Plants With Multicolored Foliage: Picking Out Colorful Plant Leaves

multi color foliage
multi color foliage
(Image credit: Napak Warshauer)

We often rely on flowers for a range of summer color in the garden. Occasionally, we have autumn color from foliage that turns red or purple with cold temperatures. Another way to get that desired spark of additional color is from plants with multicolored foliage.

Plants with Multicolored Leaves

There are several multicolored plants from which to choose. Many of these plants with colorful leaves require a bit more attention when placing them in the landscape. However, it’s worthwhile to get that additional burst of various shades through the summer. Many have insignificant blooms that can be clipped early to direct energy into producing the attractive foliage.

Here are a few examples of multi-colored foliage plants for the garden:


Coleus is often added to part sun areas and is a great way to add unusual colors in the flowerbed. Some have ruffled leaf edges, adding that extra spark of interest. Multi-colored leaves include swirls, streaks, and splotches of purple, orange, yellow, and various shades of green. Some types are solid colors, and some have colored edgings. Usually grown as an annual, coleus sometimes returns in spring or grows back from dropped seeds if allowed to flower.

More recently developed strains of the plant can take more sun than older varieties. Plant in dappled morning sun and keep the soil moist for best performance. Trim coleus back for a shorter and more compact plant. Cuttings root easily for more plants.

Dragon’s Blood Sedum

Dragon’s Blood sedum, a rapidly growing member of the stonecrop family, features tiny, intricate foliage that looks almost like flowers. This perennial plant dies back during cold winters but returns early in spring. At first leaves will be green, then edged with red. By late summer, the entire plant is dark red, leading to the name. Pink flowers bloom in summer, offering a nice contrast.

Stonecrop grows in hot, dry, and poor soil areas where other plants won’t last. This specimen is perfect for containers or ground planting.


Caladium is an attractive plant with colorful leaves. It makes a statement in your shady bed with early morning sun. Leaves are large, somewhat heart-shaped, often with dark red veins. Splotches of green, white, pink, and red grow from tubers that return happily in late spring and last until frost.

Grow these colorful plant leaves with spring blooming bulbs to hide their declining foliage when blooms drop. Plant them in drifts for greatest effect.

Smoke Bush

The smoke bush is just the plant for that sunny spot that begs for a colorful shrub or small tree. Leaves may be a bluish green or purple, depending on cultivar, and turn yellow, burgundy, or orange as the season progresses. This bush takes well to pruning, allowing you to keep it at an attractive height in your garden. This promotes new foliage growth and keeps the plant compact and attractive. Feathery flowers look like a plume of smoke.

Becca Badgett

Becca Badgett was a regular contributor to Gardening Know How for ten years. Co-author of the book How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden, Becca specializes in succulent and cactus gardening.