum ‘Fiesta’ is a striking plant with dark green leaves splashed with chartreuse. This is an ideal choice for yellow foliage plants in gardens zones 5 through 9.

Perennials

Hosta – Hosta, suitable for growing in zones 3 through 9, comes in a variety of stunning yellow and gold varieties, including ‘Sun Power,’ ’Gold Standard,’ Golden Prayers,’ ‘Afterglow,’ ‘Dancing Queen’ and ‘Pineapple Upside Down Cake,’ to name just a few.

TansyTanacetum vulgare ‘Isla Gold,’ also known as tansy gold leaf, displays ferny, sweet-smelling foliage of bright yellow. This plant is suitable for zones 4 through 8.

Annuals

Coleus – Coleus (Solenostemon scutellroides) is available in a number of varieties ranging from lime to deep gold, including several with variegated leaves. Check out ‘Jillian,’ ‘Sizzler,’ and ‘Gay’s Delight.’

Sweet potato vineIpomoea batatas ‘Illusion Emerald Lace’ is a trailing annual with splashy, lime green leaves. This frilly plant looks great in hanging baskets or window boxes.

Ornamental Grass

Japanese forest grassHakonechloa macra ‘Aureola,’ also known as Hakone grass, is a deciduous, ornamental grass that displays clumps of graceful, yellow-green foliage. This plant is suitable for zones 5 through 9.

Sweet flagAcorus gramineus ‘Ogon’ is a striking ornamental grass with fragrant, greenish-yellow leaves. This wetland plant is suitable for growing in zones 5 through 11. See also Acorus gramineus ‘Golden Pheasant’ and ‘Minimum Aureus.’

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