Tag: foliage plants

Fantastic Foliage from Summer Bulbs

Do you have a blank spot that needs filling or a border that needs a little pizazz? Tropical summer bulbs are a quick fix. Corms and tubers planted in spring will grow by leaps and bounds during the summer bringing color, pattern and texture to the garden.

Many summer bulbs have lovely blooms, but look at the foliage too. The patterns, textures, and sizes create interest without much maintenance.

Rex Begonia – One of the most interesting plants when it comes to fabulous looking foliage. Available in shades of greens, white, burgundy, red, pink, silver and deep maroon-black.Rex Begonia The patterns are almost endless. There are spirals, concentric circles, dots, stripes and shields. In addition to these variations there are different leaf shapes, textures, and stem colors. With names like Escargot, Iron Cross, Fireworks, Denver Lace, Capricorn, Miami Storm, Fire Flush and Mimi Boston how could you go wrong?

Hardy to zones 10 and 11, these plants prefer shady, humid conditions and rich, aerated soil with plenty of organic matter. Too much water and fertilizer and you will have a very unhappy plant. Soggy soil will lead to rot and high fertilizer will burn the foliage.

Yellow Calla LilyCalla Lily (Zantedeschia)– Grown mostly for its Art Deco style flower that blooms white, pastels, vibrant red, purple or yellow with a very narrow red margin. While the flowers are quite beautiful, the upright glossy leaves are what I am drawn to. In addition to bright green some varieties boast foliage with white centers, polka dots or green and yellow stripes.

Hardy to zone 9 an ample layer of mulch applied in the fall can get these plants through winter in zone 8 or possibly zone 7 where the temperature is not likely to fall below 10 degrees F. Otherwise dig the rhizomes when frost threatens and store them indoors or bring in the plant to grow as a houseplant. Calla Lilies like a moist, almost wet soil and warm temperatures and will grow in full sun (partial afternoon shade in the South.)

CannaCanna – With its large, majestic stature and foliage, the beautiful blossoms of these plants almost go unnoticed. The tropical looking foliage with its large leaves, upright growth and interesting colors make a huge statement in the garden. Look for foliage that is purple, purple with green veining, yellow and green stripes and one of the most striking I have seen has burgundy, green, yellow and red/orange stripes. A few varieties I like include ‘Tropicana’, ‘King Humbert’, ‘Pretoria’ and ‘Black Knight’.

Hardy to zone 7, cannas grow from a rhizomatous rootstock that allows it to spread slowly outward from where it is planted. They prefer full sun in most locations but partial shade in regions where sunlight is intense may help keep the flowers from bleaching out or the foliage tips from burning. Cannas prefer a rich soil high in organic matter that drains well but stays consistently moist. They are heavy feeders. If your cannas begin to look ratty, it’s a sure sign that it needs to be fed or that the soil is too dry. You can grow cannas in containers but the containers will need to be large. As they become pot-bound they become weak and need to be divided and repotted. Cannas are root hardy in places where the soil does not freeze and can survive in air temperatures down to 0 degrees. In areas where the temperature may drop below 10 degrees, adding deep mulch will help protect the roots by keeping the soil surface from freezing.

Elephant EarsColocasia, Alocasia, Xanthosoma – Collectively known as elephant ears, these plants have large, fleshy leaves in solid green or purple/black. Many varieties have interesting variations in color with splotching and veining patterns of green, white and purple/black. Reaching anywhere from 2 to 6 feet or taller some show a distinctive, upright growth pattern while others are more spreading. Look for names like ‘Black Magic’ (burgundy-black foliage), ‘Chicago Harlequin’ (green foliage randomly blotched with lighter green), ‘Illustris’ (green foliage overlaid with black with lime green veins and margins) or ‘Lime Zinger’ (chartreuse foliage). Elephant ears can be planted in a summer border or grown in containers on the porch or patio.

Elephant ears are sub-tropical or tropical plants but some are hardy as far north as zone 7b. They prefer a bright, indirect light or partial shade. The leaves may scorch in full sun or become too green in deep shade. They generally thrive in hot, humid conditions as long as they receive consistent moisture. They prefer a moist, rich, deep, organic soil. Be sure to feed them often as they are heavy feeders.

OxalisOxalis – A favorite plant of many, commonly called the Shamrock plant because of the clover-like leaves. Oxalis is available in green, white/silver, burgundy or purple. You can select oxalis solid colors, interesting patterns or variegations. The flowers range from white, yellow, pink, orange and red. Oxalis can be tucked into your flower borders, grown in containers on the porch or patio and also as a houseplant on a sunny windowsill. Their diminutive size fits easily into smaller spaces and in the front of borders where they will show off throughout the summer. These little bulbs will bloom on and off from spring until fall.

Fairly petite in size oxalis range from two to 16 inches tall and depending on species they are tender, half-hardy or hardy perennials to zone 6. Oxalis can grow in full sun in temperate climates. If you garden where summers are hot give it some afternoon shade or plant it in light, dappled shade. These little bulbs have a preference for well-drained soil that is a little on the acidic side. They are drought tolerant but do water them during extended periods without rain.

CaladiumsCaladium – Gardeners choose caladiums for their long lasting, colorful foliage that adds interest to lightly shaded areas. Color combinations include various shades of red, pink, white, green with colored midribs and contrasting margins. The leaves are heart shaped and many have contrasting patterns. They are a mid-sized plant perfect for planting in clumps in a border or in containers. Look for the varieties ‘White Christmas’ (white leaves with green veins), ‘Pink Beauty’ (pink leaves with dark pink veins and green margins), ‘Frieda Hemple’ (red leaves with green margins)or ‘Brandywine’ (deep red leaves).

Growing 18 – 24 inches tall, caladiums perform best in moist, well-drained soil in partial shade. They enjoy warm weather but do not tolerate dry conditions. Caladiums are only hardy in zones 10 to 11. Everywhere else they should be treated as an annual or dug up after the first frost. If you choose to dig up your caladiums allow the tubers to dry thoroughly, and then layer the tubers in dry peat or vermiculite and store them in an area that remains around 50 to 60 degrees F. Check the tubers occasionally to make sure they are plump but dry.

Four Air Purifying Houseplant Arrangements

Too often foliage is passed over by our attraction to blooms.  This is certainly the case in the garden and I see the same myopic view inside the home.  By embracing foliage you do not in any way sacrifice beauty or color: both are present in a range of forms.  The advantage good foliage has over blooms I that it is long lasting.  Rather than cycling in and out of flower, the color, pattern, and texture remain a constant.

Another compelling reason to fill your bedroom with foliage houseplants is that they help remove toxins from the air pollutants that are found in houses from industrial chemicals used to manufacture building materials and numerous household cleaners that may contain formaldehyde, benzene, ammonia, acetone, and ethyl acetate.  These pollutants are actually absorbed through the leaves of the plants and converted to harmless substances.  Experts estimate that fifteen houseplants make a significant impact on improving the air quality in a house.  So along with foliage houseplants adding color and texture to your bedroom, they also help clean the air.

Air Purifying Houseplants

  • Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea sefritzii) – bright filtered or indirect light, water sparingly in winter, neutral to acidic soil, minimum temperature of 61 degrees F.
  • Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema modestum)- filtered light, high humidity, water moderately and allow some drying in winter, minimum temperature 45 degrees F.
  • Corn Plant (Dracaena fragrans) – full light with shade from hot sun, moderate humidity, water sparingly in winter, minimum temperature 55 degrees F.
  • Dragon Tree (Dracaena draco) – full light with shade from hot sun, water sparingly in winter, moderate humidity, minimum temperature 55 degrees F.
  • Elephant Ear (Philodendron domesticum)- bright filtered light, mist daily in summer, water sparingly in winter, support stems with moss pole, minimum temperature 59 degrees F.
  • English Ivy (Hedera helix) – bright indirect to low light, keep moist, grow as a topiary or in a hanging basket, hardy zones 5 ,6, 7, 8, 9, and 10.
  • Gerbera Daisy (Gerbera jamesonii) – requires bright light, excellent drainage, plant crown 1/2 inch above surface of soil, keep the old leaves picked off, minimum temperature 60 degrees F.
  • Golden Pothos (Epipremnum aureum) – full or bright filtered light, light water in winter, minimum temperature 45 degrees F.
  • Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum ‘Mauna Loa’)- indirect to bright light, high humidity, minimum temperature 59 degrees F.
  • Red Edge Dracaena (Dracaena marginata ‘Tricolor’)- full light with shade from hot sun, keep moist in summer, water sparingly in winter, minimum temperature 55 degrees F.
  • Ribbon Plant (Dracaena sanderiana)- full light with shade from hot sun, moderate humidity, water sparingly in winter, minimum temperature 55 degrees F.

Decorating with Foliage

Princess Pine Sedum Used as a Houseplant
‘Princess Pine’ sedum (Crassula muscosa pseudolycopodiodes) is an exotic looking houseplant that adds a beautiful touch to the bedroom. Like most sedums, it grows best when you let the soil dry out between waterings and it also like bright, indirect light near a window. This plant makes a nice counterpoint when combined with large succulent leaves in wreaths and topiaries.

Caladiums as a Houseplant
The heart-shaped intricately patterned leaves of caladium arise from a container of frilly asparagus ferns. Enjoy caladiums as houseplants in indirect-light settings, and then in late fall the foliage will fade. Store the tubers in a paper bag in a warm, dry place. In late winter, pot the tubers up again, begin watering, and your plants will come back to life.

Crotons are Colorful Houseplants
The vivid colors on these crotons make them a focal point in any room. To maintain their richly hued foliage, keep the plant within 3 to 5 feet of a sunny window.

Combine Foxtail Fern and Philodendron for an Interesting Texture Contrast
Blending the bushy fronds of ‘Myers’ foxtail fern with the bold and deeply serrated leaves of a tree philodendron helps to enliven a room. During the summer, the fern produces small white flowers that are followed by attractive bright red berries. Seed from the berries can be used to start new plants.

Beyond Blooms

Coleus and Ornamental Peppers

Add brilliant splashes of non-stop color to your garden with an array
of sensational foliage plants. Foliage, like flowers, comes in a
kaleidoscope of colors from pinks, reds, and purples to yellow, acid
green and silver and each leaf is a work of art. Mix and match them
with flowering plants for beautiful results.

Instant Color that Lasts all Summer Long

As soon as you add them to containers and flower borders, they go to work
filling your garden with lasting color.

Consistent Performance

Flowering plants shine during their blooming cycle, but then fade into the
background until they bloom again. Foliage plants start out strong and just
get bigger and better as they grow and fill out through the summer with no
spent flowers to deadhead.

Create Depth and Interest

Dark foliage plants create a sense of depth and shadow in a flowerbed, giving
the design more dimension and interest.

More Texture, Shape and Form

Along with fabulous leaf color, plant breeders have created an amazing array
of foliage shapes and textures: spiny, fuzzy, waxy, serrated, and glossy, to
name a few. Some varieties add architectural elements by the way they grow.

Low Maintenance

Unlike some fussy flowering plants, many of the foliage varieties are the real
workhorses in the garden. Plant them in the right growing conditions and they
will thrive with little care.


Some foliage plants are so vigorous they can almost take over a flower border or
container. But that can be just what you need when you want to cover large areas
in vivid color.

Five Great Foliage Plants

Here is a selection of foliage plants that I have grown with great success in
my garden. Check with your local garden center for those best suited for your

  • Coleus


    There are a great number of fantastic coleus varieties available. Look for both upright and cascading forms
    in a wide array of patterns, leaf shapes and colors. The plants grow quickly in full sun to partial shade.
    Great for containers and flower borders.

  • Sweet Potato Vine

    ‘Marguerite’ Sweet Potato Vine (Ipomoea batatas)

    Long luxurious vines of lime-green to bright yellow-green foliage make this a great contrast plant for any
    garden. This plant is effective as an annual groundcover, growing only 6 inches tall but 3 feet long. Try it
    in containers, tumbling out of hanging baskets and potted planters.

  • Persian Shield

    Persian Shield (Strobilanthes dyerianus)

    Darkly dramatic, this plant’s deep purple leaves coated in a metallic silver sheen add an intriguing luster
    when combined with other full to partial sun flowering plants. Grow Persian shield with purple, burgundy or
    pink flowers.

  • Artemisia


    Silvery fernlike leaves make it a good choice for filling and highlighting a border, blending strong colors
    in a container, or as a low hedge along a walkway. The leaves deeply cut lobes have the look of antique silver
    filigree. It is a perennial that thrives in heat and well-drained soil.

  • Creeping Jenny

    Golden Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’)

    The electric green strands with small round to kidney shaped leaves act as a colorful "live wire"
    that gets the party going in any plant combination. Low and cascading, it is a perennial that enjoys full sun
    to partial shade conditions.