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Foliage can brighten up any landscape
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The dazzling array of foliage plants available for your summer landscape can leave you wondering where you will find room for flowers.

Foliage plants come in more than just shades of green these days. Leaf colors range from shimmering silver to fire engine red with streaks, stripes and polka dots in between. Here are a few to look for at your local garden center.

Coral bells

For a low-growing plant with incredible foliage, it’s hard to beat heuchera. There are nearly 300 known varieties of heuchera (a North American native), also called "coral bells." In general, heucheras grow to about 18 inches tall (not counting the flower spikes) and around 18 inches wide. Their blooms grow on spikes of delicate "bells" in shades of red, pink, white and purple, generally blooming for four to eight weeks in late spring through early summer. But it’s the foliage that makes heuchera a winner. Purple, black, red, orange, brown, silver, chartreuse — you name it, you can most likely find a heuchera in that color.


There are some 200 species of this genus. Alternanthera ficoidea has been used in gardens since Victorian times. More commonly known as Joseph’s coat, this 6- to 9-inch, full-sun plant is used in formal plantings and containers. Alternanthera dentate, sometimes called calico plant, is a more sprawling, less formal plant great for large container plantings and mixed borders. Two purple-leafed varieties are commonly available: ‘Wave Hill’ and ‘Gail’s choice’. ‘Tricolor’ has magenta leaves highlighted with burgundy.


There are so many of the new cutting-grown coleus on the market, it’s hard to choose just a few. These new varieties produce fewer flowers and are more sun tolerant than the old seed grown types. Newer series include solar, ducksfoot and sunlover. Colors range from bright yellow to reds with every color combination between. The seeded varieties are still around for those less-than-sunny landscape situations.


Also known by the name "Persian shield," this native of Myanmar with irresistible iridescent purple leaves has become very popular with gardeners lately. Plant it in beds or containers with bright morning sun and afternoon shade and pinch to keep it bushy. Not drought tolerant, Strobilanthes dyerianus is often difficult to grow as a houseplant due to its requirement of bright light and humidity.

Elephant’s ear

The Alocasia genus contains a variety of showy, large-leaved, tropical plants, many with colorful leaves. There is a wide variety of leaf sizes, color and variegation among species. Elephant’s ear gives a bold tropical effect to the landscape with its unusually large, shield-like, fleshy green leaves. They perform well as accent plants but some selections grow very large. For this reason, only one or two of these large-leaved types are needed in most residential landscapes. Of course, more can be used if the smaller selections are planted. The smaller-leaf types can be planted in mass as a ground cover for a rich, tropical effect. Most are well adapted for container gardening.

Billy Skaggs is an agricultural agent and Hall County extension coordinator. Phone: 770-531-6988. Fax: 770-531-3994.