There’s an amazing array of foliage options beyond plain green, from solid colors such as purple and gold to all sorts of interesting combinations and patterns.
Fabulous Foliage (Purple Edition)
“Purple” foliage usually refers to dark shades such as dusky plum, rich burgundy, and deep maroon. Blend these moody hues into beds of bright reds, oranges, and yellows, and you’ll add an element of sophistication. Mixed into beds of pastel bloom (light pink, soft peach, or buttery yellow), dark-leaf annuals add an intensity that saves the arrangement from looking washed out. Combining near black leaves with bright white blooms and sparkling silver foliage creates visual drama.
Here are a few dark beauties to try:
Purple-leaf Basil (Ocimum basilicum)
Photo Credit: Frederic Didillon/GAP Photos
Besides being fragrant and flavorful, purple basils such as ‘Osmin’ and ‘Red Rubin’ are ideal for adding color to sunny summer gardens. The plants can reach to about 18 inches tall, but pinching off the shoot tips every few weeks keeps them shorter and bushier (and provides an edible harvest, too). Sow indoors about 3 weeks before your last frost date or outdoors 1 to 2 weeks after the last frost date.
‘Black Pearl’ Pepper (Capsicum annuum)
Photo Credit: Nancy J. Ondra
These upright, bush annuals grow to be 18 inches tall, with almost-black leaves all season long plus small purple flowers that turn into round, black-to-red fruit. (The peppers are edible but brutally hot, so be warned!) Full sun is ideal, but the plants can tolerate light shade, too. Sow indoors 2 to 3 weeks before your last frost date or outdoors 2 to 3 weeks after the last frost date.
Look through our 2015 Garden Guide to read Nancy J. Ondra’s entire article “Fabulous Foliage” for more ideas on how to add color, height and texture into your backyard.