Top 5 Foliage Plants For Gardens

A red and yellow coleus plant
(Image credit: Nancybelle Gonzaga Villarroya / Getty Images)

Flowers are the showboats of the garden, but it's time for them to move aside. There is such a great variety of foliage in garden plants that it would be wrong to not make use of them. A great mix of pretty flowers and showy foliage is the best way to display the full beauty of plants in your garden. For some ideas for show-stopping leaves, try these top 5 foliage plants: 1. Coleus. For shady beds, bare spots under trees, or pots and hanging baskets that you can sneak into a shady part of your patio, use coleus for spectacular color and variety. These plants are easy to grow and are truly grown for foliage, not flowers. In fact, most gardeners cut back the flowers as they develop so as not to detract from the leaves. You'll find coleus cultivars that are striped, bicolored, and edged in colors that include lime green, deep red, yellow, purple, and even orange. 2. Begonias. Often associated with the small wax begonias used as shade-friendly annuals, there are actually numerous varieties of begonias, many with very show foliage. Keep in mind, though, that many of these are tropical and need a warm climate and humidity to thrive. Great examples of showy begonias include Rex begonia, rhizomatous begonia, and the cane-like begonias. Choose from varieties that produce leaves with stripes and whorls, spots, bumpy textures, and unusual shapes. 3. Euphorbia. For a tough, easy-to-grow plant with a variety of outstanding foliage options, try euphorbia. They are hardy in colder climates and evergreen in warmer climates. The different varieties produce a range of leaf shapes and colors, from deep, bluish-green to sunset orange, golden yellow, and deep reddish-purple. 4. Artemisia. Among the approximately 300 species of Artemisia are evergreens, annuals, perennials, and shrubs, so you can take your pick. They are related to daisies, but it is the leaves, not the flowers, of these plants that make them spectacular for the garden. The leaves are generally feathery and light with a silvery green color. As a bonus, the fragrance of Artemisia plants is heavenly. One subspecies is tarragon. 5. Ornamental grasses. Grasses are great for adding pretty foliage and also height and a contrasting texture to just about any garden. There are many ornamental grass varieties with varying heights, colors, and textures, but they all stand upright and provide a vertical element to beds. You can find varieties for nearly every climate and condition. In addition to being visually stunning, these grasses make a delightful sound when swaying in the wind.

Mary Ellen Ellis

Mary Ellen Ellis has been gardening for over 20 years. With degrees in Chemistry and Biology, Mary Ellen's specialties are flowers, native plants, and herbs.