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For The Garden

Ornamental Foliage Plants

Author: Nancy Erdmann
Issue: August, 2012, Page 100
(Coleus x hybridus)


(Coleus x hybridus)

Type: Perennial usually grown as an annual

Foliage: Green, chartreuse, cream, yellow, salmon, orange, red, purple and brown, or combinations of these colors.

Height: 8"-24"H by 8"-36"W

Soil: Rich, loose, well-drained

Light: Bright indirect light or partial shade

Water needs: Regular

Maintenance: To keep the plant’s shape intact, pinch off flower spikes; this also promotes leaf growth. Fertilize about every six weeks.

Note: While some coleus plants can handle the sun,
foliage color tends to intensify with less light. The redder the leaves, the more tolerant the plant is of the sun.

Why we like it: Its striking leaves are a standout in the garden. Coleus can be grown in pots, hanging baskets, borders and paired with shade-loving begonias and impatiens.

(Agave lophantha ‘Quadricolor’)
(Agave lophantha ‘Quadricolor’)

Type: Perennial succulent

Foliage: Variegated yellow, lime and green with touches of red; blooms once after about 10 years, then dies

Size: 12"-18"H by 1-2'W

Soil: Well-drained

Light: Full sun to light shade

Water needs: Water regularly in summer, allowing soil to dry out between waterings; irrigate less in winter.

Maintenance: Although frost-tolerant, it should be covered on cold nights.

Attracts: Its flower stalks attract hummingbirds, songbirds, butterflies and bees.

Note: This plant can be easily propagated by removing suckers at its base and allowing them to dry before planting.

Why we like it: When placed in bright light, the “teeth” of this compact agave turn red, giving the leaf its four distinct colors. It can be grown for
erosion control and as a fire-retardant plant.

(Brassica oleracea)
(Brassica oleracea)

Type: Biennial grown as an annual

Foliage: Pink, purple and white varieties

Size: 1-2'H by 18"W

Soil: Rich, moist and well-drained

Light: Full sun to light shade

Water needs: Water when top inch of soil is dry.

Maintenance: Fertilize regularly, stopping when color begins to develop.

Attracts: Cabbage loopers and cabbage worms (pick off by hand)

Note: For a dramatic garden display, plant in a checkerboard pattern. Discard plants when they bolt (become leggy and go to seed).

Why we like it: This cold-hardy vegetable, also known flowering kale, resembles a giant flower. Although it usually is grown for its decorative foliage, it is edible and makes an excellent container and bedding plant.

(Asparagus densiflorus ‘Meyersii’)
(Asparagus densiflorus ‘Meyersii’)

Type: Evergreen perennial

Foliage: Light green; inconspicuous white blooms; occasional berries

Size: 18"-24"H by 2'-3'W

Soil: Well-drained and amended with peat moss

Light: Light shade to filtered light

Water needs: Although it is drought-tolerant, it does best with regular watering. Avoid over-watering.

Maintenance: Feed in spring and remove old foliage to encourage new growth.

Note: Its leaves may turn yellow in dense shade; in full sun the tips can scorch. If hit by frost, the plant usually comes back from its roots. All parts are poisonous.

Why we like it: Its arching frond-like stems resemble fox tails, providing texture and drama in the garden. Tough and reliable, it does well in containers and also can be grown as a houseplant.

Other Favorites:
Agave colorata, artichoke, Boston fern, canna tropicana, elephant ear philodendron, lamb’s ear, Mexican blue palm, Powis Castle artemisia, purple heart, Tuscan blue rosemary
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