Trees and shrubs: colourful foliage

Don’t get stuck in a green leaf rut. Add a splash of colour to your borders and plantings, with a variety of coloured foliage plants.

Introduction

Foliage can often be seen as the backdrop to the floral display. However, careful usage and selection of trees and shrubs with different coloured leaves can add year round interest and dramatic contrast; from dark, mysterious purples, to bright, uplifting gold and smooth, cool silvers.

Select structural plants from those listed below to add an extra dimension to your display and complement the blooms. Remember you still need the green plants for contrast and balance as it can be easy to overdo it and have an unsightly clash of colours.

Practical considerations

Most plants with coloured foliage maintain their best colour in sun or dappled shade. In shadier parts of the garden variegated plants can be used to help to lift the mood.

Sometimes coloured plants may revert back to their original plain green colour; this is known as reversion. Reverted branches or shoots need to be removed before they take over and affect the overall appearance of the plant. It could be a sign that the plant needs more light to maintain the desired colour.

Suitable plants

Golden/yellow coloured foliage

Trees
Acer cappadocicum 'Aureum' AGM, A. pseudoplatanus 'Worley' AGM
Alnus incana 'Aurea'
Catalpa bignonioides 'Aurea' AGM
Fagus sylvatica 'Aurea Pendula', F. sylvatica 'Zlatia'
Gleditsia triacanthos f. inermis 'Sunburst' AGM
Laurus nobilis 'Aurea' (e) AGM
Populus × canadensis 'Aurea' AGM
Quercus robur 'Concordia', Q. rubra 'Aurea'
Robinia pseudoacacia 'Frisia'

Smaller shrubs
Berberis thunbergii 'Aurea', B.thunbergii Bonanza Gold 'Bogozam'
Caryopteris × clandonensis 'Worcester Gold'
Escallonia laevis 'Gold Brian' (e)
Fuchsia 'Genii' AGM, F. magellanica var gracilis 'Aurea'
Ilex crenata 'Golden Gem' (e) AGM
Phlomis chrysophylla (e) AGM
Physocarpus opulifolius 'Dart's Gold' AGM
Ribes sanguineum 'Brocklebankii' AGM
Rubus cockburnianus 'Goldenvale' AGM
Salvia officinalis 'Kew Gold' (e)
Spiraea japonica 'Candlelight', S.'Gold Mound' AGM, S. japonica 'Golden Princess Lisp', S. japonica ‘Walbuma’

Larger shrubs
Acer shirasawanum 'Aureum' AGM
Choisya ternata Sundance 'Lich' AGM (e)
Cornus alba 'Aurea' AGM, C. mas 'Aurea' AGM
Corylus avellana 'Aurea'
Cotinus coggygria Golden Spirit = ‘Ancot’
Euonymus japonicus 'Ovatus Aureus' AGM (e)
Ilex × attenuata 'Sunny Foster' (e)
Ligustrum ovalifolium 'Vicaryi' (e)
Lonicera nitida 'Baggesen's Gold' AGM
Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Warnham Gold' AGM
Ptelea trifoliata 'Aurea' AGM
Sambucus nigra 'Aurea', S. racemosa 'Sutherland Gold' AGM
Viburnum opulus 'Aureum'
Weigela 'Looymansii Aurea'

Climbers
Hedera helix 'Buttercup' AGM (e)
Humulus lupulus 'Aureus' AGM
Jasminum officinale Fiona Sunrise 'Frojas'

Bamboo
Pleioblastus viridistriatus AGM


Purple/red

Trees
Acer platanoides 'Crimson King' AGM, A. platanoides 'Crimson Sentry', A. platanoides 'Royal Red', A. pseudoplatanus 'Atropurpureum' 
Betula pendula 'Purpurea'
Catalpa × erubescens 'Purpurea' AGM
Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy' AGM
Fagus sylvatica 'Dawyck Purple' AGM, F. sylvatica (Atropurpurea Group) 'Riversii' AGM
Malus × moerlandsii 'Profusion', M. × purpurea 'Neville Copeman', M.‘Royal Beauty’
Prunus × blireana AGM, P. cerasifera 'Nigra' AGM, P. padus 'Colorata' AGM

Smaller shrubs
Acer palmatum ‘Dissectum Atropurpureum’, A. palmatum 'Crimson Queen' AGM, A. palmatum 'Inaba-shidare' AGM, A. palmatum ‘Nigrum', A. palmatum 'Burgundy Lace' AGM, A. palmatum 'Garnet' AGM, A. palmatum 'Red Pygmy' AGM
Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea 'Atropurpurea Nana' AGM, B. thunbergii  f. atropurpurea
'Dart's Red Lady'
AGM, B. thunbergii f. atropurpurea 'Golden Ring' AGM, B. thunbergii  f. atropurpurea 'Pink Queen'
Corylopsis sinensis var. sinensis 'Spring Purple'
Clematis recta 'Purpurea'
Hebe 'Mrs Winder' (e) AGM, H. 'Neil's Choice' (e) AGM
Leptospermum scoparium 'Nichollsii Nanum' AGM
Lophomyrtus × ralphii 'Kathryn' (e)
Leucothoe Scarletta  'Zeblid' (e)
Phormium 'Bronze Baby' (e)
Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Tom Thumb' AGM
Prunus × cistena AGM
Salvia officinalis 'Purpurascens' AGM
Weigela florida 'Foliis Purpureis'

Larger shrubs
Acer palmatum 'Bloodgood' AGM
Berberis × ottawensis f. purpurea 'Superba' AGM, B. thunbergii f. atropurpurea 'Red Chief', B. thunbergii f. atropurpurea 'Red Pillar', B. thunbergii f. atropurpurea 'Rose Glow' AGM
Cordyline 'Torbay Red' (e)
Corylus maxima 'Purpurea' (e)
Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple' AGM
Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Purpureus' (e)
Phormium tenax Purpureum Group (e) AGM
Physocarpus opulifolius 'Diabolo', P. opulifolius Lady in Red = ‘Tuilad’
Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Purpureum' (e)
Pseudopanax 'Purpureus' (e) AGM
Rosa glauca AGM
Sambucus nigra f. porphyrophylla 'Guincho Purple' AGM

Climber
Vitis vinifera 'Purpurea' AGM


Silver/grey

Trees
Eucalyptus coccifera (e) E. dalrympleana (e) AGM, E. gunnii (e) AGM, E. pauciflora subsp. niphophila (e) AGM, E. parvifolia, (e) E. perriniana (e)
Populus alba, P. × canescens
Pyrus nivalis, P. salicifolia 'Pendula' AGM
Salix alba var. sericea AGM, S. exigua
Sorbus aria 'Lutescens' AGM

Smaller shrubs
Artemisia alba 'Canescens' AGM, A. abrotanum AGM, A. absinthium 'Lambrook Silver' AGM, A. ludoviciana 'Silver Queen' AGM, A. ludoviciana 'Valerie Finnis' AGM, A. 'Powis Castle' AGM
Ballota pseudodictamnus AGM
Berberis dictyophyllaB. temolaica
Brachyglottis (Dunedin Group) 'Sunshine' (e) AGM, B. monroi AGM
Caryopteris × clandonensis 'Heavenly Blue' AGM
Cistus × lenis ‘Grayswood Pink' (e) AGM
Convolvulus cneorum (e) AGM
Euryops acraeus (e) AGM
× Halimiocistus wintonensis ‘Merrist Wood Cream’ (e) AGM
Halimium lasianthum (e), H. ocymoides (e)
Hebe albicans (e) AGM, H. pinguifolia 'Pagei' (e) AGM, H. recurva 'Boughton Silver' (e) AGM, H. pimeleoides 'Quicksilver' (e) AGM
Helianthemum 'Rhodanthe Carneum' (e) AGM, H. 'The Bride' (e) AGM
Helichrysum italicum (e) AGM
Lavandula angustifolia (e), L. angustifolia 'Hidcote' (e) AGM, L. stoechas (e)
Leptospermum lanigerum (e)
Lotus hirsutus
Olearia ilicifolia (e)
Ozothamnus rosmarinifolius 'Silver Jubilee' (e)
Perovskia 'Blue Spire' AGM
Potentilla fruticosa 'Beesii', P. fruticosa 'Manchu', P. fruticosa 'Vilmoriniana'
Romneya coulteri AGM
Ruta graveolens 'Jackman's Blue' (e)
Salvia officinalis (e)
Santolina chamaecyparissus (e), S. chamaecyparissus 'Nana' (e) AGM, S. pinnata subsp. neapolitana (e) AGM
Senecio cineraria ‘Cirrus’ (e)
Teucrium fruticans, T. fruticans 'Azureum' AGM
Yucca whipplei (e)
Zauschneria californica

Larger shrubs
Atriplex halimus (e)
Buddleja alternifolia 'Argentea', B. fallowiana var. alba AGM
Elaeagnus angustifolia ‘Quicksilver’ (e) AGM
Hippophae rhamnoides 
Olearia macrodonta (e) AGM

Climbers
Clematis tibetana subsp. vernayi AGM

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