(Image credit: Olga Kazanovskaia)

Flowering shrubs rarely flower all season long. For lasting swatches of color, many gardeners count on plants with bright foliage. One favorite option is purple leaved shrubs. Purple foliage combines well with almost all other leaf colors and looks particularly good with blue, gold and silver. 

You’ll find a variety of purple hues and tones – in heights from 3 to 15 feet (1 to 5m.) to complement every area of the landscape. 

Purple Leaf Shrubs

Why not start with shrubs you might not know yet like red filbert (Corylus maxima Atropurpurea)? It’s a handsome plant that grows to 12 feet (4m.) tall and grows edible nuts. 

Another good choice is smokebush (Cotinus coggygria), a many-stemmed shrub with purple foliage and feathery purple flowers that look like haze. Pick bright cultivars like Royal Purple or Velvet Cloak. 

When you need something shorter, consider purple cultivars of elderberry (Sambucus nigra), like Black Beauty or Black Lace. These bushes stay under 8 feet (2.5m.) tall and fill with edible deep purple fruit.

Purple Leaf Bushes

We are also great fans of barberry (Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea). Pick from among the dark purple leaf shrub cultivars like Crimson Pygmy, Royal Cloak, and Royal Burgundy. They are thorned, making them excellent and colorful defensive hedges 6 feet (2m.) tall.

Ninebark is a lesser-known option but a good one. It’s a very tough shrub with beautiful purple leaves as well as seasonal flowers and exfoliating bark. Consider Diablo or Summer Wine for their deep, rich, burgundy foliage that darkens in summer, and flat-topped pink spring flowers. 

More Purple Foliage Options

There are other options combining dark purple foliage and spring flowers. Cultivars of weigela (Weigela florida) like Wine and Roses™, Midnight Wine™, and Dark Horse offer frilly pink blossoms in spring as well as bright purple foliage. These shrubs can grow to 9 feet (3m.) tall.

For shorter shrubs, consider a purple leafed cultivar of Joe-Pye weed (Eupatorium Chocolate). This perennial grows to 3 feet (1m.) and offers white blossoms in late summer. If you like snakeroot (Actaea racemosa), look for cultivars Brunette, Atropurpurea, Hillside Black Beauty, Black Negligee or Chocoholic. They stay under 6 feet (2m.) and have burgundy-black leaves. 

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.